The State of Mobile Search in March 2018
by Geoff Hineman
In the current digital landscape, it's essential that businesses are creating web experiences that are fast enough to keep up with burgeoning technologies. Customers (and potential customers) want to find what they are looking for quickly. Often, they are on the move and not at a desk, so they don't have as much time or patience as in years past. If you give them one reason to try a different site, they will. The outlook isn't all doom and gloom, though. During the course of the last year, the average time it takes for sites to completely load a mobile page has decreased by seven seconds. That said, it still takes, on average, 15 seconds for mobile pages to load. This means two things: 1) more sites are getting faster, so dawdlers are getting left behind; 2) there is still plenty of time to get to the front of the curve. To put it all in perspective, approximately 53% of mobile site visitors will abandon a page if it takes longer than just three seconds to load. That's the threshold now.
As you can imagine, that number is only going to get smaller in the coming years. Based on our own internal client comparisons, we know that more than half of total web traffic comes, on average, from mobile devices. We also know that conversion rates for mobile visitors tend to be considerably lower than it is for desktop visitors. Having fast-loading pages is one pragmatic way to help boost conversion rates. To further stress the importance the role of mobile speed plays, most mobile traffic, globally, is occurring on 4G networks, not 3G. This means that, even if your site is staying at the same speed, consumer expectations are not. Recent data from Google and webpagetest.org took a deep dive into a whole spectrum of different industries. The results were interesting. The industries with the longest page load times were found in the following sectors: automotive, (ironically) technology, and (sadly) retail. This is mainly because these types of sites simply cram too many elements into a page. It can be a tricky dance to provide all of the bells and whistles a good desktop user experience needs while still keeping pages fast for mobile users. Recent research also has some more details worth noting. On average, about 70% of mobile landing pages take longer than five seconds for "above the fold" content to load.
As for the entirety of the pages' visual content, it took longer than seven seconds. It doesn't seem like a long time, but count off seven seconds right now. Would you wait that long for a page to load if it wasn't your site? So what does it all mean? Where are the thresholds? How fast do you HAVE to be? There are some interesting correlations that have recently come out of the Google camp. With regards to speed, as page load time moves from one second to 10 seconds, the likelihood of a mobile visitor leaving the site increases a whopping 123%. The breakdown looks like this:
- As page load times increase from 1 second to 3 seconds, bounce probability increases 32%
- As page load times increase from 1 second to 5 seconds, bounce probability increases 90%
- As page load times increase from 1 second to 6 seconds, bounce probability increases 106%
- As page load times increase from 1 second to 10 seconds, bounce probability increases 123%
In kind, as pages elements including images, titles, and text increase from 400 to 6,000, the likelihood of getting that user to convert decreases by 95%. In short, faster is better. When it comes to mobile, the old adage of "less is more" certainly rings true. Leaner is also better. Nearly 80% of pages weigh in at more than 1MB. More than 50% come in at 2MB. Nearly 25% are as large as 4MB. With all this on the table, there are still, generally, a few things that most sites can implement, rather easily, to increase mobile performance. As a rule, starting with image sizes and image compression is square one. Most sites could see immediate benefits there. In fact, across the board, 25% of pages can eliminate 250KB of data from a page that way. About 10% of sites can conserve more than 1MB of data this way. Retail sites, in particular, tend to have very high resolution (e.g., huge data) images that might be ideal for catalogs and print ads, but not for web applications, particularly mobile.
As of now, when we get down to the brass tacks of mobile pages, size and speed matter very much—perhaps, the data suggests, more than anything else (at the moment). To win the mobile game, which has steadily become more competitive for years, sites need to consider mobile first in all web development and design situations. For a mobile speed audit with recommendations, contact Lett Direct or drop me an email directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.