Why the Mobile Web is Now So Slow

This summer Google saw more searches done from mobile devices than desktops.

If you’ve checked your Web analytics stats recently you will have seen this trend reflected in the majority of visitors to your business website arriving via notebook, iPad and smartphone. 

As so many more of us, our customers, suppliers and colleagues now use mobile devices as part of our daily working lives we are also all likely to be familiar with one of the main frustrations associated with it - the often super slow speed. A recent BBC story attempted to shed light on the causes of the slow down and many of the points it covered are highlighted in this piece.

The Symptoms

Slow loading web pages, obviously slow mobile connections, slow public wi-fi spots, annoying adverts (that we can accidentally press) and problematic navigation bars are all some of the more obvious symptoms of the overall problem. 

The Causes

Advertising: This may be a necessary commercial reality for many websites but the sheer volume of advertisements on some pages can seriously affect navigation, not to mention page download speed.

A recent New York Times study found that more than half of all the data on popular news sites came from sources unrelated to articles!

Adverts Are Not Just Images Now

The kinds of adverts we now encounter on the Web are much more than just images. They often involve animation and sound, they originate from many different locations, and they can slow things down considerably by using up a lot of bandwidth and processing cycles. Auto-playing video ads can be particularly annoying to Web users.

Behind the Scenes

Many Web pages that we arrive at with our mobile devices also use trackers and other behind the scenes technologies. These kinds of features require scripts to used (mostly Javascript). Some pages are so full of these scripts that many extra megabytes are added to the page size, and this can slow things down considerably. 

What Can You / We Do To Speed Things Up?

  • Use ad blockers. Apple for example has recently started supporting ad-blockers on its iPhones and iPads. In fact it is estimated that 40% of people are believed to now use ad blockers. 
  • Web Developers could use less of the ready-rolled frameworks, less web fonts, less Flash and fewer social media buttons in their web pages. This can speed up the experience for mobile visitors to those pages. 
  • Content publishers can host and deliver content that has the extra web page elements stripped out. Facebook does this for example with its Instant Articles (copies of publishers' stories hosted on its own servers). Google, Twitter, LinkedIn and the BBC are also working on Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), a scheme that delivers pages which don’t have Javascript elements in them. 
  • Check your connection e.g. using an app like Speedtest which enables you to find out how much your wi-fi or mobile network may be holding things up. 
  • Clear out your mobile device / mobile phone memory and consider using external storage devices and services. 
  • Update your browser if at all possible to a lighter version. 
  • Switch off any auto sync that may be creating an extra draw on resources and slowing things down.