Why mobile performance is critical for companies offering UK holiday attractions this summer

Date: 7th July 2015
Author: Louise Arnold

As summer arrives, we consider the impact of mobile performance for providers of UK holiday attractions and in-destination services. Mobile devices have become an essential item for holidaymakers and it is not just to take and post selfies or whatever is the latest internet photo craze. Mobiles now play a significant role in organising what tourists do when on holiday; visiting tourist attractions and booking in-destination activities such as shows, excursions, shopping and restaurants. Already, mobile devices account for half of all eCommerce traffic – 40% mobile, 10% tablet and is likely to continue to increase. [Source]

online-booking-londonAccording to research from Hotels.com, some holidaymakers are even prepared to go on holiday without planning their accommodation and are then using their smartphones to book the hotel of their choice on arrival. Moreover, in-destination services are forecast to be one of the fastest growing areas in the travel industry in the next five years, driven by on-the-go bookings via mobile devices.

Using a mobile device means that tourists can be more spontaneous and can tailor their holiday to suit their mood, research getting around, local tourist information, restaurants and attractions. Once they have found what they want to do, they want to be able to check opening times, location, availability, book & pay.

If you run an attraction or leisure business, you already know that how your website performs for different customer journeys, is critical for conversions and ultimately the success of your season, but now you must also consider your customer’s journey on a mobile device. It is a given that your ecommerce engine needs to be as easy to use and as fast as possible, however, you must make sure you give equal focus not only to the performance over fixed line internet access but also to those accessing your site over the air interfaces like 3G or if you are in a more rural location possible 2G.

Across web and mobile a site has the shared goal of providing a great user experience, but the two journey types have many differences in how they are delivered and therefore what optimisation is meaningful. You may need to take a fresh look at improving mobile journey performance as the user experience is affected by additional factors such as device and network capability and signal quality.

Explosive increase in potential customer journeys

Web servers know what device a user is browsing with and should send users different content or send them to a completely different mobile version of the site. In addition, responsive web sites are designed to adjust their look, feel, and behaviour based on the size of the screen being used. Couple this with the wide variety of devices on the market and the number of combinations a customer journey can take is simply explosive.

Don’t let your mobile experience lag behind

Mobile devices particularly when on holiday, generally access the server over networks that are slower than those used by desktop computers and network conditions have a significant effect on the user experience. The effect may be more or less pronounced depending on the application. Network characteristics including bandwidth, latency, and packet loss have a huge impact on client response times and on the way the server is loaded. .

Mobile networks have limited bandwidth and high latency compared to WiFi or broadband. Since the latency increases with each request made by a web page and each web page is composed of many sub-requests, the time required to load a webpage on a mobile device greatly depends on the latency. In fact, latency can become the biggest bottleneck affecting performance due to physical limitations of networks. Even connections with very high bandwidth cannot get around latency issues.

What does this all mean?

According to a survey conducted by EffectiveUI, a majority of the 780 individuals surveyed will abandon a mobile app if the performance is slow or difficult to use. The Nielsen Group performed a study which showed that anything taking more than 100ms to respond makes the user feel like they’re waiting — and all they’re trying to do is move through your site. Similarly, if a web application is too slow, even by 400 milliseconds (according to Google engineers), users will abandon your website.

What are the key takeaways?

  • Test user journeys across the most popular mobile browsers, as mobile journeys can be delivered very differently to mobile devices
  • Minimise the number of page requests to reduce the impact of latency on overall performance. Can you reduce the total number of elements delivered during a journey? For example by combining CSS or JS files.
  • Consider using CSS sprites; where multiple images are combined into one image and different parts of it are shown to reduce page requests.
  • Minimise the number of redirects on pages and aim for server to render response in less than 200ms
  • Ensure critical content or above the fold content is loaded first. Defer loading of less important page elements.
  • Aim to deliver a sub one second rendering experience per page along the customer journey
  • Incorporate regional or geographic-based testing for best results

We should not forget that with the explosion of wearable internet-connected devices, which will provide even more opportunity for holidaymakers to receive notifications and services during their trip, as well as make bookings. This represents an additional challenge requiring an even more flexible architecture for testing customer journeys that may start on one device and then transfer from one device to another.

Download SciVisum’s mobile eCommerce survey to find out how well retailers delivered mobile experience over the Christmas period.