July 20, 2011, 9:47 AM

Too much activity in the foyer can hinder entrance to the house

Toolfetch.com vastly improved mobile performance by curing redirect ills, index finds.

Virtually all retailers in mobile commerce rely on a consumer simply typing the merchant’s standard URL into her mobile browser; merchant web servers detect a mobile browser is making the request and redirects her to the mobile-optimized version of the web site. It used to be retailers would promote their mobile URLs, such as m.Retailer.com or Retailer.mobi. But it quickly became the rule not the exception to redirect, which is much easier on the consumer, who doesn’t have to remember an alternative URL.

Toolfetch.com LLC uses redirection for its m-commerce site, sending mobile shoppers from the dot-com site to the m-dot site in a way designed so that shoppers won’t even know it. Only one problem: Toolfetch.com shoppers have known it, all because of redirection itself.

On the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index for the week ending July 10, Toolfetch.com came in at No. 28 out of 30. On average, it took the merchant’s m-commerce site home page a whopping 14.75 seconds to download and the page downloaded successfully 98.17% of the time. On the current index, for the week ending July 17, Toolfetch.com was in the No. 9 position, with an average load time of 6.87 seconds and a success rate of 98.61%.

What happened? Toolfetch.com, No. 393 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, had redirects making server requests and performing site construction actions that were best left until a tiny bit later in the process, and best bundled together to reduce server requests.

“The mobile page didn’t change but the way Toolfetch.com handles redirects during mobile browser detection did,” says Herman Ng, mobile performance evangelist at Keynote Systems Inc. “Prior to last Tuesday the starting URL in the mobile browser would need to download a series of Cascading Style Sheet and JavaScript page objects before redirecting to the mobile page. After the change, the site started redirecting mobile browsers to the mobile page directly, which reduced the number of round-trip requests from 25 to five. The lesson here is that browser detection needs to work properly at all possible entry points from which mobile users are arriving.”

Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS, are a form of template that divvy up where objects appear on a page. An object is an item on a page, like an image or a text box.

Toolfetch.com says it began work on the problem when it was detected and came up with the solution to ensure mobile shoppers do not get frustrated when trying to access the retailer’s m-commerce site.

“After some detective work we realized our redirect script was loading too many objects and slowed down our overall performance. We fine-tuned the redirect script and noticed a vast improvement in responsiveness and speed,” says Andrew Brown, cofounder and CEO of Toolfetch.com. “Our overall goal is to give our customers a great experience not only from a customer service standpoint but also with speed and performance when shopping on our mobile site.”

Dell Inc. topped the index with a score of 987 out of 1,000. CVS Caremark Corp. came in second with a score of 966. Lowe’s Cos. Inc. came in third with a score of 950. Toolfetch.com earned a score of 862. The index average for all 30 retailers was 760. Score is a combination of load time and success rate.

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

Keynote Systems measures 30 representative m-commerce sites exclusively for Internet Retailer. The sites include merchants in various categories and channels, and of various sizes, ranging from such giants as Amazon.com Inc., Sears Holdings Corp. and 1-800-Flowers.com Inc., to midsized retailers like Sunglass Hut, Toolfetch.com LLC and Your Electronic Warehouse. Keynote tests the sites in the index every hour Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. through midnight Eastern time, emulating four different smartphones on four different wireless networks: Apple Inc.’s iPhone 4 on AT&T, the HTC Evo on Sprint, the BlackBerry Curve on T-Mobile and the Droid X on Verizon. The HTC Evo and the Droid X run Google Inc.’s Android operating system.

Keynote combines a site’s load time and success rate, equally weighted, into a single score. Given 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.

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