Feature Article

August 08, 2012

The Mobile Web - Still too Slow and Cumbersome?

Considering the enormous amount of Web access - and the resulting explosion of wireless data traffic - that currently takes place through smartphones and tablets (and in particular through Apple iPhones and iPads), one might conclude that in this day and age mobile Web access has evolved enough to become a fairly easy and streamlined thing to do. So it may come as a surprise then that new research conducted by Keynote Competitive Research (KCR - a research group that is a part of Keynote Systems, a company that focuses on technology that measures Internet, Web, cloud and device performance measurements) strongly suggests that both smartphone and tablet users are still mostly frustrated by poor mobile Web experiences.

KCR conducted detailed nationwide research effort in the first half of 2012 that surveyed a substantially sized panel of 5,388 adult mobile users on device ownership and usage preferences in mobile. Of the respondents, 3,145 were smartphone users and 1,976 were tablet users. The key finding from the research points to both groups of users being persistently frustrated by slow mobile Web download speeds. The study also found that user expectations have tightened considerably in terms of anticipated download performance, while tolerance for inadequate wireless performance grows smaller.

KCR conducted the survey using Keynote's WebEffective, an online research tool for Website user experience testing. WebEffective captures a complete range of online experiences - from desktops, smartphones and tablets. What do users expect? Nearly 50 percent of study respondents expect a Website to load in less than two seconds, and six of 10 respondents anticipate a sub-three second Website download on tablets. Two-thirds (64 percent) of smartphone users expect a mobile site to load in less than four seconds. Finally, 82 percent of respondents expect a mobile website to load within five seconds.

Though the survey showed that expectations vary depending on the platform (desktop, smartphone or tablet), every group has become more demanding. User expectations, regardless of device, are clearly focused on fast performance. Smartphones and tablets users indicate ongoing frustrations and disappointment with slow access.

The "expectation gap" between actual Web download speeds and what users are looking for in download performance has increased substantially. Any businesses that ignore increased expectations for fast performance do so at their own competitive peril.

Mobile Web Frustrations Have Consequences

When survey panelists were asked about frustrating mobile Web experiences over the past two months, two-thirds of smartphone users cited “Web pages slow to load.” The next largest pain point felt by nearly half of the panel was “Website not optimized for smartphone.”

Sixteen percent of mobile users will not return or wait for a Website to load if it takes too long and six percent will go to a competitor’s site. Over time that will result in large numbers of users becoming frustrated and moving on - possibly to better managed competitor Websites.

Smartphone vs. Tablet Habits

The KCR research found that 29 percent of respondents spend at least one to two hours browsing the Internet from their smartphones. The top five activities on smartphones include accessing local information such as maps and event locations (88 percent), searching for general information (82 percent), participating in social media or social networking sites (76 percent), reading news and entertainment (75 percent) and finding local services, like ATMs or stores (74 percent).

The survey found that 37 percent of tablet users log at least one to two Web hours a day. Tablet users painted a rather different profile of daily usage. News and entertainment sites are accessed most (79 percent), searching for information takes second place (77 percent), watching videos was next (76 percent), accessing location information followed (75 percent), and participating in social networks (75 percent) rounded out the top five activities on tablet devices.

Tablet users were no more likely to do banking when compared to smartphone users (50 percent vs. 56 percent). However, they were much more likely to purchase something (62 percent vs. 47 percent) or to book travel (41 percent vs. 29 percent). Clearly tablet users have a significant stake in the performance of these Websites, and slow performance is very likely to send these users to competitor sites.

Don Aoki, senior vice president of professional services at Keynote noted, “Mobile consumers have options on how they can access and consume their digital content. For brands, it’s critical to integrate and develop mobile strategies that are not only viable across multiple types of mobile devices, but that meet performance expectations. Our research clearly demonstrates that users will vote with their feet, so to speak, if Websites don't deliver."

Although the survey more or less states that the obvious is true - bad Website performance won't be tolerated by mobile users - it is also clear though perhaps not so obvious, that a great many users are in fact frustrated by their Web experiences. Tablets are smartphones are now the mainstream devices of choice, and companies need to substantially ramp up their mobile Web capabilities. If they intend to stay in business they had better do so.

Want to learn more about today’s powerful mobile Internet ecosystem? Then be sure to attend the Mobility Tech Conference & Expo, collocated with ITEXPO West 2012 taking place Oct. 2-5 2012, in Austin, TX. Co-sponsored by TMC Partner Crossfire Media the Mobility Tech Conference & Expo provides unmatched networking opportunities and a robust conference program representing the mobile ecosystem. The conference not only brings together the best and brightest in the wireless industry, it actually spans the communications and technology industry. For more information on registering for the Mobility Tech Conference & Expo click here.

Stay in touch with everything happening at Mobility Tech Conference & Expo. Follow us on Twitter.


Tony Rizzo has spent over 25 years in high tech publishing and joins MobilityTechzone after a stint as Editor in Chief of Mobile Enterprise Magazine, which followed a two year stretch on the mobile vendor side of the world. Tony also spent five years as the Director of Mobile Research for 451 Research. Before his jump into mobility Tony spent a year as a publishing consultant for CMP Media, and served as the Editor in Chief of Internet World, NetGuide and Network Computing. He was the founding Technical Editor of Microsoft Systems Journal.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey


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