Reddit's Increasingly Bloated Web Design

created Apr 4, 2019

Reddit's old mobile site that looks similar to the iPhone 4 design.

https://i.reddit.com/r/toledo

When I access Reddit on desktop, laptop, and phone, that's the version that I use because it's the fastest and lightest option.

Webpagetest.org results

From: Dulles, VA - Chrome - Cable
4/4/2019, 8:58:05 AM
First View Fully Loaded:
Time: 2.113 seconds
Requests: 19
Bytes in: 256 KB
Cost: $

70% of the downloaded bytes were for JavaScript, about 182 KB. By 2019 standards for most websites, 182 KB of JavaScript is tiny.

About 22% or 57 KB of the download were for images.


This used to be the previous default view of Reddit, at least on desktop and laptop.

https://old.reddit.com/r/toledo

Webpagetest.org results

From: Dulles, VA - Chrome - Cable
4/4/2019, 9:01:47 AM
First View Fully Loaded:
Time: 4.204 seconds
Requests: 61
Bytes in: 1,028 KB
Cost: $$$

Twice as slow, three times as many web requests were made, and nearly four times as many bytes were downloaded to display the same content. Why the bloat?

54% of the downloaded bytes were for JavaScript, which totaled 569 KB. That's a significant increase over the old mobile version.

Images totaled over 346 KB.


Reddit released a new version of it website within the past couple years, and I hate it. Of course, it fails to function with JavaScript disabled. Great modern web design. It's a bloated hot mess. I never use this disaster to READ Reddit.

https://www.reddit.com/r/toledo

Webpagetest.org results.

From: Dulles, VA - Chrome - Cable
4/4/2019, 9:00:42 AM
First View Fully Loaded:
Time: 10.853 seconds
Requests: 99
Bytes in: 4,258 KB !!! WTF?
Cost: $$$$$ (five dollar signs is the max)

1.955 MB of the downloaded bytes were for JavaScript. ???

1.8 MB of the downloaded bytes were for images. ???

Increasingly, the worst thing that can happen to the web today is a website redesign that uses so-called modern web design practices, which usually means a bloated trash heap with a clumsy UI/UX. For reading.

Apr 5, 2019

Hacker News thread: Ask HN: Do you like/use Reddit's redesign? - I'm surprised that the thread only contained 63 comments. The thread starter said:

It is touted to be better, but I don't see the appeal and it's slower.

Top comment:

Not at ALL.

I’ve never seen a single site design repel me more quickly. I depend heavily on the simplicity and information-density of the old design (e.g. being able to pick from a dozen link titles that all fit on screen at once). I also depend on the pinch-to-zoom simplicity of focusing on exactly what I want, which only works well in the “normal” web pages of the old design. The new “design” breaks everything that made the old design convenient in these respects, and is almost impressively bad. It is so astoundingly different than what made Reddit work originally (i.e. its simplicity) that it quite honestly feels like someone tried their best to sabotage Reddit.

And all of this, I must say, is before I even mention the ridiculous spam-like additions they made. I think the new design finds no fewer than 3 places to shove something in my face like “USE APP / Better in app / HEY DID YOU KNOW WE HAVE AN APP!?!?!?”. Who is that for? Does anyone like this kind of crap? It virtually guarantees that I will never download the app.

Reddit’s days are numbered if it keeps this stuff up. I’m actually surprised that, historically, Digg died for much smaller redesign “sins”, and I think it was primarily because Reddit was an alternative. What’s the alternative?

A good reply post that probably explains why Reddit users won't mind being assaulted by bad web design.

If there was a cookie cutter reddit alternative and there was no content, would you use it? The network effects of reddit are a reasonably strong barrier of entry.

The person should have said, "Reddit's network effect keeps users coming back."

For most web users (not me), the network effect of for-profit silos, such as Reddit, Facebook, and Medium is more important to the users than anything else tech-related and non-tech-related.

