June 5, 2014, 1:39 PM

How HSN provides rich imagery on a fast mobile commerce site

HSN’s mobile commerce site balances page weight with media-rich elements to keep its load time under the index average while still making mobile shopping enticing, according to the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index.

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Page load speed is key when it comes to mobile commerce web sites, and the home pages of the top five m-commerce sites on a weekly index load in under 7 seconds, according to the Internet Retailer-exclusive Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index for the week ending June 1. Just one other e-retailer’s home page, ranked No. 23 of 30, loaded in less than 7 seconds.

Keynote tests the 30 retailers on the index (28 standalone m-commerce sites for smartphones and two responsive design sites on smartphones) on a blend of 3G, 4G and 4G LTE networks. On average, the 30 web sites tested by Keynote loaded in 10.86 seconds. What sets the top five sites apart from the other 25 sites on the index is their page weight and element count, observes Keynote mobile performance expert Ken Harker.

The fastest-loading site on the index, Sears.com, loads in just 2.18 seconds and has just six page elements weighing 48 kilobytes. That’s well below Keynote’s recommendation of 200 kilobytes and 20 page elements for mobile sites on this blend of network speeds. One site, HSN, bucks the 20-page element recommendation but still comes in under 200 kilobytes with 22 elements. The site loads in an above-average 5.23 seconds.

“HSN is a great example for site developers to use for inspiration,” says Harker. “The above-the-fold render of the home page is almost entirely attention-grabbing images and yet the page requires just over 20 HTTP server requests and is less than 150 kilobytes total. On 4G LTE, the page often loads in under 2 seconds, and even on the slowest 3G networks the site is still usable at 10-12 seconds. HSN doesn’t have to deliver a bare-bones page to achieve these results, but does a great job of delivering rich mobile content with great mobile performance.”

(The July issue of Internet Retailer magazine will feature a survey about e-commerce and m-commerce technology trends. Please click to take part in the short survey.)

Offering consumers a media-rich experience while limiting page size and load time is not easy, but HSN uses an internal software solution that dynamically resizes and optimizes images in real time based on what device a consumer is using to access the site. “We are hyper-focused on delivering our content via an approach called ‘responsive delivery.’ This solution allows us to provide the same assets across screens of different sizes that ultimately delivers a seamless experience for our customers,” says Ed Deutscher, vice president of digital applications at HSN.

Click here for more on “responsive delivery,” a flavor of responsive design offered by vendor Moovweb Inc.

HSN placed No. 5 on the Keynote index; its success rate, also known as site availability, is 99.71%. Keynote weighs and combines load time and success rate to reach an overall score. HSN’s score is 919 out of 1,000. The average success rate for all 30 retailers on the index is 98.29%, and the average score is 714. The average page element count is 43 and the average mobile home page weight is 449 kilobytes.

To see complete results (including response time, site availability, page weight in kilobytes, total page elements, and index score) for all 30 retailers on the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index, click here.

Keynote measures, exclusively for Internet Retailer, 28 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 the Apple iPhone 5 smartphone on two wireless networks: AT&T and Sprint, both using 3G, 4G and 4G LTE networks. Keynote runs the tests in 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. 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.

Today, 20% of U.S. Internet-enabled mobile phone users have 4G or 4G LTE wireless data connections, 71% have 3G, and 9% have 2G, according to research firm Informa Telecoms & Media. And according to research and consulting firm Deloitte, 63% of U.S. smartphone users most often connect to the web on their devices on a Wi-Fi network.

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