Cover Story: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
5 Steps to Optimizing Your Site for the Holiday Rush
For many retailers, Christmas begins in July with preparations for major site traffic events like Cyber Monday. Will your company's site be ready? The time to find out is now, not when your web servers are overloaded, incoming orders have stopped, and frustrated visitors are abandoning their filled shopping carts and rushing to a competitor's site to buy their gifts.
Retailers hoping for a strong holiday season must maximize online sales under both normal and peak traffic loads. If you're still in the throes of preparing your website for the upcoming online holiday season, here are five suggested areas of focus to make the most of this year's peak shopping season:
1. Early and thorough planning is critical to online success. Load testing is often an afterthought; project plans fail to include performance requirements, and the Q&A phase doesn't include appropriate time and effort to define and execute an effective load test. The end result is either that the load testing doesn't happen at all or the testing is rushed, ineffective or incomplete.
2. Key business and IT drivers must be considered in the plan. Load testing, by definition, is testing to ensure your site can handle the expected peak volumes of web traffic and beyond that level. An effective load test plan, therefore, must consider the capacity of the current environment, the load that's expected, what constitutes acceptable performance levels under normal and peak loads, and how real visitors use the site.
3. Ensuring effective web performance is a business and IT responsibility. Companies need to understand that no one group is responsible for delivering a high-performance website for their users. Companies that have a strong partnership are most likely to recognize that web performance isn't a business or IT problem — it belongs to both. They're more likely to ensure the right groups are participating, each group understands its role, and it delivers the input and drivers for which it's responsible.
4. Protect your customers from the mistakes of third-party contributors. Fortunately, more and more companies are realizing it's in their best interest to work closely with third-party providers to ensure the components of the site they provide are performing as required. It's imperative that your test plan, test tools and test team include your third parties. After all, if a third party fails to do the right thing, it's your brand and business results that are affected, not theirs.
5. Geography, browsers and devices — you must include them all. Your test plan should be written from the end-user perspective. Users will expect the same level of performance regardless of the time of day or system being used. Therefore, your test plan needs to consider all of these scenarios.
At the end of the day, happy customers translate into a successful business. Planning early and thoroughly, being sure to include the right stakeholders and drivers, and considering the way your visitors use your site creates a recipe for effective load testing.