Now's the time when you are coming down to the wire on making sure that your e-commerce website is ready for the holiday rush. It's t-minus 66 days until Black Friday and even fewer days until the beginning of "Black Friday week," when many online retailers will start their sales.
Are you ready?!
E-commerce website performance, as you probably already know, is critical. A Google study showed that 53% of mobile users will abandon a site if it doesn't load within 3 seconds. Google takes it even further saying: "2 seconds is the threshold for ecommerce website acceptability. At Google, we aim for under a half second.” Maile Ohye, Google
And, more than half of millennials are likely to complain on social media about a poor online shopping experience. Don't let this happen to you!
Mobile traffic is growing fast. More than a third of e-commerce traffic is now coming from smartphones. Total online retail sales (across all types of devices) will represent about 9% of total retail sales in 2018.
Ideally, you have been performance testing your site for a while now and have a pretty good idea that it will handle your expected peak load. If not, then to test the peak performance of your site, you should do some stress testing. But, before you do that, the first type of test you should run is a baseline test. This will tell you what your website's performance is like under normal traffic conditions and sets a baseline to compare future tests against.
In both types of tests, the load on your site is generated by virtual users (VUs). They simulate traffic to your site and can perform the same actions as your real visitors will do. This includes things like site logins, and shopping cart checkout processes.
One way to easily capture a realistic user scenario is to record an HTTP session using a Chrome browser extension. This creates a test script where the virtual users will perform the same actions during the load test.
After your initial baseline testing you may want to run baseline tests on a regular basis to monitor performance and watch the trend to avoid introducing any changes that cause a decline in performance. Your performance testing tool should show you the trending data.
A stress test is designed to narrow down the point where performance starts to break down and is based on the number of concurrent virtual users. You configure ramp ups in the number of VUs that aren’t too steep and can be done in one step or several. Just be sure to try for more than you expect your system can handle-- to really stress your site.
The phases in the test where the number of Virtual Users is constant after a quick ramp up will help highlight if performance issues occur at that level of loading. In most cases, you should expect to iterate this test multiple times.
Here's an example of a Stress Test showing how the VUs ramp up over time during the test:
Other best practices for peak performance
Set Performance Budgets for Site Design: There are generally going to be trade-offs between website design aesthetics and performance that you have to make. One way to approach this is to set performance budgets for your web pages. You could set budgets for metrics such as: page load time, page weight (Bytes), and speed index. (Learn more about performance budgets here). One way you can improve your speed index score is by implementing progressive rendering. (Learn more about speed index here).
Reduce File Sizes: Compress files such as images, your CSS and scripts. Eliminate any unnecessary assets used on the page. You may also be able to reduce image resolution slightly, and consequently reduce file size, to improve performance.
Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN): CDNs host a copy of your website at many different locations around the world. This ensures that your site will load quickly for all of your global customers.
Limit Requests: Requests can be one of the biggest contributors to your website's load time. Many aspects of your e-commerce website, and the online shopping experience, are dependent on assets that are hosted on outside networks. You can reduce the number of requests by hosting some assets on your site. This could include images, fonts and documents. Also try to limit the number of fonts that you use.
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