October 3, 2013, 4:40 PM

Barnes & Noble shows greatest improvement on a mobile index

The merchant shaved nearly 1.7 seconds off mobile page load time, the performance index says.

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The chain retailer's m-commerce site home page loaded on average in 5.62 seconds, Keynote says.

Barnes & Noble shaved nearly 1.7 seconds off of its average mobile commerce web site home page load time for the week ending Sept. 29, a performance improvement greater than any other on the 30-retailer Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index. The mobile home page loaded on average in 5.62 seconds and did so completely and successfully 99.29% of the time, finds mobile and web performance management firm Keynote. Weighting and combining load time and success rate earns Barnes & Noble an index score of 963 out of 1,000, putting it in fourth place.

The improvement does not stem from any changes last week; rather, it’s the result of the ongoing effects of changes made to the m-commerce site on Sept. 17, says Keynote web and mobile performance specialist Joe Flake.

“These changes were in effect for much of the previous index period, but have moved the numbers up further as they now cover an entire week,” Flake says. Barnes & Noble did not respond to a request for comment on the nature of the changes. “Barnes & Noble still has opportunities for improvement. They use a more traditional page implementation, with a load of 15 individual gif image files. Most of these are in the 350-byte size range and include things like multi-direction arrows used in building page interaction menus.”

Images this small are great candidates to be combined into a single image file, via a CSS Sprite, or embedded as inline data within the HTML of a mobile page, Flake says. A CSS Sprite is a web programming technique that enables multiple images to be saved as one, thus reducing the number of web server calls required, which speeds page loads.

Sears Holdings Corp. topped the index with a load time of 2.96 seconds and a success rate of 99.59% for a perfect score of 1,000. Toolfetch.com LLC came in second with a load time of 3.56 seconds and a success rate of 99.39% for a score of 991. And W.W. Grainger Inc. came in third with a load time of 5.39 seconds and a success rate of 99.29% for a score of 966.

BarnesandNoble.com Inc. is No. 41 in the newly published Internet Retailer Mobile 500, Sears is No. 30, Toolfetch.com No. 352 and Grainger No. 92.

The index average load time was 12.97 seconds, the average success rate was 95.04% and the average score was 841.

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

Keynote 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. to mid-sized retailers like Toolfetch.com LLC. Keynote tests the sites in the index every hour Monday through Sunday from 8:00 a.m. through midnight Eastern time, emulating two different smartphones on two different wireless networks: Apple Inc.’s iPhone 5 on AT&T and the Samsung Galaxy SIII on T-Mobile, both using 4G networks. Keynote runs the tests in 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. To consistently rank high on the Keynote index, sites must hit availability targets of 99.5% or better and be faster than 10 seconds to load on average. Top performing sites load in under 5 seconds.

While 4G adoption among U.S. consumers has been steadily rising, only a fraction of all U.S. wireless connections are 4G. Consequently, retailers benchmarking their mobile commerce site performance against the Keynote index should keep in mind that most of their m-commerce site shoppers will experience page load times slower than those on the index.

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