Mobile web design remains a moving target

Speed is paramount for precious metals retailer JM Bullion Inc.

The retailer sells metals including silver, gold, platinum and palladium at current market prices, which are constantly changing. Many JM Bullion shoppers monitor these prices and pounce when they see a good price, says Al Lee, the retailer’s director of web technologies.

“As they see the desirable price level, they will want to complete the shopping and checkout process quickly before the price changes,” Lee says. “This is why we want to make sure our digital experience is as fast and as frictionless as possible.”

This is especially true on mobile devices, when shoppers are on the go and pressed for time, Lee says. Sales from smartphones account for roughly 30% of the retailer’s total revenue. With an Internet Retailer-estimated $675 million in 2017 online sales, that’s roughly $203 million.

To improve its mobile site’s load times, JM Bullion in June launched a progressive web app (PWA) that it built with mobile design vendor WompMobile. A PWA is a set of design and technology standards that offers the look and feel of an app, but in a mobile website. The technology implements several methods, such as using a service worker—a script that web browsers continually run in the background separate from a web page—to ensure a fast-loading site. Running as a background process allows the service worker to take on roles such as caching website content, like images and the retailer’s logo, and allows the website to run quickly.

The project was relatively straightforward. It took WompMobile about three months to build the PWA, and it only required Lee and another developer to tweak the design and user experience, he says. The impact of the change was quickly realized: The site’s average smartphone load time decreased more than 54% to 2.8 seconds in the month after the PWA launched, from about 6.3 seconds before the PWA.

The PWA launch came less than two years after the retailer launched accelerated mobile pages (AMP), a technology that allows mobile pages to load quickly when a shopper taps a link from mobile Google search results. The PWA now works hand-in-hand with the AMP pages for shoppers that come to JM Bullion from mobile search. And the AMP rollout came only six months after it overhauled its responsive design site (which uses one codebase that formats to the size of the screen) with an adaptive responsive design (also known as dynamic serving that uses one codebase but only sends the necessary code to the device requesting it).

This article was originally featured in Internet Retailer — a source for e‑commerce news, analysis & rankings. To continue reading, visit Internet Retailer for access to the full article.