« Back to home

Why the mobile web sucks

Posted on

Over at The Verge, Nilay Patel writes:

I hate browsing the web on my phone.

I do it all the time, of course — we all do. Just looking at the stats for The Verge, our mobile traffic is up 70 percent from last year, while desktop traffic is up only 11 percent. That trend isn’t going back; phones are just too convenient, beckoning us to waste more and more of our time gazing at their ever-larger screens.

But man, the web browsers on phones are terrible. They are an abomination of bad user experience, poor performance, and overall disdain for the open web that kicked off the modern tech revolution. […]

Now, I happen to work a media company, and I happen to run a website that can be bloated and slow. Some of this is our fault: The Verge is ultra-complicated, we have huge images, and we serve ads from our own direct sales and a variety of programmatic networks. Our video player is annoying. (I swear a better one is coming, for real this time.) We could do a lot of things to make our site load faster, and we’re doing them.

I couldn’t resist doing a quick analysis of page speed for that very article:

  • 22 seconds to fully load on desktop
  • 2.6MB of data
  • 81 separate JavaScripts
  • …plus 12 more JavaScripts blocked for XHR violations
  • …plus chartbeat.net trackers giving 503 errors (site over capacity)
  • …plus 3 Flash movies which would have bloated things up much further if I didn’t have Flash disabled

And yes, if I emulate a mobile device, it’s the same 2.6MB of data and 81 JavaScripts.

Gosh, I wonder why The Verge is miserable to read on mobile, eh?

Expecting mobile browser makers to magically solve your site’s performance problems is unrealistic. Mobile network data has high latency and (comparatively) low speed, and that’s inherent to the technology. You simply must engineer your web site with mobile browsers in mind.

For those who have ignored web performance, the current trend of more and more traffic coming from mobile browsers is going to lead to a painful reckoning.