It was steady as she goes at the top of the 3G rankings for the Mobile Strategies 360/AppDynamics index this week. However, several mobile sites shifted position in the middle of the rankings.  The index ranks the site speed and general performance of 30 mobile sites by their Speed Scores—a score that looks at several factors of how mobile site home pages load to analyze site performance as perceived by a visitor.

“This week’s 3G data shows stability at the top, with the first six maintaining their positions from last week,” says Peter Kacandes, senior product marketing manager, mobile, web and synthetics, for AppDynamics.

However, he points out that HSN.com moved up four spots this week to No. 7 for the week ended March 27 from No. 11 a week earlier in 3G rankings. The rise is at least in part due to HSN improving its visually complete time, or the time it takes for the browser to finish drawing the visual element of a page, by nearly a full second. It also improved its first render time, or the time it takes for the browser to begin drawing the elements of a page, on average on 3G by 0.7 seconds.

Toys ‘R’ Us Inc. meanwhile moved in the opposite direction, landing in the No. 21 spot, down three positions from No. 18 on 3G a week earlier.  The toy retailer only added about 40 kilobytes to its home page weight, coming in at 1.08 megabytes (less than the average home page weight on 3G or 1.90 megabytes), and eight additional elements for a total of 117 (slightly more than the average of 103). However, its average visually complete time fell by nearly almost two full seconds to 21.6 seconds. That’s compared to 16.2 seconds for the 3G index average.

Toys ‘R’ Us declined to comment on its mobile site performance.

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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.

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:

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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.

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

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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 27, the average Speed Score for 3G was 9.7 seconds compared to 9.8 seconds a week earlier. The average first render was 6.6 seconds compared to 6.7 seconds.

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Visually complete average was 16.2 seconds, compared to 15.7 seconds a week earlier. Average number of elements loaded was 102.7 compared with 102.0. Average home page weight was 1.9 megabytes, the same as a week earlier.

On 4G, the average Speed Score was 5.6 seconds compared with 5.8 seconds the previous week. The average first render was 4.0 seconds, the same as the previous week.

Visually complete average time was 8.8 seconds compared with 8.9 seconds a week earlier. Average number of elements loaded was 102.8 versus 102.4. And average home page weight was 1.9 megabytes, the same as a week earlier.

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 27.

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