April 2, 2014, 3:47 PM

An object lesson in mobile performance

Rakuten.com Shopping jumps nine spots on the weekly Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index by nixing four objects from its mobile commerce web site home page. Lighter pages mean faster load times, Keynote says.

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Heavyweights are a big draw for boxing fans, but they have the opposite effect on mobile shoppers. A bulky mobile site will load slowly and mobile shoppers are reluctant to wait. A retailer that’s recognized less is more in mobile commerce is Rakuten.com Shopping, which slimmed down its mobile commerce site home page and jumped nine spots on the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index for the week ending March 30. The site moved from No. 16 to No. 7 on the 30-retailer index.

 “Rakuten did a great job slimming down the site—it axed four objects from the home page, bringing the page size down by 209 kilobytes,” says Venkatesh Giri, mobile evangelist at Keynote.

The retailer’s mobile commerce home page now weighs 546 kilobytes compared to 755 kilobytes a week earlier. Rakuten also removed a few problematic JavaScript objects that were causing content errors that slowed load times, Giri says. With the reduction in content errors, the home page now loads on average in 3.74 seconds, less than half the 7.92 seconds it took a week earlier.

“That’s a big improvement and again goes to show that retailers must constantly review design and performance to keep on top of slowdowns and make the appropriate improvements,” Giri says. “Shaving over four seconds off loading its home page is a major improvement for a big-name retailer.”

For the week ending March 30, W.W. Grainger Inc. topped the index with a load time of a swift 1.61 seconds and a success rate (also known as site availability) of 100% for a score of 975. Keynote weights and combines load time and success rate to reach a score. Grainger's mobile home page contains only eight page elements that weigh 83 kilobytes. Keynote advises retailers wanting optimal performance to limit mobile page elements to 10 or 12 and limit page weight to 100 kilobytes or less. Toolfetch.com LLC came in second with a load time of 1.15 seconds and a success rate of 99.70% for a score of 947. Its mobile home page contains seven page elements that weigh 60 kilobytes.

The average load time for all 30 retailers on the index was 5.26 seconds, the average success rate was 99.32% and the average score was 689. The average mobile home page contained 41 page elements and weighed 457 kilobytes.

Two of the 30 retailers on the index offer responsive design sites, which use a single code base, a single set of web content and responsive techniques so that the site’s layout changes to fit the size of the screen of the device a consumer is using. This saves a retailer having to build separate sites for desktops, tablets, smartphones and other devices, and delivers content from a single URL, which tends to strengthen search engine rankings. But the chief complaint about responsive design sites is slow load times, and that is the case with the two responsive sites on the Keynote index.

The responsive design site of Fab.com came in at No. 28 on the index with a load time of 9.94 seconds and a success rate of 98.86% for a score of 374. Its home page for smartphones contains 73 page elements and weighs an unwieldy 2,099 kilobytes. Fathead.com came in at No. 29 with a load time of 11.73 seconds and a success rate of 99.20% for a score of 359. Its home page for smartphones contains 110 page elements and weighs 2,080 kilobytes.

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, 28 standalone m-commerce sites optimized for smartphones and two responsive design sites. 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. 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.

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