You would think that the largest news sites would perform exceptionally well on mobile devices, but this is not true in most cases. According to a study conducted by mobile industry intelligence firm DeviceAtlas, the average time that it takes a major newspaper site to load is about 10.5 seconds, with the worst-performing sites taking from 19 to 22 seconds. This poor performance is very costly for the newspapers, as Google estimates that 53% of mobile device users only wait three seconds before abandoning a website that doesn’t load.
To conduct its performance test, DeviceAtlas used a Chrome plug-in to simulate a Nexus 5X smartphone, a mid-range device that was released two years ago, with a connectivity limit of 1.5 Mb/s. DeviceAtlas also used a proprietary tool that visualises a website and measures website page weight over low-end, mid-end and high-end mobile devices.
For its test, DeviceAtlas chose 50 daily newspaper websites from around the world from 18 countries, including Australia, Austria, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, India, Italy, Japan, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the UK and the US. DeviceAtlas chose the individual newspapers to include in the study based on their circulation figures.
The key results of the performance tests are as follows:
- The average load time on mobile devices for all tested websites was 10.5 seconds.
- The average page size on mobile devices was 1.35MB.
- Of all countries tested, India experienced the fastest average load time at 7.7 seconds.
- URL redirection was employed by 30% of the websites overall and by all Indian websites.
- The page speed of the slowest websites averaged a load time of 19 to 22 seconds (wsj.com, lavanguardia.com, ahram.org.eg).
- It cost $0.39 (£0.30) for a user in the US to access wsj.com based on average prices of mobile data plans.
To keep things in perspective, a study by Google found that about 53% of visitors to websites will abandon them if it takes more than three seconds for them to load completely. Most of the newspaper websites tested exceeded that time, leading to increased bounce rates and fewer pages viewed on mobile devices. DeviceAtlas noted that most mobile users read news content on the go with less than an ideal connection speed, making the test standard of 1.5 Mb/s realistic.
DeviceAtlas found some interesting differences in load times between countries and regions. Indian newspaper websites had an average load time of 7.7 seconds, which was significantly better than for Spain (12.8 seconds), France (11.4 seconds) and the US (10.4 seconds). Every Indian newspaper website used some type of mobile URL redirection, which indicated that these sites had been optimised for mobile devices.
According to DeviceAtlas, the mobile market in India consists of mostly low-range and mid-range mobile phones. The top five mobile phones used in India included the Xiaomi Redmi Note 2, J7 Duo and Samsung Galaxy J2, none of which are high-end phones. Also, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, about 44% of internet users in India only use mobile devices to connect.
The report also showed that mobile users incurred significant costs to access the largest and slowest newspaper websites. The highest cost was $0.69 (£0.54) for a user in Canada to access latribune.fr. The main point from this finding is that it will cost you more to access a newspaper website that has not been optimised for mobile use.