March 28, 2012, 11:37 AM

HSN shaves content and redirects and achieves solid mobile performance

The TV, online and mobile retailer cracks the top 10 in the Keynote mobile index.

Lead Photo

The merchant's m-commerce site home page loads on average in 6.94 seconds.

Retailers seeking the best m-commerce site performance need to travel light, and take the least circuitous route.

HSN Inc. has been striving to crack into the top 10 of the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index, the company says, and this week it made its mark, jumping seven spots to hit No. 10. It achieved its goal by trimming page content and page redirects. A redirect is a process where a shopper enters on a smartphone the primary URL of a web site, for example, HSN.com, and then is automatically and behind the scenes redirected to a mobile URL, m.HSN.com, because the web servers detect that a smartphone, not a desktop PC, is making the page request.

For the week ended March 25, the m-commerce site home page of HSN took on average 6.94 seconds to load and it loaded completely and successfully 98.15% of the time, according to mobile and web performance management firm Keynote Systems Inc. Combining and weighting the load time and success rate earned HSN a score of 882 out of 1,000. By comparison, the average load time for all 30 retailers on the index was 9.76 seconds and the average success rate was 97.15% for a score of 802.

“HSN has heavily optimized its mobile site for smartphones by shaving 60% of page elements from the site compared with previous weeks,” says Venkatesh Giri, mobile performance expert at Keynote Systems. “Reducing the number of page elements reduces the number of transmission control protocol, or TCP, connections required to load a page, which in turn significantly increases performance. HSN also reduced the number of redirects from four to three. Combining fewer page elements, TCP connections and redirects, HSN stands out as the only retailer that has significantly improved its load time in this week’s index.”

HSN deployed some technology tricks to enhance its m-commerce site performance. For example, it now uses sprites for images. A sprite is a web site management tool stemming from Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS, HTML-based templates that define where various objects, such as images or text boxes, appear on a web page. A web designer places multiple images within a sprite so that instead of making multiple web server requests for each image, a device only makes one server request for the sprite, which then passes the images to the style sheets for placement.

“We also eliminated a number of JavaScript and CSS files to reduce the number of object requests made by the client without reducing functionality and at the same time increased what the user can see without scrolling,” explains David Whiteside, HSN’s director of mobile platforms. “We’re very pleased with how far we’ve come as we continue to implement changes to improve performance and usability for our customers.”

As for the redirects, it focused on BlackBerry smartphones. Keynote tests four different makes of devices, including the BlackBerry Curve, on four different wireless carrier networks.

“The number of redirects for a BlackBerry went from four to two as we continue to optimize the experience for more phones and allow a phone to switch to a less functional experience if the phone doesn’t support some of the m-commerce site capabilities,” Whiteside says. “This eliminated a redirect between our mobile platforms and another that did device and resolution detection.”

Toolfetch.com LLC topped this week’s index with a load time of 3.68 seconds and a success rate of 99.04% for a score of 965. The Home Depot Inc. came in second with a load time of 6.29 seconds and a success rate of 99.31% for a score of 936. And Sears Holdings Corp. came in third with a load time of a swift 3.22 seconds and a success rate of 97.96% for a score of 930.

HSN is No. 58 in the Internet Retailer Mobile Commerce Top 300. Toolfetch.com is No. 215, The Home Depot is No. 54 and Sears is No. 21.

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 multiple categories and channels, and of multiple sizes, ranging from such giants as Amazon.com Inc., Sears Holdings Corp. and 1-800-Flowers.com Inc., to midsized retailers like Sunglass Hut and Toolfetch.com LLC. Keynote tests the sites in the index every hour Monday through Sunday 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 runs the tests in Chicago, Dallas, New York and San Francisco.

Keynote combines a site’s load time and success rate, equally weighted, into a single score. Given that 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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