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Q1 2016 mobile site performance analysis benchmark report

The seventh installment in an exclusive series, this publication is reporting on quarterly mobile site performance as monitored by Catchpoint Systems, New York. Find out in this installment how leading brands in the retail, banking and travel sectors fared.

Here, in its entirety, is the report as penned exclusively for this publication by Dennis Callaghan, director of industry innovation at Catchpoint.

Mobile retail
Slimming down after the holidays always pays off. This held true in first-quarter (Q1) 2016, as we saw a significant speed jump across mobile retail homepages in our index. 

This 11 percent improvement over Q4 2015 is attributable to an average page weight drop of 14 percent, as these sites reduced the number of hosts and images. This resulted in a Q1 median webpage load time of 2.16 seconds, besting Q4?s 2.44 seconds. 

The top performers this past quarter were ProFlowers, Grainger, Gap, Amazon and Best Buy. 

Three of these companies ? Grainger, Gap and Amazon ? were also top performers in Q4 2015. 

ProFlowers, in particular, should be commended for an exceptionally strong showing, with an 84 percent speed improvement that catapulted the online florist to the top of our rankings ? and a median webpage load time of less than one-half second.

Mobile banking
Throughout late 2015, we noted an interesting trend: mobile bank page weights were slightly increasing, but the median webpage load time went in the opposite direction, actually decreasing. 

This trajectory continued in Q1 2016 ? mobile banking homepages were 13 percent heavier than Q4 2015 ? with the median number of hosts and items increasing slightly ? but were 9 percent faster, dropping from a median webpage load time of 2.06 seconds, to 1.87 seconds.  

The fact that the median number of hosts and items did not decrease suggests the sites are focusing on basic performance optimization techniques such as caching, image compression and reducing server round-trips.  

The top performers in Q1 2016 were TD Bank, US Bank, Citizens Bank, Citibank and Wells Fargo. 

From January to March, TD Bank delivered a sub-1-second median webpage load time, while the others clocked median speeds below the 2-second mark. 

With the exception of Citizens Bank, which displaced Chase in the top five, all companies are repeat top performers from Q4 2015.

Mobile travel
An analysis of mobile travel sites? recent performance ? from late 2015 through early 2016 ? is very similar to banking. 

From Q3 to Q4 2015, median page weight increased by 10 percent, but median webpage response times were actually 4.3 percent quicker. 

Continuing this trend, in Q1 2016, sites were 16 percent heavier, but 1 percent faster. 

Top performers this quarter included Google Flights, Trip Advisor, Priceline, Booking.com and Hipmunk. 

These are the same top performers from Q4 2015, although the order has changed. Hipmunk moved from third to fifth place, Priceline from fourth to third and Booking went from fifth to fourth. 

These companies are continually making impressive speed gains, shaving off milliseconds of response time with each consecutive quarter.

Mobile news (new category)
For the first time, we are including an analysis of mobile news sites? performance in these quarterly reports.
 
News sites, and mobile news sites, in particular, have long suffered from bloated, slow pages heavy on advertising, video and third-party content. This has resulted in news site performance that historically lags behind other industries.  

While this trend continued in Q1, the performance shortfall was not as egregious as it used to be, with a median webpage response time of 3.5 seconds.

This speed improvement may be the result of certain sites leveraging new technologies such as Google AMP for the first time. 

We are hopeful the mobile news sites will continue to demonstrate performance improvements, as Google AMP gains steam and as trends such as ad blocking compel news sites to focus more closely on performance. 

Top performers this quarter included: CNET, ReadWrite, Al Jazeera (English version), Sky News and Huffington Post. All of these sites delivered median webpage response times of less than one-and-a-half seconds, with top performer CNET loading in less than a second.

Conclusion
Overall, the mobile sites we are analyzing are doing quite well from a performance perspective. 

The mobile retail sites in particular should be recognized for their post-holiday content reductions and resulting double-digit speed improvement. 

Across industries, site administrators are working hard to deliver blazing fast load times that can complete on a level with Google, Facebook and other Internet leaders, and we look forward to watching them make continued gains. 

This will be important as end user performance expectations grow, and tolerance for anything less than superior speed wanes.

Dennis Callaghan is director of industry innovation at Catchpoint Systems, New York. Reach him at