February 5, 2013, 4:12 PM

American Eagle is not flying high in mobile performance

The retailer has a bloated m-commerce site home page that slows page loads, Keynote says.

Lead Photo

The merchant's m-commerce site home page takes a whopping 27.56 seconds to load.

American Eagle Outfitters Inc. has held a position near the very bottom of the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index for some time. And it’s not a surprise, given that the retailer’s m-commerce site home page includes a massive 70 page objects and weighs in at more than 300 kilobytes, says mobile and web performance management firm Keynote.

At a lengthy 27.56 seconds, the merchant has the slowest page load time among all 30 retailers on the index for the week ending Feb. 3. Its home page loads completely and successfully 99.09% of the time. Weighting and combining the load time and success rate earns American Eagle Outfitters an index score of 345 out of 1,000, putting the merchant at position No. 29.

“We also noticed the high number of objects are hosted across more than 25 domains and the majority of them are not even American Eagle domains. This is bad because each domain requires the mobile web browser to perform additional Domain Name System look-ups and to establish a separate web connection. All of this slows down the overall page load time,” says Herman Ng, mobile performance evangelist at Keynote. A DNS look-up links a web site’s alphabetical address, such as Retailer.com, to its lengthy numerical address, which web users never see.

And there’s more bad news.

“One of the JavaScript objects on American Eagle’s mobile home page is more than 110 kilobytes,” Ng says. “A commonly overlooked technique for web page optimization is to minify or compress JavaScript files.” Minifying involves removing all unnecessary characters from source code without affecting functionality; this reduces the size of a file and thus shaves off time from the total page load time. “The actual amount of compression yielded will depend on the content of the file,” Ng says. “There are many publicly available compression tools online that are worth trying.”

Ng identifies some mobile web performance best practices that could help American Eagle Outfitters improve its m-commerce site performance. “Keep the total size of each page below 30 kilobytes,” he says. “Put no more than 15 page objects on each page. And limit the number of domains on each page as much as possible; three or fewer is acceptable. Combine, minify and compress JavaScript files where possible. The same applies to Cascading Style Sheet files.”

American Eagle Outfitters, No. 118 in the Internet Retailer Mobile 400, contests Keynote's assessment, saying its m-commerce site home page contains 40, not 70, objects.
"As to 27.56 seconds as an average, we contest it and question their methodology," an American Eagle Outfitters spokeswoman says. "We know for a fact and have data that confirms our average is dramatically smaller than 30 seconds. In practice we see 3-4 seconds average load times, especially on iPhone and Android, which collectively make up more than 95% of our traffic."
Keynote stands by its analysis and methodology, the firm says. It points out it is initially entering ae.com and because it's on a smartphone that URL redriects to the mobile home page URL m.ae.com/web/index.jsp, which is the page under examination. Keynote says mobile home page load times will always be 3-4 seconds or less on a Wi-Fi connection, but stresses it uses actual wireless carriers for its testing, hitting the site once an hour for a week, each time as a new user so that the cache is empty, thereby rendering a complete measurement that accounts for loading all page elements.

Barnes & Noble topped the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index for the week ending Feb. 3. It had a load time of 5.18 seconds and a success rate of 99.89% for a score of 955. Office Depot Inc. came in second with a load time of a swift 2.94 seconds and a success rate of 99.56% for a score of 936. And Best Buy Co. Inc. came in third with a load time of 6.91 seconds and a success rate of 99.78% for a score of 897.

BarnesandNoble.com Inc. is No. 31 in the Internet Retailer Mobile 400. Office Depot is No. 65 and Best Buy is No. 25.

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 multiple categories and channels, and of multiple sizes, ranging from such giants as Amazon.com Inc. to midsized retailers like Toolfetch.com LLC. Keynote tests the sites in the index every hour Monday through Sunday from 8 a.m. through midnight Eastern time, emulating three different smartphones on three different wireless networks: Apple Inc.’s iPhone 4 on AT&T, the HTC Evo on Sprint and the Droid X on Verizon. The HTC Evo and the Droid X run Google Inc.’s Android operating system. Keynote runs the tests in 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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