T-Mobile HTC One LTE speed test

Igor Faletski is CEO of Mobify.

Remember when website performance was serious business? Circa 2003, when broadband was still emerging and hardware struggled to keep up with increasingly sophisticated software, website speed meant the difference between frustrated visitors and web sales. The meteoric rise in smartphone and tablet usage is putting speed back in the spotlight, this time for the mobile web.

Last year, we analyzed the activity of more than 200 ­million shoppers to mobile e­commerce websites and discovered that more than 31 percent of web traffic in the US comes from mobile devices.This mobile traffic spike is fueling the adoption of revolutionary mobile website design techniques, like responsive design. But, even with heaps of e­commerce dollars on the table, mobile website speed is flying under the radar for businesses trying to sell products and
services online.

Less patience than ever

What effect does mobile site speed really have on your bottom line? For starters, mobile users expect the same web­browsing speed on their phones as they do on desktops. Research from KISSmetrics shows that a one­second delay in page response can result in a 7 percent reduction in conversions.

That means if an ecommerce site makes $100,000 per day, a one second page delay could potentially cost $2.5 million in lost sales every year.

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What’s slowing you down?

Ironically, sophisticated mobile web design techniques are killing page speed. Responsive design is a popular and innovative approach to building mobile-­friendly websites because it automatically shrinks or expands a website to fit any device’s screen size. The responsive approach solves important design issues, but it doesn’t address mobile performance.

For a responsive website to render successfully on a variety of screen sizes, it must load every resource for every possible device. That’s like buying out the whole grocery store rather than the few select items needed to make dinner.

Often, unnecessary weighty images and code are slowing down page speed and undermining mobile websites.

Speedy solutions

There are ways to eliminate extraneous images and redundant scripts in order to speed ­up browser parsing. Using a technique called client­-side adaptation, it’s possible to send the right resources to the right devices. This increases page speed because only essential elements are loaded. For instance, if you’re using an iPad with a Retina display, then you can deliver Retina display-­quality images. Similarly, a standard­-resolution screen need only receive standard-resolution images. At Mobify, we use our own Mobify Performance Suite to achieve this, but there are other answers too, like Sencha IO.

Of course, responsive design isn’t your only option. An m­dot mobile site is fast­-loading (though you lose speed during the redirect). But, this approach has downsides, especially for ecommerce sites. In the early days of the mobile web, mobile­-optimized websites redirected to an m­dot site–if you visited mobify.com on an iPhone, you would automatically be redirected to m.mobify.com. This approach requires a unique mobile website for every screen size. It’s especially problematic when it comes to content sharing. If a visitor shares a link to your m­dot site on social media or via email and their friends aren’t on mobile devices, they’ll get a site designed for a 3.5 inch screen on their 24 inch monitor.

Mobile design luminary Brad Frost urges us to treat performance as an essential design feature, not just as a technical best practice. I wholeheartedly agree. When web users won’t wait more than two seconds for a video to load, a disregard for page speed could be sabotaging mobile efforts. If your business depends on the web for revenue, it’s time to get performance back on your radar.

Igor Faletski, CEO of Mobify, has long held a vision of “One Web,” where the integrity of the web is maintained across platforms and for all website visitors. Together with Simon Fraser University classmate, John Boxall, Igor started Mobify in 2007 and led it to market leadership without taking venture capital. Today, Mobify powers mobile websites for Starbucks, Expedia, Siemens and many other businesses, serving tens of millions of mobile users every month.