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Slow load time is No. 1 performance issue on mobile Web

More than 80 percent of consumers claim they would access Web sites more often from their phone if the experience was as fast as it is on a computer. Gomez?s new findings confirm the obvious: consumer experience rules.

The same study, released today by Gomez, shows that the majority of the respondents expect Web sites to load as quickly or quicker on their mobile phones compared with their home or work computers.

Indeed, 20 percent of the mobile consumers responding expect their sites to load in five seconds or less ? comparable to expectations for the wired Web in 2007 and 2008, according to Gomez.

The Gomez study brings back memories of the Internet in the late 1990s and the early years of this decade.

Then, site load times was a major issue, leading to loss of traffic due to poor upload speed. Market researcher after market researcher produced studies showing consumer impatience and frustration with slow sites and how that slack translated to shifting loyalty and lost traffic.

Could the same phenomenon recur in mobile? Possibly. What marketers must remember is that consumers today approach the mobile Web as consumers and the wired Web as both producers and consumers.

In other words, the mobile Web as it is configured today is better served as a content consumption tool versus the wired Web on computers that is more suited to producing content due to ease of navigation, screen size, storage issues and consumer habit.

However, better mobile phones and evolving consumer behavior means that consumers will sooner or later learn how to create content on mobile phones that match the breadth and depth of the wired Web accessed on computers.

Heed speed
With that evolution in mind, speed becomes a major issue with which to reckon. As the early years of the Web proved, especially with designating winners and losers, disappointing consumers does not pay.

Recent data show that the mobile Web audience nationwide grew 34 percent between July 2008 and July 2009. That usage will only increase with the growing popularity of smartphones with operating systems and Web browsers.

So it serves marketers, retailers, content owners and publishers to be forearmed with sites that are easy to load on mobile phones and friendly to the eye and fingers.

The same Gomez study showed that two out of three mobile Web users have faced problems when accessing Web sites on their mobile phones in the last 12 months.

Slow load times were cited as the No. 1 performance issue as experienced by nearly 75 percent of the respondents.

Per Gomez, nearly three-quarters of the respondents expect to be able to wrap up basic transactions such as checking their bank balance in less than one minute ? or they would abandon the site.

Design also plays a role.

More than half of the study respondents said that mobile content was either too large or too small for their mobile phone?s screen. That might mean the creation of a mobile-specific site or a wired Web redesigned to keep in mind major phones such as the BlackBerry, iPhone, Palm Pre, and smartphones with Android, Windows Mobile and Symbian operating systems.

Speed is not simply the province of site owners, albeit they have to ensure that their site is not chockfull of graphics that take ages to load. Even the wireless carriers have to ensure that their networks can handle the increasing demands on them, thus the haste to 3G and 4G.

Consumers understand that a mobile site may not have the same richness as a wired Web site or even the identical functionality, as the Gomez study revealed. But they were not willing to stint on performance.

For brands, content owners, retailers and publishers, mere seconds will determine first place or second on the mobile Web. Hurry. 

Please click here to read a related article, "Google offers tips to make mobile Web faster."