Mid-afternoon on Cyber Monday this week we checked in with a “halftime” report to share some insights on website performance during the busiest online shopping day of the year. As promised, we are back with our retrospective analysis of “Cyber Monday”—which, in reality, is actually Cyber Monday through Wednesday (#CyberMTW?).
Our initial observations have held, for the most part our customers did well but we saw occasional problems and site degradation throughout.
We thought it might be interesting to look at a specific example. This example is a national retailer with top notch eCommerce capabilities. Here is the chart for Cyber Monday. You can clearly see the struggle:
At the top level, you can see a dramatic slowdown for the full page load times starting at 10am and peaking at about 3pm before resolving. Our deeper dive reveals that the culprit was long first byte and content download times coming from some components of the infrastructure of the application.
The silver lining with this particular set of issues is that this customer was able to optimize so that the impact on the customer experience was minimized.
AlertSite UXM provides website performance metrics around the end-user experience that can be used to undertake this optimization, The metrics include: First paint time (a measure of when the user first sees an object on the page) and above the fold load time(a measure of when all the objects in the visible portion of the page are rendered). These kind of measurements are key for understanding the impact of performance issues on the end user experience.
While from a performance standpoint there were certainly considerable issues, luckily for our customer, they designed the site infrastructure so that the key elements above the fold would load first.
This chart illustrates the full page load performance in green and the above the fold performance in blue. You can see particularly in the area outlined by the red box that the above the fold response times which reflect end- user experience are not as drastically affected relative to the full page performance. This effort in good website design likely mitigated the impact of the slow performance for the full page.
Bottom line is that the architecture was overwhelmed by the load, causing significant slowdowns during critical Cyber Monday business hours.
The takeaway— be ever vigilant, measure what matters! And there are things that can be done in the site design and application that can mitigate failures due to high traffic volumes.
Website Performance Game Plan X’s and O’s:
1) Load test your changes before you move them to production or before you expect peak traffic
2) Simple ping tests are not sufficient to assure performance. You need to monitor your critical business transactions with a full featured, real browser driven continuous monitoring solution in order to understand your baseline performance, trends over time and their impact on user experience.
3) Both monitoring and load testing must be done from the end user’s perspective. Your monitoring and load testing solutions need to provide the granularity of data and the perspective to allow you to optimize for the end user experience.
CYBER MONDAY LESSONS LEARNED: Check out this fun, new Cyber Monday-themed Slideshare and video we put together to learn some shocking industry statistics on shopping cart abandonment rates, holiday season eCommerce, online spending, the impact of web performance on revenue and more!
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