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Order is Everything: 5 Steps to an Engaging Mobile Experience

As marketers scramble to increase mobile engagement this year (as 80% of them have said they would) web performance is permeating the conversation.

Despite the breakneck speed at which new device technologies are being developed, the convergence of web performance, mobile, and desktop is in its infancy. Business awareness is stirring, and some developer tools have become available – but we have a long way to go.  Users are still putting up with slow and inconsistent rendering on their mobile devices, because there is no alternative; the sites that crack the code will quickly shoot to the top in both business success and thought leadership on this tough technology challenge. 



A slide showing load order of a page from The Guardian presentation referenced below

Assessing Engagement 

A few short years ago, prevailing wisdom pegged page load time as the driving measure for enabling online engagement.  There is no doubt that speed is important, today as ever. But w want to highlight an updated and more effective way to drive online engagement, as seen in this article by Patrick Hamman on how The Guardian has improved their site: focusing on the order in which your page elements render.  

As The Guardian presentation shows, the order in which a page’s assets load is critical to user perception. Some people call it “the Amazon effect” — where the page loads resources progressively in a way that captures and holds the user’s attention. (Amazon’s pages load slowly by some metrics, but their success speaks for itself).

There are numerous ways to progressively enhance a page.  Here’s a 5 steps overview.

1: Open your eyes

As you’re monitoring your site for availability, speed and business metric performance, pay attention to some of the lesser known metrics, like Time to Start Render and Time to Interact.  These are essentially speed metrics, but the interplay between them can indicate the order of page elements loading.  Crucially, you can also look at page load screen shots in and for a variety of devices. The heuristic of viewing screen shots plus the quantitative data can help you understand how fast the first content is showing up, when the rest of the content pops in, and whether the user is experiencing an incomplete page for too long.  When optimizing the order of your page, these will be metrics that will help gauge your success. 

2. Name your pain

After testing and monitoring your site’s load sequence, identify the top things that can be improved.  For instance, if peripheral content like widgets or ads come before the central content, that’s problematic for the user experience.  If nothing appears on screen for too long (a slow Time to Start Render) that’s even worse.  And if the primary elements paint quickly but below-the-fold content is causing lag or preventing scrolling, you’ll know that those elements need to be dealt with. 

3. Speed is dead.  Long live speed.

Don’t lose site of speed.  As we’re discussing the order of execution of pages, speed is always in the background.  Thankfully, changing the order typically only helps overall speed as a brute force measurement.  But it might also cause some unintuitive results.  If you intentionally delay load elements, your Time to Interact or Page Load Time might get dramatically slower as a result. But that’s of course not a bad thing. 

4. Roll up your sleeves

When it comes time to make a project, survey the landscape of techniques at your disposal.  Some are radically simple: copying and pasting certain elements so they are higher or lower in the HTML file.  Others, like displaying content on a trigger like cursor hover, are more sophisticated. Our eBook, How to Optimize Order of Execution covers many of the basics.  Also at Yottaa we have a patented innovation that we call Application Sequencing that delivers these techniques on the fly as a service.

5. Keep your eye on the bottom line

The key to optimizing user engagement is to stay focused on your objective.  It’s easy to get tunnel vision for a technical KPI like Start Render time, and to lose sight of your business goal.  Keep your eye on bottom line, with things like ROI, conversion rate, and total sales.  Be holistic in your measurement of success at every level. Yottaa and thought leaders like Patrick Hamman from The Guardian offer best practices that we’ve seen work, but if following them doesn’t result in better business success for you, then scrap ’em. 

How does Yottaa approach these five steps? 

We feel so strongly about the importance of maintaining this focus that we’ve made it a cornerstone of our onboarding, and ongoing experience.  Our ROIScope integrates your business analytics with our experience optimization service so you can see exactly how your IT and Marketing teams are working together to reach and retain more users.  Clarks USA saw a 13% conversion rate increase with Yottaa.  Let us show you what we can do for your site. 

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