For the Love of Holidays – Load Test!

Not Load Testing Your Site Can Ruin Valentine's DayIt used to be that people visiting your website were sitting in front a computer – traffic to your site may peak on specific days, but they still needed to be at a computer. Load testing for that scenario isn’t good enough any more. Now your site must be prepared for even more traffic because in today’s mobile world people can access the web-anywhere, anytime. Want to snag that Black Friday sale but still in a turkey coma? No problem, grab your smartphone and buy that Blu-ray player from the comfort of your bed. Stuck in a board meeting and realize you forgot to send your sweetheart flowers for Valentine’s Day? No problem, tap tap tap and it’s done. That is, if the site you’re ordering from was prepared for the holiday traffic.

Time and time again companies fail to prepare their websites for high traffic days. I’m not talking “it’s payday and I’m going to buy a new pair of shoes,” I’m talking about Black Friday, major holidays, extensively advertised product launches, and now, Valentine’s Day.

Last November several e-tail sites crashed under the weight of the Black Friday shopping rush. Target underestimated the popularity of its new, highly advertised, Missoni for Target line and left customers frustrated after its site crashed repeatedly. How many Coca-Cola polar bear commercials did you see during the Super Bowl? Enough to think that Coke would be prepared for heavy web traffic. They weren’t (and neither was Acura or the site for the film Act of Valor).

After all these high profile site crashes you’d think companies would begin to do extra load testing leading up to especially high traffic events. And you’d think sites focused on jewelery, chocolate and flowers would take extra care to prepare for Valentine’s Day. Alas, they still haven’t gotten the message, and it’s hurting their sales. From pingdom:

Valentine’s Day is a great day for any vendor selling flowers. Over the years, a large number of websites selling flowers have sprung up, and as you might expect, many of these websites are flooded by eager shoppers on February 14 wanting to buy flowers and gifts for their loved ones.

This is big business. Americans are expected to spend $18.6 billion on Valentine’s Day gifts this year.

Now here is the catch. Every year, some of these websites won’t be prepared to handle the increase in visitor traffic and as a result they slow down significantly, or even crash under the pressure. …

Just compare it with a regular real-life flower shop:

  • A slow website will turn away customers because it’s the equivalent of poor, slow service. That clerk seems to be ignoring you, or the line to the counter is moving in slow motion.
  • A crashed website is not only embarrassing, but is the same as completely closing shop with a big sign saying: “Go to some other shop and spend your money, we’re closed!”

Out of the websites we monitored for this survey, one clearly stood out for two reasons. One was that it was generally much slower than the others, and second because it recorded a significant amount of downtime. More than eight hours in just the past few days, most of it on Friday afternoon, US time, when it was unavailable for four hours and then even more later in the evening. That site was 1800flowers.com. …

Downtime and slowdown can and will happen to all websites. However, sometimes the timing can be very bad, and a flower website having problems during business hours on Valentine’s Day, or even the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, is a prime example of bad timing.

In most cases this could likely have been avoided if the websites had been better prepared to handle the additional traffic. Instead, some of these sites have ended up losing sales and goodwill (slow websites tend to be quite a frustrating experience).

See the charts >>>

And this year, Swarovski had issues. From PCWorld:

Because of the nature of its products, Swarovski stood to capitalize on the spike in demand in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. However, the company’s website was hamstrung by an average wait time of 10 seconds for processing orders online. Even worse, Swarovski senior technology consultant for IT application services René Neubacher says the IT support team struggled to increase performance simply because they could not identify the bottleneck.

It’s a problem that Lisa Robinson Schoeller, senior director of marketing for Compuware, has seen quite often. Some customers mistakenly focus on the wrong issues because they lack the tools to diagnose the real problems with their apps, whereas others simply overlook the importance of load testing or establishing a dedicated performance center, she says. …

“It all comes down to performance because any slowdowns impact the revenue of a company,” Robinson Schoeller says. “It used to be OK if you had, say, a six-second response time to load a page. But now it’s really a second or less to load. Otherwise you’re going to lose those customers to another site, because the competition is just a click away.” …

As more businesses move toward e-commerce, the ability to monitor and manage Web-based applications will no longer be an advantage, but a necessity, Robinson Schoeller says.

“If you look at 10 years ago, very little business in comparison was done on the Internet,” she says. “Now the Internet is just a complete way of life, and it’s a matter of survival for businesses to make sure they have the absolute best performance that they can provide.”

Read the rest >>>

In our on-demand world people have little patience for slow load times or down sites, especially when they can simply click another link and get the product from another company. So load test your site leading up to your big day – you don’t want to end up as one of the examples in this post next year.

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