A new study suggests that consumers have even less patience for slow load times on tablets than mobile phones. Almost seven in 10 tablet users expect a Web site to load in two seconds or less, while 70% expect a site load at least as fast as on the desktop, according to a new survey commissioned by Compuware.
Prior research by the company, whose products are aimed at improving technology performance, found that most smartphone users were willing to wait five seconds for a page to load.
“We were surprised expectations are even higher for tablets,” said Lorenz Jakober, product marketing manager for Compuware's application performance management business.
That’s likely because of the tablet form factor, with a larger screen that more closely resembles a desktop PC. Someone using an iPad, for instance, might anticipate having the same online speeds as when they are using an iMac or MacBook. Jakober said recent research on top banking and retail sites has shown that most were not even close to the 2-second threshold.
Furthermore, about half of tablet users will retry a site only once or twice if it did not work initially. A bad experience will also drive 46% of tablet users to other sites. One-third are less likely to make a purchase from that company, and 35% are less likely to visit the balky site on any platform.
Overall, four our of 10 tablet owners say they have encountered a problem when accessing Web sites. “Any sort of poor Web experience on tablets, smartphones or PCs will eventually impact the bottom line,” said Jakober.
Web performance on tablets may become more of a focus for publishers as adoption picks up steam. A Pew Research Center survey earlier this year estimated the proportion of U.S. adults with tablets nearly doubled to 19%. Research from comScore puts tablet ownership a bit lower, at 15% mobile users. That translates to 40 million devices.
The rise of tablets adds to the strain on wireless data networks, which are already coping with the growth of smartphones. The launch of 4G LTE networks by Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint promises to deliver speeds up to 10 times higher than 3G networks. Apple is capitalizing on the network upgrades by making the latest version of the iPad 4G-compatible.
Lorenz said the advent of 4G will speed up Web delivery -- but other issues, like the use of different devices, operating systems and browsers among consumers, will continue to pose challenges. For now, 4G technology still is not widely available in the U.S., as the carriers’ 4G networks are in various stages of being rolled out.
Even so, the Compuware study highlights companies such as eBay that have created tablet-optimized sites to improve performance. The online retailer had said it expects to handle $8 billion in mobile transactions this year. Compuware has found that eBay’s site loads about one-third faster than non-optimized retail sites on tablets.
Other brands, like financial services company USAA, have adopted a “mobile first” approach to Web development, incorporating features like larger buttons spaced further apart, geared to smartphone and tablet screens. Separately, the Financial Times released an app last year for tablets and phones built using HTML5 Web standards to streamline usage.
The Compuware findings were based on a survey conducted by Equation Research from January 5 to 16, 2012 among 2,033 tablet users in the U.S., Europe, Japan and India.