For an e-commerce site, performance is key, especially during peak traffic periods. We often talk about preparing for Black Friday and Cyber Monday as traffic peaks. But realistically, those days aren’t the only days where traffic peaks.
Instead, experienced e-commerce site developers know that they have to plan for peaks all through Q4. And that’s just if they’re a traditional ecommerce site. Others have other seasonal peaks. For example, a flower delivery e-commerce site has to plan peaks around major holidays, be they Valentine’s Day in the US, or school graduations in the late Spring worldwide.
At this time of the year, planning for Q4 is timely. Research suggests that Q4 is the overall peak for e-commerce (see this article). Our experience suggests the same.
To prepare for peak traffic, we unsurprisingly recommend load testing. Load testing, in an oversimplified definition, allows you to test your site’s load - or the stress put on it by visitors, database usage, internal and external API calls, and so forth.
Now, let’s pause and think about how we’d ensure e-commerce site performance for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and then all of Q4. Traditional approaches to load testing suggest that you want to test for those traffic peaks. We absolutely agree. Run your load tests, increasing the stress until your site’s performance suffers. Then tune and test again.
But don’t stop there. Yes, you should try to overwhelm your site with traffic and simulated, virtual users (VUs). But once you’ve run that test, keep going.
Running only peak tests might help you with momentary, brief traffic peaks, like on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. (Or, for that matter, a peak after a particularly effective marketing promotion.) They may not, however, test your site adequately over a sustained load over a longer period of time.
To better ensure your site performs for peak traffic, especially over a longer period, we recommend regular, frequent load testing. You can, of course, use a Load Impact account to do this: just create a testing script and execute it as frequently as makes sense. You may want to run it daily if you’re updating code that frequently, or at least a couple of times a week.
Frequent testing can help you gauge performance over time - just as you’ll need to have your site perform consistently over time.
Of course, our recommended ideal is to test not just now for Q4, but to integrate load testing into your continuous delivery and continuous integration (CD/CI) processes so you’re continually ensuring maximum performance from your e-commerce site.