Top 10 Tips for Avoiding Slow Websites and Embarrassing Crashes
By Sven Hammar, co-founder and CEO, Apica
Recent public and embarrassing website crashes of Amazon, Groupon and even Google accentuates the need to take web and mobile performance more seriously. Unresponsive websites and mobile applications is comparable to a physical shop throwing out its customers and locking its doors. Luckily, there are ways to minimize the risk of slow response times and site crashes.
The website (and mobile application) is nowadays a hugely important and business critical channel for almost every corporation and organization. It simply must not slow down, fail or malfunction. Slow response times are as irritating as long queues and lazy cashiers in a physical shop. Even worse, slow response times affect your Google ranking, something surprisingly many marketing managers and web masters fail to understand. Slow response times leads to a lower ranking. And vice versa. So the first task of your SEO program should always be to speed up the website’s response time.
A slow response time (the time is takes for a website to fully load) is normally due to the website’s content managers not being able to resist the temptation to fill the site with cool (?) images, videos or third party content that they cannot control. It might be cool but it comes at a heavy price.
What can an organization do to optimize the quality and security of the website, speed up its response time, minimize the risk of crashes and facilitate business via the Internet? Here are my top 10 tips for better web performance”
1. Put vanity aside and reduce the amount of high-resolution images and videos on your site in order to minimize response times. If you still want the bulky images, then be sure and invest in systems that can handle short response times despite a high-resolution content. Use a CDN/accelerator service to speed up the delivery of rich content such as images and videos to customers.
2. Cache as much static content as possible in the browser. If the page content does not change, customers will not have to download it again from the network the next time they hit the page. This is a cost-effective way to speed up web traffic and gain performance improvements.
3. Perform load tests to verify the site’s performance during various load levels. Measure performance during normal variations in traffic. Test the site frequently before, during and after peak season to ensure the availability of reliable information about the site’s normal performance.
4. Analyze the site’s performance. Detailed information about what really takes time is necessary to enable a discussion about which functions can be speeded up (alternatively improve conditions for). Commercial considerations may decide if it makes sense to increase the server capacity. Tests and evaluations show if desired results are attained.
5. Periodically test, monitor and optimize your site to ensure a great consumer experience. Web testing companies can test and optimize your site, simulating peak loads by using ‘synthetic traffic’, and then suggesting improvements. These companies often offer complimentary surveillance services. These services are cloud based.
6. Establish where the maximum performance point for the application lies (i.e. the number of users per minute) in a typical scenario. Additional users create a greater need of URL’s/second and will have to wait or, in a worst case scenario, do not get a response at all at peak load. The key question is: how likely is it that you will experience loads larger that the maximum performance point? Do you need to ramp up the system?
7. Instability during untested operative situations is a common cause for downtime. It is difficult to foresee what will happen at heavy loads, components that function flawlessly at regular loads may all of a sudden become bottlenecks. Do a “damage control”, a test of what it takes for the site to crash and how the course of events look like. Secure that the site comes up and running again – even at full load.
8. Use a queuing technique; Do only allow the volume that you have tested the site for, and block all / direct to a wait loop ( other traffic above this volume. (Compare with what is allowed into a “real” store.) Otherwise all users will get poor response times and in a worst case scenario the site ceases to function for all users. It is better to serve the customers who are already in the site and let the others get a polite error message.
9. Verify your Internet capacity and check that your estimated maximum traffic volume does not reach your ordered capacity. If that is the case, do a commercial evaluation: What is it worth to be able to let additional customers into your “store” with a good performance? Make sure than you get what you pay for from your Internet supplier and buy more capacity if you need to.
10. Check that the load sharing is working properly. Load sharing distributes loads from different users onto underlying systems in an even way. However, sometimes there might be errors due to reconfigurations et al. Therefore one must verify that the load sharing really functions properly and that the underlying servers receive an even load.
It should be noted that a website doesn’t have to be poorly designed to slow down or crash. It can also just become too popular. Groupon’s Indian website crashed when too many customers wanted to get their hands on a cut-price deal on onions. Conduct a risk analysis using load testing and external performance measurements of service quality to ensure that your site can handle a massive influx of customers without crashing.
To avoid public and embarrassing crashes, preparation is key. Generic website failures and performance problems can be minimized greatly by simply conducting on-going testing and monitoring of the site and its applications, and having a contingency plan that includes system backup.
Analyzing, testing and optimizing your website and mobile applications is both so easy (with affordable and easy-to-use cloud services) and so valuable that it can be compared to checking your spare tire or fastening your seat belt before a long road trip. You can end up looking really silly if you don’t. If Amazon and even Google can go down, so can your site.
Sven Hammar is co-founder and CEO of Apica, a provider of load testing and performance monitoring for cloud and mobile applications and one of Europe’s fastest growing technology companies. He has decade-long experience and expertise in web performance and web optimization, e-commerce, cloud services, IT entrepreneurship and the Internet.
MasterCard: In-store Black Friday shopping to rise over last year
New York — Forty-one percent of respondents are expecting to make purchases in-store this holiday season more often than they did last year, which should make for a busy Black Friday, according to MasterCard’s 2013 Holiday Spending Survey.
The survey also found that more than half of Americans who use their debit or credit card for holiday purchases and have a rewards program plan to cash in their points this season. Of this group, 40% will strategically spend on one card only to rack up rewards points.
In other findings:
- Consumers are most likely to say shopping (30%) and holiday budgeting (23%) are their top stressors
- Spouses are hardest to shop for as identified by 26% of shoppers followed by children (23%) and then parents (Mom 18%, Dad 13%)
- Men are significantly more likely to dread shopping for their spouse or partner (32%) compared with women (20%)
- Forty-three percent of Americans polled preferred receiving a gift card over other gifts
Verizon unveils lifestyle store concept
Bloomington, Minn. — Verizon Wireless unveiled its Verizon Destination Store format, at Mall of America, Bloomington, Minn. The new concept is designed to help customers discover all that wireless technology can do for their mobile lifestyles.
The 9,715-sq.-ft store features interactive lifestyle zones where customers can engage with associates and experience wireless gadgets, apps and tech gear, running on the Verizon Wireless 4G. The zones include Get Fit, for the active sports and fitness buff, Have Fun, for gamers, and Home on the Go, for home monitoring and energy management. Additional departments include Amplify it, for music aficionados, and Anywhere Business, for the mobile professional and entrepreneur.
The new store also includes a dedicated workshop area with seating where an education specialist can share tips about getting the most out of a device and lead classes in front of a large touch-screen digital display screen. Customers also can visit the Customize It Zone and create colorful covers for their smartphones and personalize them with photos. For a fun experience, a huge Focal Wall toward the back of the store beckons customers to approach and see themselves appear as avatar surfers, guitarists and more.
The Verizon Destination Store is part of a broader initiative that includes the redesign of Verizon Wireless’ more than 1,700 retail stores throughout the country. Called Smart Stores, the newly designed locations showcase the same mobile lifestyle zones as the Verizon Destination Store on a smaller scale. In addition, the company plans to open a number of Verizon Destination Stores in the next few years in high traffic locations across the United States.