Visitor Monitoring Battle of the Network Stars: Mobile networks cause concern (Part 2) | Keynote
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Battle of the Network Stars: Mobile networks cause concern (Part 2)

By Aaron Rudger | March 24, 2014

CATEGORIES: Web Performance

Over the past few days during the NCAA Basketball Tournament, the Sports Media sites monitored in the Keynote March 3-Screen Shootout haven’t performed all that well. Of the five sites we looked at, the ESPN and CBS Sports sites distanced themselves from the pack with varying degrees of success. The other three sites have some catching up to do. There were some common themes that undoubtedly led to poorer performance. Let’s take a look at where the others need to improve to keep up with them.

Smartphones. Smartphones. Smartphones.

The Shootout is measuring the user experience of twenty sites across, three screens – sixty measurements in all. Across the all of these measurements, the poorest user experience occurred on smartphones with the Bleacher Report website, averaging a 48.14 second response time.

The Sports Media sites that missed the mark, largely suffered because of the smartphone user experience. The five slowest performing site from the past three days can be seen below. Three of the sites come from the Sports Media group (Bleacher Report, Yahoo! Sports and Sports Illustrated).

Media 2_1

When it comes to website availability over the past few days, the same Sport Media sites were at the bottom again; with the Yahoo! Sports smartphone users only finding 51.68% availability. The Sports Illustrated smartphone site didn’t fair much better, with 58.76% average availability. In general, smartphone users over a 3G connection did not enjoy these sites to their fullest.

Media 2_2

A closer look at the Yahoo! Sports smartphone experience shows extreme variability in response times. Their performance ranged from 8.53s to 109.64 seconds for successful measurements. However, smartphone users likely experienced even worse performance because most of the measurement errors were timeouts where we stopped measuring at 120s (note the band of red data points). There were also some HTTP 500 Internal Server Errors.

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The Bleacher Report also saw high variability in performance with response times ranging from 6.37 to 110.01 seconds. Similarly, Sports Illustrated response times ranged from 5.86 to 112.71 seconds. There were no discernible days/times where performance spiked for any of these mobile websites.

The slow performance of these three sites may be attributed to the amount of content that they serve. Their home pages are quite heavy for mobile sites, which we can confirm by examining their average Bytes Downloaded and Object Count:

Media 2_4

The Bleacher Report site is on the heavy side and they are at the upper limit for the number of objects a site should have. The Sports Illustrated and Yahoo! Sports sites are clearly too large, and have too many objects for a smartphone user. ;Media sites are in a tough position, they need to be visually attractive and serve up third party ads. This requires walking a fine line to keep performance in check.  While sites like these may never be as light as others outside of the industry, they should strive to keep in line with top performing Sports Media sites such as ESPN, or cede the mobile user to the competition. With mobile continuing to grow in importance, that may not be a good long term play.

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