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Published on December 16th, 2015 | by press-room

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MOBILE STRATEGIES 360: Fathead.com prioritizes mobile speed during the holidays

BY KATIE EVANS | Editor, Mobile

Shoppers are ready to buy, so Fathead.com a web-only sports and entertainment decal retailer focuses on speed and easy navigation.

Fathead has been on an upward trajectory in the AppDynamics/Mobile Strategies 360 performance index rankings since mid-November when it relaunched its mobile site.  The index monitors the site speed and general performance of 30 mobile sites on 3G and 4G networks.

The week Fathead relaunched its mobile site, it jumped four spots in the weekly index on 4G networks from No. 22 to No. 18 for the week ending Nov. 22. That jump was mainly attributed to a significant decrease in the number of elements loaded on the home page, such as images or buttons, to 216 from 257 a week earlier, which helped more content on the mobile home page load faster, making the page look more complete more quickly.

But Fathead isn’t satisfied. It has since been tweaking its mobile site to make it even speedier. For example, for the week ended Dec. 6, Fathead jumped nine spots on the 3G AppDynamics/Mobile Strategies 360 performance index after removing heavier images from its mobile site home page.

In this last week’s analysis for the week ended Dec. 13, Fathead again moved up in the rankings on 3G and 4G. It moved to No. 1 on 3G from No. 12 a week earlier. And on 4G networks it moved up 11 spots to No. 3.

“We spent the week going through things with a fine-toothed comb to optimize even more,” says Michael Layne, director of marketing for Fathead. “Minification of Java Script, better compression of images, and a serious review of which pixels were essential for the business all added up. We know that customers are coming to buy this time of year so we’re not as concerned about educating new visitors.  We’re looking for speed and easy navigation. This is our lean holiday version of the home page.”

When a programmer writes JavaScript or Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) code, he writes in a clean way with spaces and breaks so it is easy to review and understand. Once it is deemed good to go, minification or minifying removes all unnecessary characters, breaks and spaces from source code without affecting functionality; this condenses the file, making it smaller and quicker to download and thus shaves off time from the total page load time.

Such tactics helped Fathead.com shoot up to first place in 3G by shaving 1.13 megabytes off its total mobile home page weight and reduced its number of elements loaded on 3G by 85 to 126,  says Peter Kacandes, senior product marketing manager, mobile, web and synthetics, for AppDynamics. This cut in half its 3G visually complete time to 14.2 seconds. Visually complete time is the time (in seconds) it takes until the web browser has completed drawing the visual elements of a home page. Kacandes says the retailer made similar strides in 4G.

“After the new year we’ll be doing a lot of multivariate testing with the new site to see where we find the sweet spot between brand, education and sales,” Layne says. “With that, we may give up some speed if it makes for a better overall result. For now though, it’s great to be top of the list.”

The exclusive AppDynamics/Mobile Strategies 360 Index tracks key mobile site metrics across a range of sites to calculate a weekly average Speed Score on both 3G and 4G mobile carrier networks. The index represents a snapshot of mobile site performance across industries, including retailers such as HSN.com, insurance companies such as NorthwesternMutual.com and restaurants such as McDonalds.com.

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AppDynamics each week measures performance metrics of both 3G and 4G networks for each of the 30 sites in the index to determine each site’s Speed Score.

They include:

First render: The time, (in seconds) it takes until the web browser starts drawing the visual elements of a home page.

Visually complete: The time (in seconds) it takes until the web browser has completed drawing the visual elements of a home page.

Number of elements loaded: The number of resources loaded by a home page.

Complete load: The size of the home page when all data is loaded (in megabytes).

Using these metrics, the index calculates the Speed Score. The Speed Score is a ratio that rewards businesses for displaying more visual content on the mobile home page earlier rather than later. The earlier a mobile site home page looks complete to a consumer, the better the mobile experience for the visitor, even if a few remaining elements are displayed later. A site with a higher ratio of content displayed earlier will have a better Speed Score than a site with the same visually complete time but a longer first render time.

For example, site A may have a visually complete home page load time of three seconds, loading 90% of its content in the first second and the remaining 10% in seconds two and three. Site B may have the same three-second visually complete time, but present zero content in the first two seconds and 100% in the third second. The sites have identical visually complete times, but Site A will be perceived as much faster, and will earn a better Speed Score as a result.

The index displays the average across the 30 mobile sites for each metric as well as the average Speed Score on both 3G and 4G networks for each mobile site.

For the week ended Dec. 13, the average Speed Score for 3G was 9.5 seconds the same as the previous week. The average first render was 6.6 seconds, also the same as a week earlier.

Visually complete average was 14.7 seconds compared to 14.9 seconds the previous week. Average number of elements loaded was 98.3 compared with 99.0 a week earlier. Average home page weight was 1.5 megabytes, the same as the previous week.

On 4G, the average Speed Score was 5.6 seconds, the same as the previous week. The average first render was 3.9 seconds compared with 3.8 seconds the previous week.

Visually complete average time was 9 seconds compared with 8.8 seconds the previous week. Average number of elements loaded was 98.3 versus 98.9 a week earlier. And average home page weight was 1.6 megabytes the same as the previous week.

The index is accompanied by a chart on MobileStrategies360.com that is refreshed weekly to illustrate how each mobile site performs as well as index averages. Click here to access the performance chart for the week ending Dec. 13, 2015.


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