think TRIBE: Blog
Information, tips and insights

How load testing drives best business practice (but only if you build it into your development process!)

24th February 2016

In our last blog we discussed the top reasons for load testing your website or ecommerce platform. In this post we explore best practice for ensuring a successful load testing programme when launching new sites, platforms or releases – from planning to production.

I’ll get to that later… 

It’s human nature to procrastinate. When it comes to load testing, though, it not only makes all round better sense to plan your strategy sooner rather than later, but it’s an approach that can deliver outstanding results if you use it as a valuable touchstone at every stage of the web design and build project.

Start at the beginning

While processes such as penetration testing and user acceptance testing (UAT) are often scheduled from the earliest stages of site development, load testing is often more of an afterthought – possibly number five on a ‘to do’ list when a site goes live or if a sale is looming. Which is a shame, because although load testing is a critical part of the preparation for the busiest shopping periods, it can also be used to develop more robust applications if employed across the various stages of implementation.

It’s best to plan a load-testing programme from the first day and lodge it firmly in the development timeline alongside other critical processes, where it can make a positive ongoing contribution to the site build.

Re-test after every major build

A baseline load test on the minimum viable product (MVP) will help identify potential performance issues as soon as possible. Problems flagged at the start of the project can be quickly addressed as the build progresses – and early wrinkles ironed out before they become embedded.

It makes sense to re-test after the release of any major build – such as the integration of an API – to assess how it’s performing and check whether the additional work created by any new addition is affecting the performance of existing components. While this may seem like a lot of testing, the implementation of a progressive series of smaller bite-sized tests can save time and money in the long run, as each stage is verified before moving to the next.

This approach lends itself to today’s agile development process when load testing should be performed at the end of each major sprint.

Real-world production testing

Moving from a staging environment to a live production environment is a big step. However rigorous the testing has been to this point, it’s still crucial to explore how the new infrastructure will impact performance when it goes live – and, in our experience, it’s impossible to predict production performance solely based on load tests during staging.

By performing a more in-depth load-testing analysis at this transition point, you’ll gain valuable insights about how robust your final stage is, knowing that everything else already works in the way it’s intended. Any fixes you implement as a result of this process will need re-testing in the same way, so you can be sure your customer experience is as smooth as you can make it.

Test and re-test till you’re satisfied

Load testing should never be considered as a one-off process. Even if you limit load testing to a planned pre-sales period, re-tests following fixes are crucial to ensure your changes have the desired effect. It may be that the changes you make don’t address the root cause or that more changes are required. In most cases, you’ll need to schedule at least two tests – one to identify problems and another to confirm that your fixes have worked.

If you haven’t tested for a long time, it’s important to initiate a benchmark test to establish the parameters of existing performance; a follow-up load test following any changes will help you to understand how they have impacted performance.

thinkTRIBE provides a managed service precisely tailored to each client’s business and designed to optimise web performance. If you’d like more information about how taking a more realistic approach to load testing could help improve your customer experience, download our white paper here.