How to Test Your Web Apps to Avoid Website Downtime This Holiday Season

 
 
By Neil Ashizawa  |  Posted 2010-10-11
 
 
 

How to Test Your Web Apps to Avoid Website Downtime This Holiday Season


Retailers have solved many challenges related to legacy technology platforms, including rapid payment processes and back-end integration. Unfortunately, these challenges have been replaced with new pressures on software quality. These pressures include higher customer expectations of online shopping, rapidly-evolving Web 2.0 platforms, and the sheer unpredictability of buyer behavior.

Historically, retailers' IT organizations have designed best practices to deal with spikes in Website traffic during busy holiday shopping seasons. Imposing development freezes months ahead of the holiday rush helps stabilize IT systems and simplify database performance testing. However, these holdups create new headaches for retailers that want to display the latest merchandise, preview sales and showcase new advertising campaigns before the holiday rush.

Rich Internet applications

The advent of Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) has exposed consumers to highly interactive Web 2.0 user interfaces. Built with tools such as Adobe Flex, Adobe Flash and AJAX, these feature-rich applications allow for rapid, centralized application updates-meaning complex new functions are easily added and rolled out. That said, the very nature of RIAs presents performance headaches for application testing teams that can find it difficult to predict real-life use cases. RIAs can also invalidate previous performance benchmarks, which only bring on the need for new testing. Furthermore, tolerance for poorly performing Websites among shoppers has dropped, as major retailers have set new standards of acceptable performance.

With increased pressure to satisfy consumers' constant searches for the latest deals, the balance between quality and speed of application development has become skewed, negatively affecting testing. Additionally, increased competition between retailers may cause a permanent end to lengthy development cycles. The ability to develop applications rapidly, a selling point for RIAs, is clearly beneficial to retailers. But retail Websites, fronted by RIAs, are exposed to global public scrutiny from their inception, bringing new meaning to "Right First Time."

Traditional application testing will not cut it in such a rapid-fire environment and "throwing resources" at testing is not an option for businesses today. Cloud computing is one solution, offering instant access to more computing power when needed without permanently driving up testing budgets. The cloud can offer virtually limitless computing power to test a myriad of scenarios but, more importantly, the tools that manage the testing processes need to offer best of breed automation to effectively decrease the testing work load.

For obvious reasons, most retailers have unwavering policies about brand integrity, requiring in-depth evaluations of test suites for e-commerce sites to understand how objects such as graphics and forms are rendered on the page. This complex and labor-intensive testing adds to time pressures and IT budgets. The ability to use trusted, third-party professional services helps provide expert best practices that may keep a vital project on time and on budget.

How to Remove Testing Headaches from Holiday Shopping Season


How to remove testing headaches from holiday shopping season

So, what advice should online retailers heed to take testing headaches out of the upcoming holiday shopping season? Let's look at the following eleven points:

1. Review the customer experience offered by best in class retailers.

2. Examine whether your current holiday development plans are hurting your business.

3. Realize the flexibility of RIAs-your customers expect a slick user experience.

4. Plan for last-minute changes (perhaps using an Agile methodology), but be sure to build some additional structured testing into your planning.

5. Seek to combine the development and testing cycles with shared tools and dashboards, regardless of which development methodology you follow.

6. Involve non-IT users in testing. While this is mandatory in "Agile shops," it is good practice when the pressure to get the right product at the right price up on the Website.

7. Consider testing in cloud environments. This can help small businesses as well as enterprises deliver large load testing to ensure the global-class scale of their applications.

8. When choosing cloud partners, go for vendors with experience in delivering new business models. With shortened timelines, you need suppliers with experience in providing off-premises testing.

9. When performing peak load testing, go with expertise. Peak load testing requires a much higher level of expertise than standard load testing to ensure you obtain the proper results.

10. Go for uptime. Just because a cloud testing infrastructure is adequately provisioned for quieter times, is no guarantee it will stay live when you need. Look for guarantees and, where possible, independent security audits.

11. Go for stability. While online retailers come and go rapidly, larger retailers have a lot more to lose, so where they buy is an indication of stability. Choosing a stable, global partner can help ensure success.

Neil Ashizawa is Senior Manager for the Software and Solutions division at HP. Neil has more than 12 years of experience. He has held several roles at HP and Mercury Interactive Corporation (now part of HP). Neil worked in educational services at Mercury, where he managed all technical courseware development and certification management. Prior to this role, Neil worked in professional services, helping to build initial quick start and boot camp models to assist customers in gaining immediate value with their functional testing and load testing tools. He can be reached at neil.ashizawa@hp.com.

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