March 10, 2010, 12:00 AM

Retailers must evaluate imaging to improve mobile performance, expert says

There’s a difference, sometimes big, between desktop broadband and mobile device wireless. To improve mobile performance, merchants should consider smaller graphics, and replacing graphics with text, says Steve Slezak of m-commerce provider Digby.

There’s a difference between a broadband connection on a desktop and a wireless data connection on a smartphone. That difference could be 1 second versus 7 seconds or 5 seconds versus 30 seconds. Wireless simply is not as fast as wired, and wireless networks can get congested, slowing response times.

Mobile shoppers can easily get frustrated waiting for a page to download and abandon the site quickly. That is why merchants with mobile commerce sites must design with performance top of mind.

Steve Slezak, marketing director at Digby, a mobile commerce technology provider that designs m-commerce sites, offers two key tips to ensure the best performance in mobile: the use of smaller images and the use of text instead of images.

“You might have a nice lifestyle image that is 100k in terms of size, but there’s a big difference between hitting that image on a broadband desktop versus on a phone connection with two bars and a network that’s congested,” Slezak says. “You need to shrink that image not only to fit the smaller screen but to ensure the best performance; you create a special version of that image that is smaller for the device. By creating the smaller version of the file, it fits better on the screen and it’s less of a load on the wireless network.”

But then, trying to create a smaller load for transmission over a wireless data network begs a question: Are all these images even necessary?

“Retailers tend to use a lot of graphics on e-commerce sites to highlight things like free shipping or price guarantee or today’s best buy. On the big screen of a desktop PC you need good graphics to get these things to pop,” Slezak says. “To improve mobile commerce site performance, you can turn these graphical messages into text, which pops just fine on the smaller screen of a mobile device. Retailers need to evaluate how they can treat these kinds of messages with text instead of graphics.”

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