11 Tips for Blazing Fast Web, Mobile and API Performance

For online retailers, the holiday season can make up 40 percent of their annual revenue. Don’t let anything prevent you from getting in on the act. Consumers continue to shift more of their wallet share online during the holidays, increasing traffic year over year. Even if you’re not selling directly online, traffic to your site may increase because people are searching more during this busy time. Website performance is always important, but especially important — and challenging — during the holiday season.

To avoid an online disaster, optimize performance and keep people shopping on your site, consider the following 11 tips:

  1. Know your benchmark. Before starting any performance improvement program, know your starting point (e.g., peak load, performance, etc). Many don’t know it. Test to benchmark the capacity, the performance of the site at peak load. Find the breaking point. What happens if you get 10,000 visitors? How about 500,000? When the site is going to break.
  2. Run Google PageSpeed. This tool helps you optimize the performance of your site, leading to increased visitor engagement, retention and conversions.
  3. Know your code. Test your code to eliminate bugs as they can negatively impact performance.
  4. Have a strategy to handle hackers. This isn’t something you can control as a developer or tester, but it is the cause of many websites going down. There are outside services like Akamai that can examine traffic and help prevent attacks.
  5. Examine all infrastructure components. To achieve high availability, make sure all components are duplicated. This seems pretty obvious, but with various components it’s easy for some to be missed. A fully redundant infrastructure is critical.
  6. Cache at all three levels. Caching is used a ton at many different levels to reduce internet latency, but the three main levels — browser, content and server — are most important.
  7. Optimize your site for mobile users. Test your site in multiple browsers, in multiple versions and in multiple OS versions to optimize the mobile user’s experience.
  8. Know your third-party APIs. You might think that with all those shopping cart services, rating services, ad services and others you’d be covered with a service-level agreement, but that might fail. Know your risks with all third-party components.
  9. Assign a mitigation strategy for third-party components. You don’t have control over third-party services, but you’re ultimately responsible if your site goes down. What if that component has a functionality problem or a bug? What if your vendor releases a new version of its code? Have a plan.
  10. Monitor from your customers’ point of view. Monitor, test and measure from the perceived performance point of view — continuously.
  11. Implement a failure scenario plan. Problems occur despite the best-laid plans, so have team and contingency plans in place to react quickly to issues that will arise.

Mike Punsky is a load test manager at SmartBear Software.

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