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Retailers hindering mobile browsing experience with dedicated mobile sites

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44 per cent of Britain’s top retailers are potentially slowing the browsing experience for mobile users by redirecting them to dedicated mobile sites, according to new insight from web performance experts at NCC Group.

It was found that 22 out of Britain’s top 50 retail websites currently redirect users to a mobile version of the site when they visit from a mobile device, meaning that these users see a delay before they can download any content. They are therefore more likely to leave the site and go elsewhere.

This delay is often exacerbated on mobile networks, where it typically takes longer for data to travel to and from the end user’s device than it does on standard broadband connections.

Alex Painter, web performance consultant at NCC Group, explains: “Recently, we have seen a trend towards responsive design, where a single version of the website reflows to fit the end user’s viewport. This method eliminates the need for a redirect, and it’s Google’s recommended option for mobile-friendly sites. There’s also the added benefit of having only one version of the site to maintain.

“This is not to say that responsive design is a panacea. While it’s surprising to see so many retailers still relying on redirects when so much business is now done on mobile, alternatives such as responsive design come with their own challenges. For example, on some responsive sites mobile users can end up downloading more content than they need. However, designers are getting better at creating lighter, faster responsive sites, and initiatives such as the responsive images specification will help them improve further. Either way, browsing the web on a mobile device is now very much the norm, and the days of redirecting mobile users to different sites are surely numbered.

“Speed really matters for retail websites because the longer it takes a page to load, the more likely visitors are to abandon the site and give competitors their business.”

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