A Google Plus member reports that Google may be testing a red indicator to identify slow web sites when searching with a mobile device. K. Neeraj Kayastha displayed an image of the search results he saw while doing a mobile search using his Android phone. The test appears to be taking place in India. I could not duplicate his results using an iPhone here in the USA. The same tests could take place in the USA in the future or Google could implement the new search results feature at any time. Or perhaps they won’t.
The curious part that I see in the image captured from search results is that both of the web sites flagged with a red word ‘Slow’ are Google sites. This could mean that Google is simply warning mobile users that a site may be inherently slow due to the nature of the content. At this point, the test may only involve Google’s own sites. However, given Google’s recent push to improve web site performance, there is a strong possibility that they could expand the flag to mark other sites, as well.
I’ve been making the point for some time that just because a site is mobile friendly and displays properly on a mobile device does not mean that it will render quickly. All mobile friendly sites must take the slower Internet connections into consideration and optimize the site for smart phones and mobile devices. This means avoiding the use of excessively large images, files and other objects on web pages.
A responsive design web site allows the designer to control what displays on a web page for specific ranges of screen sizes. It’s common to prevent the display of some large images and design elements when the site is viewed on a mobile device because they detract from the usability on small screens. However, that in itself does not speed up the rendering of a web page on a mobile device. All the HTML CSS, images and other objects are still downloaded to a user’s device even if some elements are not displayed. This means that the full size desktop view is the responsive design version that must be optimized for quick downloading and rendering. It’s also important to note that just because a large 200,000 byte image displays at the size of a postage stamp on a small screen does not mean the file size for the image is reduced. The 200,000 byte image needs to be downloaded regardless of the rendering size.
Mobile optimization means optimizing all screen views for the lowest common denominator, which is smart phones.