Mobile

How the ‘three screen challenge’ taxes personal finance sites

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Editor’s note: Keynote Systems’ Startup Shootout Index provides some insight into the three-screen challenge now facing anyone with a web presence. It’s the first website performance index to measure load times and completion percentages on desktops, smartphones, and tablets simultaneously. VentureBeat is Keynote’s exclusive media partner, so we’ll be bringing you a fresh set of data from Keynote every month. Check out previous Startup Shootout results.

This month’s Keynote Startup Shootout Index continues to demonstrate that early-stage companies struggle to understand or address the challenges of delivering acceptable Web performance across three screens—desktop, tablet and smartphone. Across the Index, social networking companies offer the most robust performances across all three screens while social retailers lag behind.

With Tax Day just behind us, we thought we’d also look at performance across three screens for early-stage online tax and personal finance companies.

Keynote set up some custom testing for Freshbooks, Outright, and Mint.com specifically to see how these sites performed in the run-up to April 15. We took home page measurement averages from April 1-16 and instead of measuring the smartphone and tablet experience over a 3G wireless connection (as we do for the regular the Startup Index), we assumed that most users would be looking up their tax-related financials over a high speed connection like Wi-Fi.

Here’s what we saw.

Freshbooks

On the desktop, Freshbooks clocked in at a respectable 1.85 seconds and 99.82% availability. On the iPhone it was 2.61 seconds, and 99.90% availability, and on the iPad 3.78 seconds and 99.93% availability. Not a bad overall performance at all, especially on the iPhone. Freshbooks actually redirects iPhone users to a unique smartphone-optimized site, which helps deliver great performance without compromising on content.

Outright

Outright does an acceptable job across all three screens. On the desktop, it’s running at 2.45 seconds and 99.94% availability. It’s a little slower on the iPhone and iPad at 4.57 seconds/99.73% availability and 4.59 seconds/99.76% availability respectively. This is despite the fact that Outright has implemented a responsive Web design for both the smartphone and tablet, as well as a “splash” or interstitial page encouraging first-time iPhone/iPad visitors to download their on-device app.

Mint

Mint offers a decent desktop performance – loading in 4.51 seconds with 99.78% availability—but still above the recommended threshold of three seconds. Performance suffers though on the smartphone and tablet, dropping to almost twice the time to a lengthy 9.91 seconds/99.69% availability and 9.89 seconds/99.59% availability respectively. Keynote research studies have found that most mobile Web users expect a mobile site to download in less than four seconds.

Conclusion

The challenges of optimizing your site for the three screens always poses a prioritization problem, but without such tailoring you can see vastly different levels of performance. Overall it looks as though Freshbooks appears to be paying the most attention to these differences, and is getting the best performance as a result.

As we compare these personal finance sites to the whole Keynote Startup Shootout Index, we see they fare better than social retail sites. Credit should be given to the personal finance sites for doing a better overall job of three-screen optimization.

To view the full range of Keynote Indices, visit here.

Keynote tests the sites in the index hourly and around the clock from four locations over the three largest U.S. wireless networks, emulating the browsers of three different devices. Data is collected from San Francisco and New York and then aggregated to provide an overall monthly average in terms of both performance and availability.

Photo Credit: Tom Cheredar/Warner Brothers