Mobile

Startup Shootout: ‘Tis the season to be traveling

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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.

We’re always interested to see how new startup travel sites are offering new services and capabilities from the established online leaders like Travelocity, Priceline and Orbitz.

We have a category on the Keynote Startup Shootout Index dedicated to the travel up-and-comers – BookingWiz, Ebookers, Hipmunk, JetSetter, Kayak and TripAdvisor.

With holiday travel and vacations in full swing, and nearly everyone using mobile devices to manage their trips, let’s take a look at how these startups are performing.

The New Kids on the Block

Two of the newer sites on the Index are BookingWiz and Ebooker. They provide useful contrasts about how to present information and in turn, the tradeoffs to be made for optimum web performance.

BookingWiz

BookingWiz is up there as one of the best performing sites in the category. In fact it is the only site in the category with an average speed faster than two seconds on its desktop site.

It is also fastest on average on the iPad, and is the second-fastest on average on the smartphone screen. The company is clearly doing something right.

It helps that the BookingWiz home page is a sparse, minimal amount of content, similar to Google, with just the key areas to go ahead and enter data. This goes a long way to facilitating performance times.

We see some key best practices immediately:

• A reasonable page weight (220K to 340K on average)

• A reasonable element count (29 new HTTP requests)

• “Time to initial render” is very fast (about a half second on average)

• Lightweight base page HTML files (under 10K, even on desktop)

• Images are lightweight (under 25K)

• The tablet user gets the same page as the desktop user, so the company’s efforts to make its desktop site as fast as possible benefits tablet users as well

BookingWiz gets high marks for good discipline in page design and construction.

But could it do even better. Here are some observations for really blowing away the performance challenge:

• On the smartphone site, BookingWiz is using a redirection prior to the base page HTML call, and that redirection is often slower than two seconds on average.

• On the smartphone site, it is loading eight custom font files.

• Javascript files on the page are blocking/serializing the download, delaying critical image content from loading as early as it could be.

• On the desktop site, Google Analytics calls are loading earlier than images from the bookingwiz.com domain. Always have third parties load after the core content.

Implementing these additional tactics could further push its impressive performance levels.

Ebookers

The other new site in the travel section is Ebookers.com. Unlike Bookingwiz, though, it does not demonstrate the level of discipline in page design and construction.

Also unlike BookingWiz, it offers up a very different homepage. It immediately serves high quality promotional banner ads and offers, adding sizeable amounts of content.

This alone has a big impact on performance speeds.

Its desktop site, for example, is over 1.3 MBs, with over 75 new HTTP requests on average. The smartphone site is better, but has been built using other page design approaches that make it merely perform in the middle-of-the-pack rather than as a best-of-class site like BookingWiz.

The culprits are the usual suspects – too much page weight and too many HTTP requests, heavy images, and waiting for third party content.

These are all areas that developers need to pay attention to for delivering optimum performance. Even more so on mobile devices where screens are small and networks can be slow.

As this new wave of online travel sites emerges, let’s hope they can strive for maximum performance. Especially with the shift to mobile devices, keeping the site design as efficient is possible becomes critical for attracting and retaining customers.

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


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