Get the Whole Team Involved in the Load Test
Even if they don’t necessarily need to be up in the middle of the night while the load test is running, all cross-functional groups with a stake in website and web application performance—including business, marketing, and IT executives—must be involved in load test goal setting, planning, and analysis, because they each possess the knowledge needed to develop and execute a proper test that yields critical insights.
For example, business executives often have information regarding sales and growth projections and ask: Is this web application going to be good for our brand? Are we going to get the revenue we expect out of it, and will our customers be happy with it during periods of both normal and peak traffic? Marketing executives often have information regarding upcoming campaigns and ask: Will our website and web applications be ready to handle a “best-case” uptick in traffic resulting from our campaign? IT executives know the capabilities and limitations of the existing infrastructure, and they ask: Do we have enough infrastructure in the system to support peak load?
Here is where software testers can assume a strategic role by rallying teams around the web application performance imperative and eliciting the types of responses that promote it. As indicated above, it starts by articulating the web performance goal. If a load test demonstrates that this goal is not being met, business executives may be more inclined to pay for the necessary investments, understanding that this expenditure can offset the heavier cost of disgruntled customers and lost sales. Marketing executives can make smarter decisions that maximize the impact of campaigns (for example, timing to coincide with more IT resources being available). IT executives can plan better and strike a more accurate balance between having enough resources but not so many resources that they sit idle. IT executives can also show marketing teams how the addition of certain “heavy” website content (for example, graphics or video) may impact web performance, leading to more-informed content management decisions.
Plan Early, and Test Early and Often So That You Can Address Problems
Planning a load test early in the development cycle—weeks or even months in advance of website or web application deployment—allows you to develop the smartest, most strategic load tests, revealing critical, useful insights versus just load testing “in the dark.” For example, by collaborating with business, marketing, and IT teams early, you can better understand and answer the questions: What areas of the website and which web applications are most important and in need of load testing? For which geographies, at what times of day, and across which types of devices?
By answering these questions well in advance, software testers can prioritize their load testing efforts in accordance with business impact. Planning early also enables you to include any third-party service providers in your test, which is important because your ability to deliver performance under load is increasingly a byproduct of their abilities.
When it comes to actually executing the load test, you should test to the peak traffic you’ve ever seen on your site and go beyond it. Consider going anywhere from two to ten times your peak traffic, depending on what you’re testing for and the potential volumes you expect. Rarely do businesses meet their performance goals in the first load test. If you know you are going live on Tuesday but leave testing to Monday, the only answer you’re going to get is a yes or no—as in, we’re going to succeed or fail. If you test well in advance of application deployment, you’re still apt to get a yes-or-no answer, but at least you have time to address it, and that’s the key.
Stop Thinking of the Web and Mobile Web as Separate Entities
The 2010 holiday season was a breakout season for mobile phones, with digital marketplace eBay offering compelling proof. The company reported that Black Friday 2010 sales across its suite of mobile apps almost doubled over the previous year, while its Cyber Monday mobile sales jumped 146 percent year over year.