Minified file sizes don’t tell the whole story

When Twitter Bootstrap first came out, I rewrote the compiled CSS to better reflect how I would author it by hand and to compare the file sizes. After minifying both files, the hand-crafted CSS was about 10% smaller than the pre-processor output. But when both files were also gzipped, the pre-processor output was about 5% smaller than the hand-crafted CSS.

This highlights how important it is to compare the size of files after HTTP compression, because minified file sizes do not tell the whole story.
It suggests that experienced CSS developers using pre-processors don’t need to be overly concerned about a certain degree of repetition in the compiled CSS because it can lend itself well to smaller file sizes after HTTP compression. The benefits of more maintainable “CSS” code via pre-processors should trump concerns about the aesthetics or size of the raw and minified output CSS.

Nicolas Gallagher

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