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It Takes Preparation to Win

By Aaron Rudger | March 27, 2014

CATEGORIES: Web Performance

As play begins in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, we’re hopeful to see our web performance brackets improve—especially on the smartphone. The 16 sites we’ve been following have had their ups and downs, but pretty much across the board they’ve gotten blown off the court in terms of meeting smartphone user expectations.

On the other screens—desktop and tablet—we’ve found the sites to be fairly reliable. High availability in the range of 99% and above is something every brand should strive for, especially during high visibility events like the tournament when big advertising buys are being made. Keynote works with many companies that face large surges in their site load during the holidays, the Super Bowl, major launches and more. We’ve studied how outages and performance degradations impact businesses—in terms of lost revenue, customer retention and brand reputation. So it’s great to see that our Sweet 16 sites planned well to handle the increased demand their sites have surely experienced during the tournament… or have they?

Canary in the Coalmine?

One of the advantages to Keynote’s active web monitoring technology is that it provides a clean and consistent measure of your site performance. This makes trending very easy and reliable.

Here’s a set of performance trend lines for our Food “regional” on the iPad (tablet) over the past week:

Foodregional-trend

Each of these sites looks pretty good—coming in at less than 3 seconds response time. If you couldn’t leave the couch to grab a bite while watching the games, ordering a pizza or wings from these sites should have been a snap!

But looking closer, the Pizza Hut tablet site reveals an interesting pattern.

Pizzahut-trend

Each of the peaks in response time occurs between 6pm and midnight (Eastern) when people want pizza. The pattern closely correlates performance to demand. We can see this correlation, because the Pizza Hut tablet site is very lean and tablet optimized (nearly 3 times lighter than Dominos).

Pizzahut-home Dominos-home Dominos-home

Does this mean the Pizza Hut tablet site is sensitive to demand surges and is at risk of bogging down if they advertise a free pizza giveaway at halftime during the UCLA game? Probably not. The variation in response time above is only milliseconds. All websites experience some slowdowns as load increases. The take-away is that it’s best to be prepared. Use web load testing to ensure you can handle traffic increases beyond your typical demand patterns. And optimize your front-end so large images and 3rd party content—like those used on the Dominos site—don’t create points of failure that can bring your site down if it does get slammed with traffic.

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