What Makes a Mobile Site Performance Winner?
February 13, 2012

Steve Tack

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On February 2, Compuware released its annual Best of the Web 2011 report recognizing the year’s website and mobile site performance leaders across a variety of industries including automotive, financial services, insurance, media (news and sports categories), retail and travel. Within these industries, mobile site performance winners included: Acura, JP Morgan Chase and KeyBank (tie in financial services), Progressive Insurance, U.S. News and World Report, WWE, QVC and JetBlue.

What made these companies winners, and how are they able to deliver fast, reliable mobile site experiences that set them apart from their competition?

Quite simply, these companies deliver excellent user experiences because they have mastered the art of supporting critical business processes while “keeping it light.” It is extremely important, especially with the impact slow wireless networks can have on performance, to carefully consider the density of site content versus the efficiency of the site. For the most part, these companies curbed the urge to apply traditional web content to mobile.

Overall their mobile site architectures are leaner – to accommodate smaller screen sizes and slower mobile connection speeds – but not so lean that the sites don’t meet basic customer expectations for content. It is quite a balancing act.

QVC, for example, managed their site content by reducing the number of objects and overall density of their site – clearly representing their preference for speed over dense content – as well as minimizing the impact of third-party hosts.

Today, the average website connects to more than eight hosts before ultimately being served to the end user. While extensive third-party functionalities can enable a richer online customer experience, they can also introduce performance risks, because any one component can cause a website or application to slow down.

Where mobile is concerned, it is best to streamline third-party functionalities based on an understanding of what your mobile users expect, and do, on the go. The mobile experience needs to be optimized for a different context than desktop users; for example, users traveling from one location to the next need applications optimized for “one eye and one thumb.”

You don’t need many of the same features that are on your traditional website, like interactive chat for example, which mobile users aren’t apt to access in their typical everyday usage scenarios. Your main website may have ten such features, and your mobile customers use only three. This of course is the beauty of having a dedicated, streamlined mobile version of your traditional website.

Companies will have to evolve their mobile strategy in 2012 and into the future. End users increasingly use a range of devices to connect to the web, including PCs, tablets and smart phones. They expect the same performance experience no matter the device. The more end users rely on their smart phones and tablet devices to browse the web, the more they will require increasingly sophisticated content.

There is great opportunity, but also great risk associated with mobile adoption. Companies will need to pay close attention to how end-user content requirements impact mobile site performance. Achieving customer satisfaction for both content and performance will not be easy. The companies plugged into analysis of the trade-offs between content and performance will most benefit from the increased emphasis on mobile use.

Steve Tack is CTO of Compuware’s Application Performance Management Business Unit.

Steve Tack is Chief Technology Officer of Compuware's Application Performance Management (APM) business where he leads the expansion of the company's APM product portfolio and market presence. He is a software and IT services veteran with expertise in application and web performance management, SaaS, cloud computing, end-user experience monitoring and mobile applications. Steve is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and his articles have appeared in a variety of business and technology publications.
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