Web Performance Monitoring – Key to Your Web Site’s Success!

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How many seconds does it take to lose a shopper to a competitor’s site? How long will a business user wait for Javascript to execute so erfahrungen she can see the data she’s searching for? How many times will a user tolerate delays in downloading a bank transaction, or registering a bid, or completing a form, before they abandon the site?

The cost of poor site performance is not just lost visitors, it’s lost money. In a recent survey, nearly three-quarters of Internet retailers correlate poor site performance with lost revenue, and more than half with lost traffic.

Today, however, user expectations are stratospherically higher. With the Internet now tightly woven into the fabric of everyday life, and a multitude of Web sites available to satisfy any given need or desire, users expect not only virtually instant page-loads, but fast and flawless execution of transactions and enhanced functionality that delivers a “rich” site experience. Web 2.0 is the buzz word, but the reality is the Internet is becoming more and more complex. A site today is often a collection of the owner’s content, third-party content, different technologies, different hosting situations. Sites are becoming more like applications.

Those who do monitor their site performance – and that number is growing – generally follow one of three methodologies.

Internal Measurement

The first is a strictly internal measurement procedure that consists of monitoring the internal servers and network, provides a clear view of what is leaving the host site – including how reliably and how fast data is being served out onto the Internet – but it provides no perspective on what the experience is for the user at the other end.

End-User Monitoring

A second methodology puts software out on actual users’ machines to monitor their sessions, collect performance data, and run a synthetic browser to test performance of specific aspects of a site. This method has the advantages of testing at the other end of the transaction, with real end users, as well as scalability to encompass large numbers of users. However, the fact that it uses real end users is both an advantage and a disadvantage. There is no way to control for the type of computer, processor speed, task load, or connection, among other critical variables.

Browser-Based Dedicated Agents

The third and arguably the “gold standard” methodology is to deploy computers around the globe and have them use real Internet browsers to log on to the site, view pages, perform tasks, stream the video – to actually work the site as a user would work it. All the computers are identical, all configured with exactly the same processor, memory, etc. No other tasks are performed except for the testing. The types of connection are identified and constant – dial-up, DSL, cable, 3G. It is essentially a global “clean room” environment for real-world, real-time testing of site performance, with all variables controlled, so a clear and objective measurement of performance can be taken.

The Business Value Of performance Data

More and more leading sites are recognizing that site performance is a critical business driver, and as such merits management attention. The sites that do well are those that a) have bought off at the business level that performance matters and b) have a structure around that. There has to be a team that consumes the data and then can take action on the data

BestPerformance Practices

Getting actionable data that can be used to optimize Web site quality is a significant endeavor, but the principles that guide data collection and analysis are classically simple. Basically, it is a scientific process that involves real-world simulations with tightly controlled variables.

1. Measure from Where your Users are.

Ideally, your measurement agents are deployed across geography that represents your typical users.

2. Measure What your Users are Actually Doing.

Create meaningful testing scripts and stick with them. If you have video streams, activate and measure them. If you have Flash functionality, test how it plays. Perform search, shopping cart, check-out, and any other transaction functions that are part of your site. Page-load speeds alone simply cannot tell you what kind of experience users are having.

3. Use a Real Browser.

It’s nearly impossible to accurately measure any complex functionality unless you are using a real browser. Internet Explorer is the de facto standard.

4. Control the Variables.

Know the CPU, memory, Internet connection, software version, etc., and keep all of these variables constant across all the testing agents and throughout the testing period.

5. Establish Performance Benchmarks.

Create both internal benchmarks and best-of-breed benchmarks for competitive and leading sites, for insightful management reporting.

Formulating and executing a performance testing program that meets all of these parameters is rigorous process that requires the erfahrungen commitment of the network operations and management teams. But it is a process that pays high dividends in terms of optimized user experience, better site utilization and, ultimately, greater revenue flow to the bottom line.