7 actions to keep your website from snapping under stress

August 05, 2014 Written by NetSphere Category: It Just Makes Good Business Sense
7 actions to keep your website from snapping under stress

A typical response to a deadline that's fast-approaching is usually something along the lines of, "I work well under pressure." Fantastic, right? Well, not so much. Unfortunately, there's no research that proves the procrastinator's often-heard claim to be true. In fact, the stress involved with being up against the wall can make it more difficult for the brain to properly focus.

In that same vein, business owners would be hard-pressed to wait to the last minute to ensure that their websites will perform well under pressure. Therefore, the real question for business owners shouldn't be, "Will my website stand up to the demands of Black Friday?" It should instead be, "Does my site perform well under stress today?"

If the answer is yes, then you’re probably a business owner who conducts load and stress performance testing on a regular basis. If the answer is no, the time to start testing is now. When doing so, be sure to take the following actions:

  • Establish a baseline. Before any changes are made to your online store, establish a baseline to measure the effectiveness of any modifications that are made. A few tools that will help in the effort include a speed test tool, a page load test tool, a tool to test upload/download Internet speeds and an  Internet speed test tool. 
  • Compress images. Compressing images or reducing resolution on your product pages will decrease page load times. Reducing the file size will speed up the upload time. The average webpage size is 1.28MBs, of which 61 percent is related to images. 
  • Enable caching. Enable caching wherever you can – locally at the browser, remotely at the server where the webstore content resides and at the network level using a content delivery network provider like Akamai. Rule of thumb: 80% of user response time is spent downloading page components; reducing the distance to transmit a page between the user and the original content can reduce page load times. 
  • Use a tag manager. The more relevant your site becomes, the worse it may actually perform. That's because site owners are integrating more third-party applications to enhance the customer experience. These applications use tags to provide feedback for your online advertising and social media campaigns. A tag manager acts as the traffic cop, reducing the page load times where tags are installed. Slow pages are bad for business as outlined in a 2013 white-paper from TagMan citing the financial impact of page-load times: “A 1-second delay in page-load time equals 11% fewer page views, a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction and 7% loss in conversions.”  
  • System test. Identify where your single points of failure lie within the eCommerce software stack (load balancers, application, database, eCommerce, web, servers) before your customers do. Address those small preventable problems now before they become a larger site stability problem during your peak revenue season.
  • Address broken links. Every time a browser encounters a 404 error, this not only generates a time wasted request because it is a “page not found error,” but it will likely cause the user to click away to your competitor’s site. Use a free tool like the “Broken Link” checker to scan your webstore for broken links. 
  • Optimize database queries. Once the front-end or customer facing aspects of your website have been performance enabled, it’s time to review the back-end or back-office operations. Since the vast majority of online storefronts build webpages dynamically from information stored within a catalog database, significant performance enhancements can be enabled by optimizing the catalog database to quickly respond to webpage requests. A few examples of actions that can be taken include indexing and optimizing the database schema, reducing access times for expensive time-consuming queries and allocating more memory to cache frequently used images. 

So with the retail world already counting down the days until the busy holiday shopping season, the team at NetSphere Strategies can't stress enough the importance of staying on track. And considering the ramifications of a website crash on a day like Black Friday, the time to start load and stress testing is now.

To get help gearing up, contact NetSphere Strategies. We'd be happy to help.  

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Abbe Miller is the marketing manager at NetSphere Strategies, located just outside Chicago. NetSphere Strategies is a boutique eCommerce company positioned to help businesses transform their online presence by providing a full complement of services that starts with our strategic consulting and creative design teams, then continues with building innovative solutions and providing ongoing post-project support.