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Is Your Mobile Site Holiday Ready?

A website that scores positively across all performance metrics is usually what every online retailer strives to achieve. With the variety of devices available to customers, it is not enough to build a website that works perfectly on a laptop or a desktop. A single customer may access the site from any number of devices (cell phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop). If you want to be on top of the ecommerce game, then your website must render fast and maintain performance irrespective of the device.

As the holiday shopping season gets closer, it is important for retailers to ensure a seamless customer experience to keep the orders coming in. Although majority of the online purchases are still made from desktops, customers tend to browse and bookmark products on their phones or mobile devices. So the site performance on mobile devices can eventually impact sales.

This article focuses on performance metrics that matter the most when measuring mobile performance. We’ve been following the top 50 IR mobile websites (you can download our Quarterly Benchmark Report for more detailed analysis); we will use the data collected to analyze what the top performers are doing right and the techniques that you can implement on your site to gear up for the upcoming shopping season.

Data is Money

In the mobile world, data is money and data is expensive. Mobile operators provide different data packages with varying speed (2G, 3G, or 4G). On mobile devices, each byte of data can cost the customer and customers are extra careful so as not to exceed the data limit to avoid any overage charges.

If a user is on a slow connection or if the user is in an area that has limited connectivity, then they are not going to wait till a website with heavy images or content loads. If the mobile site is responsive/adaptive and optimized, then it would load comparatively faster irrespective of the connection speed.

Responsive vs. Adaptive

Responsive design has inevitably gained more ground among website developers but this doesn’t mean adaptive design is obsolete. Each has its own set of pros and cons, if you are trying to figure out what would work best for you then check out this interesting study. Irrespective of the type of design being implemented, the goal is to maintain a website that provides a consistent user experience on all devices.

Let us take a look at the performance data of some of the top IR 50 sites. The graph below compares the Document Complete value for some of these websites. There are a couple of obvious points that stand out when comparing the best performing sites with those that don’t make the cut.

  • The website must have a responsive/adaptive design
  • Page size is crucial for mobile sites
  • It is best to minimize the number of images
  • The total number of objects to be downloaded should be minimal
  • The number of hosts should be minimal

The table below gives a summary of the number of objects on each site. The low document complete value of sites like Amazon, Vistaprint, and Apple is a result of the minimum number of images, hosts, and the overall lower total byte count.

Optimizing Mobile Sites

All of the best performing sites follow similar techniques when it comes to optimizing the site performance across different devices.

It is all in the design. Minimal Clutter. Easy Navigation.
Use either a responsive or an adaptive design, the user must be able navigate through the site easily using the touch screen.

Cut down content. Optimize Images and Media Files. Reduce HTTP Requests.
It is not enough to tailor the website design if you continue to use large number of images and content. A smaller screen doesn’t have to accommodate all the content that a regular screen does. Minimizing the content and loading only what is relevant to the user can have a huge impact on the page load time. Optimize images on the site using compression techniques. If the website makes too many HTTP requests, the mobile device may not be able to perform as well as a desktop/laptop would. So keep the HTTP requests to a minimum.

We can see these techniques in action when we compare the mobile and desktop version of Amazon and Vistaprint.

amz_chromeamz_mobilevista_chromevista_mobileThere is a massive difference in the number of images, scripts, CSS and other objects that each version loads. Vistaprint cuts down image requests from 50 on desktops to just 11 on its mobile site, same goes for the scripts being requested. Amazon has removed flash and media files from its mobile site and reduced images and scripts by half.

Mobile Site Performance Counts

There are more and more customers accessing websites on their phones, conversions can be improved if end user experience is maintained across devices and networks. Online retailers aiming to make the best of the holiday season must do a performance checkup of their site on different devices and over varying data connections. Every page view counts, be it from a phone or a laptop, the key is to keep mobile sites light and simple.