For these users, the focus might be on the content, as it should be. How sites look, even if the communities all look the same within a silo, is less important.

Also, the ease-of-use of knowing how a silo functions could encourage silo users to prefer silo communities over other websites, regardless of the quality of the content, produced within the big silo businesses.

Another HN comment about whether the user likes Reddit's new crappy web design:

No. Largely the dark pattern mobile "get the app" hassling. But also the sheer load time on desktop. And to a lesser extent the breaking of the "a bunch of mostly-static links with associated commentary" model. Using the site is quite unpleasant now.

And it's enough unpleasantness to keep me from going back to checking it regularly. I hope they keep it.

Another comment:

No, and I always go to old.reddit.com to avoid it. It's set as my default style when logged in, and I'm happy to use an extension to redirect to the old site on Firefox too.

As for why? Well the new one is slower, fits less information on the page, keeps trying to force me to use their mobile app, etc. It just keeps getting in the way with no real benefits provided in return.

Reddit is owned by Advance Publications, which earns over a billion dollars of revenue each year. It's probably SOP for a large corporation to spend a lot of money and time, creating a modern web design that is hostile to readers.

According to its Wikipedia that does not deserve linking, Advance Publications owns newspapers and other news and information websites. Well that might explain things. Many media orgs produce the most hideous and bloated websites on the planet.

According to Reddit's Wikipedia page:

In 2011, Reddit became an independent subsidiary of Condé Nast's parent company, Advance Publications. In July 2017, Reddit raised $200 million for a $1.8 billion valuation, with Advance Publications remaining the majority stakeholder.

I'll stick with using Ravelry when I need a "big" silo business, online community fix.

Ravelry is a place for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, weavers and dyers to keep track of their yarn, tools, project and pattern information, and look to others for ideas and inspiration.

How did this site come about?

Jess had been a knitter and a blogger for a while, and, because she was an active blogger, she knew that there was all this great information out there from other fiber lovers – but with the growing number of crochet and knitting blogs, finding that information just kept getting harder! It was getting frustrating for her to try and find information about the patterns and yarns that she was interested in using. Casey thought that he would be able to build a website that could solve her problems, so they started working on it together, introducing it to a few friends at a time.

Wife and husband started the site, and they employ a handful of people. I doubt that Ravelry is valued over a billion dollars, but to me and to many other fiber artists and crafters, it's worth way more than the well-known, giant silos.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ravelry

More HN comments about Reddit's crappy new web design:

I don't, mainly because of the slower load times, the fact that they mix in sponsored links in the current version (but not the old version), and that it's unusable in my smart phone's browser.

I've gotten into the habit of using old.reddit.com whenever I view it.

Another HN comment:

On every redesign on every website ever there will be a huge outcry of people who hate the new design.

The Reddit one is barely usable for me though, I’m not sure if it’s the JS heavy front end buts it’s really laggy and hard to use on a 2015 MBP with Safari so I just switched to Apollo app as the only way to use it. The desktop site got unusable for me.

Not sure about the heavy JavaScript front-end being the problem??? Of course it's the problem. That and too many large images.

In the above webpagetest.org results, nearly 87% of the total downloaded bytes were for JavaScript (1.9 mb) and images (1.8 mb).

HN comment:

I hate the new design. Not because it's new, but because it took everything I liked about Reddit (i.e. easy to read, no flashy design, FAST) and threw it out the window for a slow error-prone POS SPA app.

That denigration of the UI/UX is probably due to how the corporate world sees web design, which is focused more on appearance and less on utility.

A different kind of HN comment about the new Reddit web design:

It is great for looking at gifs and funny pictures. Not so good for intelligent discussions, but I feel like those disappeared a long time ago.

Another comment:

Pretty much stopped using reddit and found other things to do. Still go back of course but if they're gonna make my exp shitty for more money then I'll take my attention elsewhere. Plus it's helped me realize how shitty reddit has become anyway :/

-30-