June 19, 2014, 10:47 AM

Office Depot’s image-rich mobile site gets higher marks on speed than availability

The retailer climbs up the rankings of the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index, but its site availability leaves something to be desired.

Lead Photo

Retailers often struggle to create mobile sites that are rich with imagery and still load fast. One way to do that is by using what are called “image sprites.” These combine multiple images into one file, which speeds up the load time, says Matthew Agnoli, mobile performance evangelist at Keynote.

Although Sears Holdings Corp. continues is reign as the top m-commerce site in the Internet Retailer-exclusive Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index for the week ending June 15, Office Depot Inc. has knocked Walgreen Co. out of the top five. And image sprites are one reason the office supply retailer has been climbing the rankings.

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.

Office Depot has been using image sprites for some time, says Gabriel Cabrera, senior manager of e-commerce mobile strategy at Office Depot, and is constantly testing new ways to add new functionality and feature without sacrificing performance. “One of the concepts we are currently testing is the use of Vector Graphics for mobile screens,” he says. “This technology has the potential to deliver a faster loading time on key areas of the site, hence improving the overall site experience.”

One thing holding Office Depot back is its site availability, which was the only one of the top five to fall below 99%, as it has for the past several weeks, Agnoli says. “Office Depot should work with its content delivery network partner to ensure that the critical assets on the site are served reliably over all mobile networks,” he says. “If availability improves for the Office Depot site, we should continue to see it move up the list.” Cabrera says Office Depot constantly monitors and makes improvements to site performance and availability.

Office Depot placed No. 5 on the Keynote index; its success rate, also known as site availability, is 98.86%. Keynote weighs and combines load time and success rate to reach an overall score. Office Depot’s score is 915 out of 1,000. The average success rate is 98.27%, and the average score is 699.

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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