Blog / The Ultimate China Web Study: How do Foreign Sites Actually Load in China? Part 3

The Ultimate China Web Study: How do Foreign Sites Actually Load in China? Part 3

Part 3: Single Site Performance

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This is part 3 of a 4-part series on studying how foreign sites load in China. For more information please check out:

Part 1: Background

Part 2: Aggregate Performance

Part 3: Single Site Performance

Part 4: Single Site Detailed Breakdown

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How Do They Stack Up? 

Chanel is the clear winner with NBA a close second, the Premier League 3rd, the rest significantly slower.

Figure 1: Average Loading Time, source: chinafy.com


When we look at the individual distribution of times, aside from Chanel and NBA, the rest typically take more than 10 seconds to load and are thus, largely dysfunctional. 


Figure 2: Range of Loading Times, source: chinafy.com

Let's now look at the sites individually...



Site 1: Whistler.com (Tourism and Sports)

Load Time (China) : 41.0 secs
Load Time (US): 2.9 secs

We’ll dive into the first site: whistler.com in a bit more detail.

Whistler is one of the top ski resorts globally. It’s based just 2 hours north of Vancouver, Canada and is frequented by international travelers. With an average time of just 2.9 secs in the US, and 41 secs in China (ouch!), the site is largely unusable to anyone in China but readily usable by everyone else. Skiing isn’t (yet) a big thing in China - but when it is, I’m sure Whistler.com would want to the first (and subsequent) stop on everyone’s “International Ski Vacation” list and so an analysis like this is important especially considering the resolution is rather straight-forward [ link to Chinafy.com]


Graph 1: Whistler Loading Times in China vs US, Source: Chinafy.com

When users eventually land on the site, they may click a ‘Language’ toggle at the top right where a number of languages are available, including Chinese. However it’s using Google Translate which, considering it isn’t available in China, does little to help the Chinese visitor.


When we look at the Loading Time Distribution we can see yet again, a stark difference in performance between the two locations. 


Graph 2: Whistler.com Loading TIme in US vs China, Source: Chinafy.com

Next, we consider the number of resources that loaded on the page. On average, Whistler has about 150 resources as can be seen by the Chrome Inspector. What proportion of these load in China?


By loading the page multiple times, we’re able to evaluate: i) The full size (or largest size loaded), ii) The actual size, and iii) Compare the two for a % of page loaded. There are other approaches (i.e. using # of resources vs MBs loaded), and many perspectives to defining the full size, but for the purposes of this experiment this gives us pretty good insight. 


Graph 3: % of the Page Loaded in US vs China, Source: chinafy.com

As you can see, the site loads almost fully in the US case with about 87% of the site loading on average. While there may be some trailing resources or images which may fail to load, China is an entirely different case with 72% of the site loading. Put another way, almost 30% of the site doesn’t display on average. 

Looking at the 0% bucket, you can also see that in 2.5% of cases, the site didn’t load at all.

Conclusion:

The site loads slowly

When it does load, it only loads partially

When a visitor wants to read the Chinese version, the translation isn’t functional.

We love skiing, and we love Whistler but this site just doesn’t cut it.

Site 2: Peninsula.com (Travel)

Load Time (China) : 36.8 secs

The Peninsula website is rather erratic at most times throughout the day. With an average of 36.8 secs, it shows both a wide distribution of Load Times, and % of Page Complete.


Graph 4: Peninsula.com Time Series, Source: chinafy.com


Graph 5: Peninsula.com Loading Time Distribution, Source: chinafy.com


Graph 6: Peninsula % of Page Complete, Source: chinafy.com

From our Aggregate Performance research, we know that when the peninsula.com site loads ‘quickly’ it’s actually loading only a smaller portion of the page. 

Site 3: lamborghini.com (Automotive)

Load Time (China) : 36.8 secs

The Lamborghini is consistent, albeit consistently slow and for this reason, it's clear Lamborghini must either i) have other means to sell onshore, or ii) could be selling far more if their site was fixed.




Site 4: Disneyland (disneyland.disney.go.com)

Disneyland, is again too slow to be usable. While some components on the page load faster than others, results such as these are starting to be less surprising. 




Site 5: PremierLeague.com

As mentioned above, the Premier League seems to be scoring a few goals in China. While there is still room for improvement, it's clear they've put some time/attention into getting performance right.




Site 6: Chanel.com

Load Time (Shanghai): 2.6 secs

By far, the fastest loading site is Chanel.com - and there's a reason for this. Chanel has geo-location embedded into their site at the DNS level. What this means is that when anyone goes to chanel.com it redirects them to the appropriate site. For China, this means Chinese users are redirected to chanel.cn which is actually hosted within China (they have an ICP licence). So it's not a fair comparison, but an illustration as to just how fast sites can be when hosted optimally, let alone hosted onshore. 




Site 7: Harvard.edu

Loading Time (Shanghai): 34.4 secs

We see a number of Universities that fail to deliver sites quickly in China, and Harvard is no exception. Despite being rather fast at 3-4am in the morning, it is slow and it doesn't display properly. 




When you look at the above 'Frequency vs % of Page' we see that harvard.edu regularly fails to load, delivering only around 15-20% of the page at any given time. 

Site 8: onni.com (Property Development)

Load Time (Beijing): 26.65secs

Onni, again, is no outlier. With the page loading quickly early in the morning, it's incredibly slow throughout the day. What stands out here is that generally, no more than 20% of the page is loading at any time. 



Site 9: filson.com

Avearge Load Time (Guangzhou): 37.75 secs

The question we asked earlier was "is Filson ready to enter China", and by looking at the site below, it appears the answer is 'No' - or rather 'Not yet' at least. 



Site 10: NBA.com

Average Load Time: 9.75 secs

The NBA steps onto the China court with a good full-court game. The site loads pretty quickly at all times throughout the day save for a handful of outliers towards the end of the time series. 





We hope you enjoyed this light overview of these 10 companies. What's clear is that companies who make a concerted effort (Chanel, NBA, Premier League) can, and are able to have significantly faster sites. While Chanel is further up the curve with a full onshore site, the NBA, and Premier League still perform reasonable well - at least far better than the other foreign sites we evaluated. 

Next up, we'll take a deeper dive into Harvard.edu, considering what the pages look like, which resources load, and why. 

Read: Why does Harvard.edu load slowly in China? 


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