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Agile Computing: Article

The Website Performance Mistakes of Mobile Shopping Sites in 2013

This year we took a look at the mobile sites and found some “terrible” website performance mistakes

Our new survey tells us that up to 50% of online shoppers this year will use their mobile device. Good news is that most retail stores that have an online store now also offer a mobile version, e.g., http://m.gap.com, http://m.jcpenney.com, http://m.bestbuy.com. In the past years we have done a deep dive web performance analysis on the desktop versions of these sites and blogged about it. This year we took a look at the mobile sites and found some "terrible" website performance mistakes that will most likely frustrate the mobile shopper. The "highlights" (or lowlights) that we found are:

  • 87 roundtrips from 25 different domains for a single mobile page
  • 28 redirects from the mobile site to the desktop site for downloading JS and CSS
  • 2.5MB of page size for the shopping cart

Some pages are already optimized for mobile - but some critical pages are overloaded, have too many roundtrips and are therefore really slow on mobile devices

How and What We Analyzed
To be frank - we used free available tools such as the dynaTrace AJAX Edition for analyzing the performance of desktop websites, but navigating to the mobile version of the site instead of using special mobile diagnostic tools. We did however modify the user-agent string using tools such as Fiddler to simulate mobile devices such as iPad, iPhone or Android devices. The goal was not to find rendering or JavaScript related issues (though we found some) but rather checking whether these pages made sure that content is delivered in a mobile optimized way. This type of analysis can be done with desktop tools as well.

In our analysis we walked from the mobile homepage through the product catalog. We added one product and then moved to the shopping cart to verify our items were there but then removed them.

The Good and the Bad Things We Found
We found several issues as listed in the initial paragraph. To not only highlight the bad patterns we will also show examples of mobile websites that follow the mobile web performance best practices. The #1 rule for mobile web sites is to keep roundtrips to a minimum and also download content from as few as possible domains as it is expensive to establish the connections, because latency is much higher on mobile devices than wired connections and because bandwidth is typically not comparable with your desktop's connection. Here are 3 violations we found on multiple sites:

Click here to read more about the top three performance violations and what to do about them:

  • Violation #1: 87 Roundtrips from 25 Different Domains
  • Violation #2: 28 Redirects on a single page
  • Violation #3: 2.5 MB of Page Size for Shopping Cart

Summary: Tips for Mobile Web Sites
Most examples from above are "low hanging fruit" when it comes to fixing them. It is just following known best practices for web performance optimizations. Good news is that there are tons of tools out there that can help you. As you can see from this blog - you can even do testing on your desktop as the things you want to optimize can be seen with tools such as dynaTrace AJAX Edition, YSlow or PageSpeed. There was a great presentation from Ilya Grigorik on Faster Websites: Crash Course on Web Performance.

Follow up blog on a site that you struggled with.
Have you done your own testing? Or did you stumble across sites that didn't work for you during the holiday shopping season? Leave us a comment or reach out to us via email, twitter and co and we will analyze the problems you ran into and blog about it.

Happy Online Shopping! Click here to read the entire article - with full details about common problems and real-world solutions.

More Stories By Andreas Grabner

Andreas Grabner has been helping companies improve their application performance for 15+ years. He is a regular contributor within Web Performance and DevOps communities and a prolific speaker at user groups and conferences around the world. Reach him at @grabnerandi

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