The mobile Web is on the rise, and the numbers speak for themselves. The mobile Internet audience in the United States alone is estimated to reach 134.3 million users by 2013. China and India together added 300 million mobile subscribers in 2010, subscribers for whom mobile may be their first (if not only) means of access to the Internet. Sophisticated mobile devices like Apple's iPhone and iPad are stimulating mobile Internet use - in early July 2011, Apple reported 15 billion apps downloads from its App Store (for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad) in only three years of operation.
Thanks to rapidly-evolving infrastructure, the availability of more powerful mobile devices and browsers, more sophisticated mobile operating systems as well as higher levels of connectivity, have raised the expectations of the average mobile user. A recent Gomez study of more than 1,000 mobile Internet users in the United States reveals that 58 percent of users expect website load speeds on mobile devices to be comparable or even better than their desktop equivalents. Considering that today's wi-fi and 3G networks can be as much as six times faster than their 2G and 2.5G predecessors, this may not be an unrealistic expectation.
This is, of course, a reflection of the expectations of today's Internet user. The average online shopper expects Web pages to load in two seconds or less (down from four seconds in 2006) and after only three seconds, up to 40 percent will abandon the site and go somewhere else. Users are using best-in-class Web performers like Facebook, Google and Yahoo as a yardstick for how fast all sites should be, so they are intolerant of delays or slowdowns.
Nearly a third of consumers would start abandoning slow sites after between one and five seconds, according to an independent survey titled "When Seconds Count" done by Equation Research in 2010. Only 39 percent say speed is more important than functionality for most websites, while only five percent rank functionality as more important. Although slow load times are common (two-thirds, or 67 percent, of users report encountering slow performing websites a few times a week or more), this does not temper users' high expectations. Even worse, more than a third (37 percent) said that they would not return to a slow site, and 27 percent reported that they would likely jump to a competitor's site.
Delay is not the only factor to negatively impact the mobile Web experience. Users also expect high levels of availability and reliability. Even on the Internet as a whole, availability is not as high as it should be. The Aberdeen Research Group did a study which reveals that the industry average availability is 97.8 percent, a number that seems impressive at first, but which translates into a website that is unavailable for eight days every year or 16 hours every month.
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