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Q2 2016 mobile site performance analysis benchmark report

The eighth 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, travel and news 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
In second-quarter (Q2) 2016, the median Web page load time for mobile retail home pages increased slightly from the first quarter (Q1), to 2.22 seconds (3 percent slower than Q1). 

In Q1, these Web pages were actually just slightly heavier. However, overall the mobile retail sites should be commended for delivering consistently strong performance from quarter to quarter. 

ProFlowers retained the top position it earned in Q1, delivering a lightning-fast Web page load time of .38 seconds. 

Rounding out Q2?s top five performers were Amazon, Gap, Toys ?R? Us and Grainger. Toys ?R? Us replaced Best Buy in the Q1 top five.

While mobile retail sites are doing well, there are still challenges they need to be wary of, particularly online advertisements. 

A recent finding from the Media Ratings Council (MRC) found that mobile ads load, on average, five times slower than on desktops. 

Mobile retail sites, which often depend heavily on ads, should consider techniques such as asynchronous loading to ensure that any slow-performing ads do not hinder performance of the entire page. 

In contrast to synchronous loading, where site elements load in a specific order and one slow-loading element can hold up the others in line, asynchronous loading ensures that other elements on a page can load, even if one particular element is experiencing a delay. This helps maintain user perception of a fast download, in spite of one element having problems.

Mobile banking
This quarter, mobile banking retained its status as the best performing industry in our analysis, delivering a median Web page load time of 1.87 seconds, identical to Q1. This is noteworthy since page weights increased substantially from Q1: 31 percent heavier in Q2. 

This continues a trend started in Q4 2015, whereby the mobile banking sites have been able to improve or maintain download speeds in spite of increased page weights. 

Another study we conducted in Q2 showed that mobile banking sites are so fast, ad blocking software can actually have the adverse effect of slowing these sites down, and block not just ads, but core site elements ? possibly even authentication processes. 

For this reason, even though they are not traditionally ad heavy, mobile banking sites can also benefit from techniques such as asynchronous loading.

The top five performers in Q2 were the same and ranked identically to Q1, including: TD Bank (with a Web page load time of .87 seconds ? continuing from Q1, it was the only mobile banking site with a sub-second Web page load time), US Bank, Citizens Bank, Citibank and Wells Fargo.

Mobile travel
In Q2, the median Web page load time in mobile travel increased slightly ? 2.84 seconds, a 7 percent increase from Q1. This coincided with an increase in page weight ? the average page weight this quarter was 17 percent heavier than Q1. 

This may be the result of travel sites hosting more content heading into the busy summer travel season. 

The travel sites should be acknowledged positively for delivering a sub-three-second response time, just slightly slower than the retail sites. 

This is impressive given the travel sites tend to host more dynamic content such as airfare, hotel room availability and rates from third-party services, while retail site content tends to be more static, not requiring as many external third parties.

Within the sampling, Google Flights and TripAdvisor retained their first and second place rankings from Q1, respectively. Both sites delivered sub-second responses, and were approximately twice as fast as the remaining three within the top five ? Booking, Priceline and Delta. 

Delta displaced JetBlue, which was the fifth best performer in Q1.

Mobile news
As we have seen in past quarters, the mobile news sites remain the slowest across these industries, with median Web page response time of 3.95 seconds ? which was 13 percent slower than in Q1. 

Page weight also increased substantially in Q2, with Web pages being 30 percent heavier than in Q1. These sites are not slimming down and speeding up, but in fact getting fatter and slower.  

This can be a concerning trend, as ad blockers continue to gain momentum as a means of minimizing the negative performance impact of ads. 

In addition, services such as Facebook Instant News present a double-edged sword ? they can help mobile news sites increase reach for their content, but they also pose a threat in terms of becoming a better-performing, preferred destination for news consumption.

In Q2, NPR was the top performer with a sub-second response time, followed by CNET, which clocked in at one second. In Q1, CNET was the top performer with a sub-second response time. 

The remaining top three for Q2 included Al Jazeera, CBS News and Huffington Post. NPR and CBS News replaced ReadWrite and Sky News, which were among Q1?s top five.

OVERALL, THE RETAIL and banking sites are doing quite well, delivering median Web page load times well below the critical 3-second threshold. 

The prevalence of slow-loading ads and ad blocking are requiring these organizations to consider newer techniques such as asynchronous loading, which can have a positive impact even for sites that are not traditionally ad-heavy. 

The travel sites are also doing well, and should continue striving to meet the high bar set by Google Flights and Trip Advisor, while the new sites must continue to focus on slimming down to drive performance gains.

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