United HealthCare Services Inc. recently made several enhancements to its mobile site, and the improvements are paying off on the AppDynamics/Mobile Strategies 360 Performance Index. The index ranks the site speed and general performance of 30 mobile sites by their Speed Scores.

The health insurance company’s mobile site, UHc.com, moved up three spots on the 3G index to No. 20 from No. 23 for the week ending March 20. United HealthCare trimmed 300 kilobytes off of its mobile site home page weight, which lowered the visually complete time, or the time it took the web browser to finish drawing the visual elements on the home page, by 1.4 seconds, says Peter Kacandes, senior product marketing manager, mobile, web and synthetics, for AppDynamics. The decreased page weight also shaved 1.1 seconds off of the time it took for the browser to start drawing the visual elements on the home page, Kacandes adds.

Over the past several months, United HealthCare has been making several enhancements to its mobile site, says a United HealthCare spokesman.

“We have intentionally increased our focus on creating a ‘mobile-first’ experience for consumers, helping to make United HealthCare more accessible to people when and where they want to be reached,” says a United HealthCare spokesman.

United HealthCare uses a form of responsive web design that uses adaptive techniques to make pages load more quickly. This technique, like responsive design, uses one code base that automatically tailors the look of a website to the device the consumer is using—but does so in a way that minimizes the performance impact. Instead of sending the entire website code to a smartphone and letting the smartphone decide what to display to a consumer, as in pure responsive design, United HealthCare’s servers detect the device the consumer is using, and, if it’s a smartphone, only sends the smartphone-optimized website code. For example, United HealthCare only sends small images to mobile devices to display, instead of sending all the images, both small and large, and the browser selects which image to display, the spokesman says.

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“We know our members and all consumers are increasingly using mobile devices to manage their health and wellbeing, so we have invested in resources to make that more convenient and efficient,” the spokesman says. He cites United HealthCare’s Health4Me app—which lets patients access a digital ID card, schedule telemedicine visits with healthcare providers, and contact a nurse anytime—as another example of United HealthCare investing in mobile. The Health4Me app has amassed more than 2 million downloads since its launch in 2012, he says.

Also on the 3G index, American Airlines Inc. fell four positions to No. 23 from No. 19, after it added a full second to its visually complete time, Kacandes says. This comes after American Airlines fell five positions on the index the previous week, and the week before that when it fell to 11 spots to No. 14 from No. 3. An American Airlines spokeswoman  attributes the slower performance to additional security measures on its mobile site that it added at the beginning of the month.

“We recognize these are impacting its performance for some users and we’re working hard to optimize our site to these new measures,” she says.

The exclusive AppDynamics/Mobile Strategies 360 Index tracks key mobile site metrics across a range of sites to calculate a weekly average Speed Score on both 3G and 4G mobile carrier networks. The index represents a snapshot of mobile site performance across industries, including retailers such as HSN.com, insurance companies such as NorthwesternMutual.com and restaurants such as McDonalds.com.

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AppDynamics each week measures performance metrics of both 3G and 4G networks for each of the 30 sites in the index to determine each site’s Speed Score.

They include:

First render: The time, (in seconds) it takes until the web browser starts drawing the visual elements of a home page. 

Visually complete: The time (in seconds) it takes until the web browser has completed drawing the visual elements of a home page.

Number of elements loaded: The number of resources loaded by a home page.

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Complete load: The size of the home page when all data is loaded (in megabytes).

Using these metrics, the index calculates the Speed Score. The Speed Score is a ratio that rewards businesses for displaying more visual content on the mobile home page earlier rather than later. The earlier a mobile site home page looks complete to a consumer, the better the mobile experience for the visitor, even if a few remaining elements are displayed later. A site with a higher ratio of content displayed earlier will have a better Speed Score than a site with the same visually complete time but a longer first render time.

For example, site A may have a visually complete home page load time of three seconds, loading 90% of its content in the first second and the remaining 10% in seconds two and three. Site B may have the same three-second visually complete time, but present zero content in the first two seconds and 100% in the third second. The sites have identical visually complete times, but Site A will be perceived as much faster, and will earn a better Speed Score as a result.

The index displays the average across the 30 mobile sites for each metric as well as the average Speed Score on both 3G and 4G networks for each mobile site.

For the week ended March 20, the average Speed Score for 3G was 9.8 seconds compared to 10.0 seconds the previous week. The average first render was 6.7 seconds compared to 6.9 seconds the previous week.

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Visually complete average was 15.7 seconds compared to 16.0 seconds the previous week. Average number of elements loaded was 102.0 compared to 98.9 the previous week. Average home page weight was 1.9 megabytes compared to 1.7 megabytes compared the previous week.

On 4G, the average Speed Score was 5.8 seconds, the same as the previous week. The average first render was 4.0 seconds compared with 4.1 seconds the previous week.

Visually complete average time was 8.9 seconds compared with 8.8 seconds the previous week. Average number of elements loaded was 102.4 versus 99.1 a week earlier. And average home page weight was 1.9 megabytes compared to 1.7 megabytes the previous week.

The index is accompanied by a chart on MobileStrategies360.com that is refreshed weekly to illustrate how each mobile site performs as well as index averages. Click here to access the performance chart for the week ending March 20.

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