In part one of this blog series, we looked at the opportunity the holiday season represents to internet retailers. In part two, we went further into challenges and complications that arise with increased traffic.
Now let’s look at what you can do to ensure that your segment of the holiday e-commerce rush has a great web experience this year. Our plan will be to:
- Build a load testing strategy based on this year’s goals
- Execute the load test and fix performance issues
- Confirm that user experience is acceptable under load
Your Load Testing Strategy
An effective and comprehensive load testing strategy must be based on your real needs and on clear expectations. A few ice-breaker questions you may ask to gain context over the problem are:
- How much traffic does your site currently handle acceptably?
- How much of an increase in visitors occurred last year between non-holiday and holiday traffic?
- What are some areas of your site that you already know are at unacceptable performance lows?
The quickest way to identify clear web performance expectations is to look at your historical analytics, then overlay them to get a sense of what to expect.
If your site uses Google Analytics, you can even do this right in the GA management app. Even if you don’t use Google Analytics, chances are your marketing or IT operations staff has some information that you can build context around.
Keep in mind that averages are only one narrow part of your site’s performance story; it’s the peak visitor count that better defines accuracy in your total load testing goal. You want to know how your site performs on a bad day, not on a good one, and you can find that out by testing to peaks, not averages.
But yesterday’s traffic is history, what about this year?
Make sure you include some understanding of how much more traffic your organization has planned to drive to your site this year. You can overlay historical visitor data year-over-year to show how much more traffic your site has received. Then also include any organizational expectations, like “this year we need to do twice the traffic as last year”, to round out your high-level goals and overall strategy.
Finally, review your marketing or usability analysis statistics (like Google ‘Users Flow’) to get a sense for how your visitors walk enter, use, and exit your website. Your own expectations over how people use your site are a good basis, but should be rounded out by actual analytical data on how visitors behave.
A great performance strategy template can be found here, but ultimately it’s up to you how simple or detailed you make the process. You’ve got to start somewhere, and whatever analytics data you have, your load testing strategy is better for it.
Over the next parts, I will highlight how you can get more out your load tests as well as the best practices available for load testing.
Check out the other posts in this 5 part series!