May 4, 2011, 12:58 PM

Mobile redesign can be a great strategy—unless performance suffers

Buy.com plummets on performance index because of new, data-heavy pages.

Lead Photo

The merchant redesigned m-commerce site pages and the result was a slip in performance.

It was the best of times and it was the worst of times for Buy.com Inc. on this week’s Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index. Buy.com introduced redesigned m-commerce site pages, making the site more alluring to mobile shoppers. But in doing so it added kilobytes to pages, requiring more time for a page to download from a server to a smartphone. As such, it dropped 11 positions week over week on the 30-retailer index, from No. 16 to No. 27.

For the week ending May 1, Buy.com’s m-commerce site home page downloaded on average in 14.12 seconds, 5.11 seconds slower than the previous week. The page downloaded successfully 96.06% of the time, 1.61 percentage points lower than the previous week. It earned an index score of 350 out of 1,000. The score is achieved by equally weighting then combining load time and success rate.

“Upon examination of the data we discovered that Buy.com rolled out a new mobile page design and as a result the average page size increased by approximately three times compared to the previous design; this increased the page load time significantly,” says Herman Ng, mobile performance evangelist at mobile and web performance management firm Keynote Systems Inc. “The take-away from this event  is that while it’s not unusual to revise or update a mobile page’s design, retailers must keep in mind the potential implications on performance and have the right monitoring tool in place to alert them quickly of any negative side effects that the changes might have to the end user mobile experience.”

Buy.com questions the load time and success rate numbers reported, but adds that in the end, a better mobile web experience is worth a small increase in page load time.

“The page load times that were noted would make the Buy.com site virtually unusable, and misrepresents that of the average user experience," says Neel Grover, CEO and president. "With mobile devices getting more efficient and networks getting much faster with every passing week, we feel that giving our shoppers a more robust and pleasurable experience is well worth a marginal increase in page load time. That being said, as with any redesign, we are constantly working on improving our site performance and have made great progress since launching the new look. Also since launching the new look, both our mobile site conversion and revenue are up nicely.”

Walgreen Co. topped this week’s index with a score of 997. Its m-commerce site home page downloaded on average in 5.72 seconds and did so successfully 99.61% of the time. Brookstone Inc. came in second with a score of 969. Its average load time was 6.31 seconds with a success rate of 99.56%. And CVS Caremark Corp. came in third earning a score of 950. Its load time was 6.43 seconds with a success rate of 99.39%.

The average score for all 30 retailers on the index was 743. The average download time was 9.07 seconds and the success rate was 98.23%.

Click here and then click on Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index Part 1 and Part 2 to see this week’s complete results for all 30 retailers on the index.

Keynote Systems measures 30 representative m-commerce sites exclusively for Internet Retailer. The sites include merchants in various categories and channels, and of various sizes, ranging from such giants as Amazon.com Inc., Sears Holdings Corp. and 1-800-Flowers.com Inc., to midsized retailers like Sunglass Hut, Toolfetch.com LLC and Your Electronic Warehouse. Keynote tests the sites in the index every hour Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. through midnight Eastern time, emulating four different smartphones on four different wireless networks: Apple Inc.’s iPhone 4 on AT&T, the HTC Evo on Sprint, the BlackBerry Curve on T-Mobile and the Droid X on Verizon. The HTC Evo and the Droid X run Google Inc.’s Android operating system.

Keynote combines a site’s load time and success rate, equally weighted, into a single score. Given both performance and availability are important, the score reflects the overall quality of the home page; a higher score indicates better performance. Scores also reflect how close sites are to each other in overall quality. The index average score is the midpoint among all the sites’ scores.

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