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BLOG: Q&A: What to consider when designing a mobile website

Steven Max Patterson | July 12, 2013
An expert shares insight on the intricacies of designing a website for mobile users.

Q: How does the speed of the smartphone effect the load times?
Mendoza: We have over 40 million rows of actual performance data collected in "the wild" from real users' smartphones. The snapshot chart below for some smartphones' performance using the browsing the site shows how dramatically page load speed depends on the device.

Click to enlarge

Q: How can a mobile website be optimized given these unpredictable situational factors?
Mendoza: Simulation of your website will get you part way there, but the website needs to be tested in "the wild" with real users. Marlin Mobile crowdsources this type of testing using an instrumented browser based on the webkit standard that we incentivize users to install. We can customize tests to match the user profiles of a website. We collect a lot of performance and situational data that is anonymized of personal data that helps the mobile website creators make UX-related decisions. In "the wild" testing lets designer make data-driven design decisions. For instance, a different content chain might be employed to improve performance when a slow device or slow network location or both are encountered. If given an unfavorable routing distance, content could be rebalanced at a more favorable routing distance.

Q: Is there a big data play here?
Mendoza: Yes, right now we use the 40 million rows of "in the wild" data to publish generalized snapshots of the thresholds for good, tolerable and unacceptable mobile web performance. We also use specifically tailored segments of the data to optimize our customers' mobile websites. As the data set grows, we will have valuable trend data on the subjects, such as the performance effects of mobile website design strategies and device performance.

Mendoza made clear that the mobile web won't be replaced by apps because it is a better fit for many enterprise multi-channel content delivery strategies. Mobile websites are very appealing for many reasons. Web developers are in general more plentiful and they can leverage the languages and technology with which they are familiar. It also allows developers to maintain one cross-platform codebase to support a multi-channel content delivery strategy. Designing for mobile web performance will be a top-ranking factor in user acceptance of mobile websites.


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