November 2, 2011, 4:06 PM

More content and features means slower load times for m-commerce sites

Bloomingdales makes changes and drops down the Keynote performance index.

Lead Photo

After drastic changes to its m-commerce site, the merchant suffered poor site performance.

It’s just a fact: The more content a retailer adds to a mobile commerce site page, the more time it will take for that page to travel from the server to a smartphone. And if a retailer adds a lot more content and features, site performance likely will suffer, which can be a risky proposition given the impatience of smartphone users when it comes to page load time.

Bloomingdales made some drastic changes to its m-commerce site last week and the end result was poor performance, sending it down from No. 4 the week ending Oct. 23 to No. 20 the week ending Oct. 30 on the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index.

“Bloomingdale’s made changes to their site on Oct. 27, increasing their mobile home page size from approximately 17 elements for a total of 40 kilobytes to 50 elements for a total of 500 kilobytes resulting in slower page load times,” says Joe Flake, mobile performance expert at mobile and web performance management firm Keynote Systems Inc. “Success rate was also affected as a result of outlier timeouts.”

An element is an object on a page, such as an image or text box. A timeout is when a page stops loading. An outlier, in this case, is an out of the ordinary incidence of a timeout. And even a small number of timeouts can affect an average success rate, the percentage of the time an m-commerce site home page downloads successfully. Bloomingdales’ load time was 11.38 seconds and its success rate was a low 95.97%.

“At first glance, this looks to be a missing redirect to the mobile site, as we’ve seen with other sites over the last few weeks,” Flake says. “However, a closer examination of the data shows that users inputting the ‘www’ domain are in fact redirected to the mobile domain. The site appears to be in transition mode, with several large images greater than 50 kilobytes and large style sheet elements.”

Bloomingdales did not reply to a request for comment.

Sears Holdings Corp. came in first on the index with an m-commerce site home page load time of 3.39 seconds and a success rate of 98.71% for a score of 977 out of 1,000. Dell Inc. came in second with a load time of 5.52 seconds and a success rate of 99.30% for a score of 973. And Walgreen Co. came in third with a load time of 6.41 seconds and a success rate of 99.00% for a score of 950.

The average load time for all 30 retailers on the index was 10.87 seconds, the average success rate was 96.66% and the average score was 802.

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 Inc., Sears Holdings Corp. and Inc., to midsized retailers like Sunglass Hut and LLC. Keynote tests the sites in the index every hour Monday through Sunday 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. It runs the tests in Chicago, 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.

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