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Low Bandwidth Tools
Low Bandwidth Collaboration Tools
(this page is in the works - not complete. Please feel free to contribute!)
Often we have to collaborate with people who have diverse internet access and need tools that work in low bandwidth contexts. This means dial-up service, or service that is compromised by power cuts and frequent drops from connectivity. So while newer technologies can do amazing things - they often need broadband internet access. This page is dedicated to listing some of the online interaction tools that work in low or lower bandwidth setting or where people have to use internet mostly through public or internet cafes, or mobile devices.
While many parts of the world have access to reliable broadband, the majority of people in the world do not.
When to use
When the people you need to interact and collaborate with have either low bandwidth or intermittent access and need to be able to work offline.
Low Bandwidth Friendly Practices
Setting expectations - prepare people for challenges
Sharing norms or practices, particularly when there is bandwidth disparity. This is especially important to remind those with LOTS of access to slow down or adapt to those with less access.
Fall back options. If one technology doesn't work, have a simpler alternative as back up.
Patience and a sense of humor. Keep smiling.
Low Bandwidth - Infrastructure
Older computers - how can we usefully use old, slow computers? Consider sharing content via CDs or pen drives so people with older computers or little bandwidth still have access to content.
Slow or intermittent connections - what can we do to maximize the connection? Design of pages with easy access to content. Don't torture people with having to go multiple clicks to get to desired content.
Mobile phones - what can we do between mobiles or mobile to computer? For example, some
have mobile phone interfaces.
Cafe access (vs. one's own computer) - how can we carry our tools and data with us? Pen drives with both content and programs such as portable Firefox. See also
Examples of Low Bandwidth Friendly Tools
There are software and web based services that require less bandwidth or can operate well on older computers and operating systems.
– A video conferencing environment, which is particularly suited to desktop or low bandwidth applications.
– An open source video conferencing and collaboration tool kit, which is great for room to room meetings.
– An online collaboration and learning environment, support teaching and learning, ad hoc group collaboration, support for portfolios and research collaboration.
Plone, Joomla, Drupal – A ready-to-run content management system, that provides you with a system for managing web content that is ideal for project groups, communities, web sites, extranets and intranets. These can work in low bandwidth environments if optimized properly.
Wikis – A way to easily create, edit, and link pages together, to create collaborative websites. (must be online)
(must be online)
Free Email Lists (Software: Sympa, Mailman. Hosted: Yahoogroups, Google Groups)
Low cost tools
: self install
: blog by email (ideal for low bandwidth)
Social bookmarking sites
- a website that reduces webpages to the bare bones
- a proxy software and a webfilter combined for getting rid of all the ads and take advantage of a server cache. Very effective, but has to be installed and configured on a linux server by a knowledgeable system administrator
Portable applications on a pen drive (so you can take your applications and use them on any computer, such as at an internet cafe)
Sending large files:
; Microsoft's Image Resizer (Part of their PowerToys set)
: automatically resize images dropped in a preset folder
(which is a field side contribution tool). This is for more advanced video editing within an organization before posting to YouTube/Vimeo. MediaSilo
Browsing with a lowband connection:
deactivate display of images (speed boost!)
: compresses pages (and images!) by going through Opera servers (read
if you have privacy concerns)
Low Bandwidth File Sharing Tools
) as a peer-to-peer client software
) and an [article
]] to read how to use this tool best
) which incurs costs only beyond 5 GB (see [
) and its option of sharing file with contacts while in a chat/call
), a commercial application.
Matt Moore recommended using Riverbed (
) for bandwidth optimisation). And to answer Peter's request, Gabriele suggested using an optical character recognition sofware - although this would imply further editing and Alfonso Acuna's recommendation particularly Adobe online PDF creator (
How to use
Email listservs -- have a proper email client (not webmail) - not always simple
Low Bandwidth Design
) More than a guide, the following 5 points are a personal list of notes. A good deal of them come from:
Please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you feel you should be added to the above list.
If you are creating a website that will be usable also by people with low bandwidth connection, there are a 3 general rules to follow:
Keep the page size as small as possible
Your pages should load within 10 seconds, which means 25kB should be the maximum page size if your website is aimed at areas with 20kbps connections.
Use as little video, audio and documents as possible. If needed, provide low quality versions of them
Allow the use of the browser’s cache. Browsers can store a local copy your pages. This means that the second time they need a file already in their storage (“cache”) they won’t need to download it, thus it won’t count against the size of the page.
Reduce the number of HTTP Requests
Use CSS sprites
Do not upload presentations, but convert them to S5 format
Optimize your site structure and design
Provide easy navigation to reduce the number of page loads. This requires a user-driven approach ,and if possible, the inclusion of your audience in the testing.
Re-use cached content as much as possible, this will reduce the page size to be downloaded, and the number of HTTP requests
Put the useful items at the top of the HTML files, as they will be first to be loaded. If a page loads useful content in the initial seconds users are more likely to perceive the website as functional. If you have an incrementally loading website it is regarded as acceptable a total download time of 30s, that translates to a page size of 75KB for 20kbps connections.
Use CSS template sheets. Use tables with caution
Design an accessible website, possibly with a text-only version
Add important dates/user’s feedback/tags/link size/whatever is relevant for each page in its previews to allow users to ascertain how relevant that content will be for them
These 3 requirements are widely true, and can be applied in any different ways, but I am not discussing the whole range of them. The purpose of these notes is to show ONE way of creating a user-driven website for low bandwidth users. The platform of choice for this example is Drupal, an Open Source CMS system that has been developed mainly for social networking, and has a very wide community of developers that during the years have created hundreds of modules that allow to expand enormously the core features of the system. Again, this is just ONE way of creating a website for low bandwidth users and it may not fit everyone’s needs. For example, if all you need is to broadcast some information, a static HTML/CSS website could be a better choice. However, Knowledge Management, and this is what I feel I can talk about with a little more of salt.
Aptivate has some excellent ten rules for low-bandwidth design
No Page Bigger Than 25kB
Have Good Site Structure
Use Style Sheets
Minimise HTTP Requests
Turn on Compression
Put Useful Items First
Show Link Sizes
| Web Design Guidelines
Tips and Lessons Learnt
A discussion around the use of low-bandwidth tools that took place on the KM4Dev list, is summarised at:
Examples & Stories
For more about how agricultural researchers are working with low bandwidth challenges in a global environment of high bandwidth for science, see this
ICT-KM blog post.
Who can tell me more?
Luca Servo (luca.servo [at] fao.org)
Maarten Boers (maarten.boers [at] icco.nl]
Web Design Guidelines for Low Bandwidth
KM4Dev community knowledge page on Low Bandwidth Design:
Subsaharska's blog series on low bandwidth
How to Accelerate your Internet: A Practical Guide to Bandwidth Management and Optimization using Open Source Software:
KM4Dev Page on Low Bandwidth Design
KM4Dev page on Low Bandwidth File Sharing
Related Methods / Tools / Practices
Photo or image credits
If you included any photos or images, please put the source or photo credit here
Page Authors and Contributors
Carl Jackson with Joitske Hulsebosch, Gabrielle Sani, Christian Kreutz
help on how to format text
Turn off "Getting Started"