The iPhone has been a catalyst for a number of mobile versions of popular sites, including many I use most days:

Xero, NZ Herald (*), TripIt, Kiwibank, Google Reader.

(*) if you haven’t discovered m.nzherald.co.nz I recommend you check it out – I’ve completely abandoned Stuff since they launched this.

I’m interested to see how these mobile versions have been designed.

They don’t try and cram in too many features.  They use super large fonts and large buttons, and as a result there is not a lot of room on each page for too much noise.  The things you can click (or do we say “touch” now?) are immediately obvious.

They are not bogged down by lots of unnecessary images or scripts … so they are FAST!

Here is a quick comparison of the corresponding login/home pages:

Site Version Page Size Download
Xero Standard 938.4kB 7.86s
Mobile 12.7kB 2.92s
TripIt Standard 334.2kB 8.15s
Mobile 13.7kB 1.78s
NZ Herald Standard 595.8kB 8.89s
Mobile 126.5kB 3.58s
Kiwibank Standard 69.5kB 4.79s
Mobile 34.3kB 3.06s
Google Reader Standard 71.1kB 3.82s
Mobile 3.7kB 1.12s

I realise that this is completely unscientific.  For example, I used an empty cache in each case.  No doubt many of these sites are faster the second time you visit because of caching.  I also tested only one load of each page, and there are any number of things which could have caused the speed to vary.  And it’s a somewhat random sample of sites to choose.  But, I hope it is a rough drawing of the point I’m trying to make nonetheless – that is, the mobile versions are much smaller and as a result much faster to load.

I wonder how much of this thinking will filter back into the main standard browser versions of these sites?

Hopefully designers and developers will start to see the benefits of some of these things (less design, bigger fonts, etc) into ALL of the sites they work on, whether intended for mobile users or not.

At the extreme of this trend is a site like Muxtape which only has a mobile version of their site.  If you visit using a normal browser, you get the mobile version – a simple, fast-loading page with big obvious design elements.  In other words, you get a great usable webpage.

Which makes me wonder … if I’m just wanting to see the latest headlines, check my balances or lookup a travel booking, why wouldn’t I load the mobile version of these sites in my standard browser, rather than waiting around for the full versions?

7 thoughts on “Speedy-ness”

  1. Google applications have been available in mobile versions for quite a while. Actually many of the web CMS frameworks have been as well, or at least they have plugins to optimise them for mobile browsing.

    There is a lot for web designers to learn about their work by trying to few it on their cellphone… you really need to consider optimisation if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load your website, you don’t need to get it all down in 3 seconds, but a user should be able to read it by then… and use it soon after.

  2. FYI: iPhone (v1 not sure if has changed with latest version) has an object cache of 30K for any object in its safari cache.

    So small page sizes are REALLY important iPhone!

  3. What I dont get is why on “Day One” wide screen 22″ plus screens are really cool and cutting edge and “Day Two”, 2pm 2 inch touch screens are really cool. Do we want to do some work or talk about it? Are we being marketed to? I think we don’t need to be told! Using an iphone feels like going back to my commodore 64 (in all the bad ways) with the $3000 tape drive… However, I’ve come to accept the fact I just aint kewl….! Tracey….

  4. Wow, I didn’t realise the NZ Herald site was so good! Stuff just lost my business, and they were my one stop shop for NZ news!!

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