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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The impact of web load testing on performance

What drives the financial impact of a site outage or performance issues is abandonment. It’s important to understand that visitors experiencing a Website with issues don’t result in lost revenue, per se. Only when those visitors don’t return, and/or go somewhere else is revenue lost. A shopper’s tolerance for errors is called “tenacity” in Web load testing parlance. Low tenacity shoppers bail from slow searches and hanging shopping carts in a dash.

If a load test had been run that adequately modeled the impact of the planned launch, the damage would have been done outside business hours and Target management would have been able to decide whether to make changes to their systems and retest, postpone or restructure the launch or just "risk it" and see what happens.  We don't really think they ever had the chance to make those decisions.  Surely they didn't conduct a load test that predicted such an epic fail.  But should they have?

Realistic Web load tests model site usage and shopper behavior. Systems are deployed to simulate high levels of demand from multiple geographically disperse areas. Once the load is generated, the infrastructure and application’s response are watched carefully to identify bottlenecks and breakage points as the entire mesh of the Website’s interconnecting parts are stressed. Only this level of testing can accurately inform e-commerce teams of their preparation adequacy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Website Performance: More Than Just Speed

In addition to evaluating customer experience on a subjective level, the Keynote research assessed seven factors related to the site’s service levels:
  1. High-Speed Response
  2. Dial-up Response
  3. Response Time Consistency
  4. Geographic Uniformity
  5. Load Handling
  6. Availability
  7. Outage Hours
Car rental sites and the travel sector in general lag in technical quality, page performance, and in the delivery of an error-free user experience. Geographic consistency and load handling as key advantages, users know that wherever they are in the country or what time of day they visit, they can count on consistent website performance.

Three bottlenecks that block traffic that car rental sites, and Web sites in general, need to focus on in order to improve technical performance:
  • Too many technical elements on a page: From small non-visual images to java scripts to unnecessary encryption, too many individual elements on a page can stifle site performance
  • Java overload: The ubiquitous coding language is an important tool for developers, but every Java script can act like a tiny speed bump for browsers. “Sites may have five, six, seven or 10 JavaScript files in a page, and every time the browser hits that, it slows by almost a factor of two.
  • Proliferation of third-party tags: The rising number of third-party tags – DoubleClick ads and calls to third-party analytics services – can also hinder web page performance, minimizing them whenever possible is a good idea. Another option would be to move the tags to the bottom of the page where they are less likely to impact user performance.