February 6, 2014, 12:46 PM

Design with performance in mind

The time it takes to load Rakuten.com Shopping’s mobile site increases after the retailer makes updates, Keynote says. While the merchant is taking steps to optimize performance, it could speed load times more if it reduced the number of objects on its mobile home page.

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Life is full of trade-offs. Apparently, that is also true of mobile commerce.

Rakuten.com Shopping’s recent updates to its mobile site may be impacting site performance, according to an analysis by mobile and analytics firm Keynote Systems Inc. As a result, Rakuten.com Shopping dropped several spots in the Keynote Mobile Performance index to No. 6 for the week ending Feb. 2 from from No. 2 the prior week.

“A site change increased both its page size and number of objects downloaded on its home page,” says Abelardo Gonzalez, mobile performance evangelist for Keynote. However, he says while Rakuten.com Shopping’s average load time increased by over a second, it still delivered a consistent and reliable experience to visitors, placing in the top 10 in the index of 30 retailers’ mobile commerce sites. And, he adds that since the site change, the weight of the home page  has remained steady, indicating Rakutan is using performance-optimization techniques. However, the number of objects has also stayed at the higher level, which can slow page load times as it forces multiple trips to a server.

“Make sure your redesigns have the desired effects, not the undesired effects,” Gonzalez says. “Especially when delivering an optimum mobile experience, you have to look closely at the trade-offs between rich content and its impact on performance.”

For the week ending Feb. 2, Rakutan’s mobile site loaded on average in 5.22 seconds and loaded successfully 99.26% of the time. Its page weight was 361 kilobytes and the mobile home page had 23 elements.

“Our mobile homepage now features a richer visual experience optimized for today's smartphone screens, and a new and much larger layout of category links, promotional images, and navigational cues," says Bernard Luthi, chief marketing officer and chief operating officer of Rakuten.com Shopping. "While these additional optimized elements may take slightly longer to load, we are confident that they will lead to a much enhanced customer experience.  Visually you can see a striking difference between our old home page and our new one, and we will be continuing to make refinements from a performance perspective.”

Rakutan.com Shopping is No. 28 in the recently published 2014 Internet Retailer Mobile 500,

Sears topped the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index for the week ending Feb 2. Its load time was 2.57 seconds and its success rate was 99.43% for a score of 936. Its mobile home page contains 7 elements weighing 62 kilobytes. J.C. Penney came in second with a load time of 4.70 seconds and a success rate of 99.71% for a score of 885. Its mobile home page contains 16 elements weighing 214 kilobytes.

Two of the 30 retailers on the index offer responsive web design sites, which use a single code base and responsive techniques to adapt to the size of the device the consumer is using. This saves a retailer having to build separate sites for desktops, tablets and smartphones. Fab.com, one of those responsive sites, came in at No. 11 with a load time of 9.40 seconds and a success rate of 99.84% for a score of 760. Fathead.com LLC, the other responsive site, came in at No. 25 with a load time of 16.87 seconds and a success rate of 99.66% for a score of 678.

The average load time for all 30 retailers was 7.65 seconds, the average success rate was 98.82% and the average score was 622.

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, exclusively for Internet Retailer, 30 standalone m-commerce sites optimized for smartphones and two responsive design sites, which are single sites that render content in ways that fit the screen size of a device, including desktop PCs, tablets, smartphones and smart TVs. For the index, Keynote measures the smartphone versions of the responsive sites.

The 30 representative 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 EDT, 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 five seconds.

While 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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