The Hostway Blog

If the Page Doesn’t Load, They Can’t Shop: Part 1

December 13, 2016
POSTED IN: Ecommerce

As a retailer, you’re probably very busy preparing for the holiday shopping season. There’s no shortage of articles and blogs right now with helpful tips, and as they all probably say, you have to prioritize site performance. Let’s face it, if the page doesn’t load, the shopper can’t shop and they certainly can’t buy. So how do you know if your site performs adequately? Let’s take a quick look at the most important site performance metrics and what you should, and can, do to make sure your site is ready for the 2016 holiday shopper onslaught.

The Ultimate Performance Goal

Obviously, page load time matters, a lot, when it comes to consumer engagement and conversion, but let’s look at the numbers that matter. There’s a common performance benchmark in eCommerce that a page should load, often referred to as the “Time To Interact” or TTI, in three seconds or less. If your pages take longer to load, it’s widely accepted that 25% of shoppers will leave (even more if you’re talking about mobile users.)

Testing your site’s TTI isn’t as simple as just opening the site and running a stop watch. Page rendering is affected by both front-end (UI/UX) and server components. Every element takes time to complete its operation and the cumulative time it takes is the total “page load.”

Let’s look at the backend issues affecting performance first. (Check out part 2, where we address frontend UI/UX issues).

Server-Side Performance

The server side primarily refers to your code optimization and the hardware it runs on.

Your developers should analyze the code and database queries to make sure everything is running efficiently. You can try tools such as HTML Tidy and Websitetest.com.

At the code level, developers may need to clean up and streamline the code (i.e. reduce whitespace, line breaks and excessive spacing); reduce the number of JavaScripts on the page and/or put them at the bottom of the page; add indexes, and rewrite/modify database queries.

You may uncover that the server and bandwidth are an issue. At Hostway, our engineers are experts at reviewing source server(s) and preparing an itemized inventory report of the all the digital assets on the server side. Our full project lifecycle approach starts with consultation, architecture, migration planning, and continues through execution, go-live, and post-migration maintenance and support.

While caching web pages is commonly recommended to decrease page load time, it isn’t always possible, or a good solution. Pages that require login/authentication can’t be cached. Pages that are updated frequently aren’t good candidates either as changes won’t load until the page cache has expired.

How Many Users Does It Take To Bring Down Your Website?

In order to get a true picture of site performance you need to test a steadily increasing number of concurrent users for hits to the site and transactions. Start with the average concurrent users you have today and test for peaks in traffic that will come with promotions, holiday shopping, an email blast, etc. If you have users nationwide or internationally, be sure to test across locations.

Each step of the way, you’ll monitor response and latency time, the number of hits per second, the throughput of your website, and if any errors are present.

Hostway offers consultation on solutions to increase performance with the right technology to get your site to where it needs to be. We can provide best practices IT architecture advice to build the right technology platform to keep up with all of your promotions, events and increasing concurrent users. Each solution is tailored specifically to a customer’s need.

Learn more about what you should expect from your hosting provider when it comes to your website's performance>>>