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Is your travel site ready for the holiday rush? Last minute performance tips

30th November 2015

Tinsel, turkey and travel…

For most Brits, the Christmas double issue of the Radio Times, its two-week TV schedule bisected by a thickly tempting travel supplement, heralds not only the start of the festive entertainment but also the run-up to the New Year peak holiday booking season. Online travel providers are already busy populating their platforms with offers in time for the traditional post-Christmas fray but if travellers are to confidently browse and buy next year’s early-bird bargains without a hitch, performance needs to be at the top of every travel site’s tick list.

According to ABTA, 89% of holidaymakers booked a holiday online in the last year up to August 2015. Online booking is now the primary channel not just for pick’n’mix travel essentials like airline tickets and insurance but also for complete holiday packages – flights, accommodation and transfers. UK travellers appear not to have not been put off by this year’s political landscape, either. Earlier this year, TUI Group reported strong demand for summer mainstream holidays, with online bookings on the rise overall.

Peak practice

That said, people are inclined to invest more time and energy into researching their holidays before buying – naturally enough, given the relatively high-value nature of the transaction, compared to other online purchases – leading to a greater incidence of cart abandonment. Which is why it’s more important than ever for online travel providers to ensure that poor web performance doesn’t exacerbate abandonment rates. Real world load testing is essential, as is the 24/7 provision of performance monitoring – including mobile journeys – but there are some last-minute changes you can make to ensure tip-top performance at peak periods.

1. Strip your site of non-essentials

Give your site the best possible chance of optimal performance by stripping out any non-essential features. If you focus on delivering core functionality, you’ll be more likely to deliver better speeds, stock control and customer experience at busy times. For a travel-based site, this could mean removing an entire holiday category just for the duration of the sale period. Boden pioneered this approach a few years ago and now regularly disables a number of power features during its peak sales hours.

2. Weed out hi-res images

It’s not uncommon for extra images to be added over the crucial sales period – often bloated pictures that contribute to traffic problems. It’s worth checking that you are not double-seeing images, which sometimes happens where two files are served with each picture: a thumbnail and a hi-res version that may have been displayed on a previous version of the site and still remains, thanks to some residual HTML.

3. Check your CDN

Double check CDN (content distribution network) provider setup to make sure the cache is being used. CDNs are great tools but they don’t always deliver what you need straight out of the box. During some of our own Black Friday load testing exercises, we’ve seen even big name CDNs fail to perform – too-rapid traffic spikes can overwhelm a CDN node, for instance, and the intended traffic-spreading mechanisms don’t help. Check our CDN tips on how to avoid performance pitfalls.

4. Ditch the hangers-on

Disable any unnecessary third party scripts or tags – if third parties go down, they might take your site with them. Third-party bulk in web pages is becoming troublesome on some sites and is one of the top three reasons for slow-to-load pages. Often marketing teams request extra tags and third-party features be added, completely unaware of the impact they are having on page speed. Check out our advice on avoiding third-party performance failures and get in touch if you urgently need a last-minute audit of your third-party bulk.

5. Accelerate performance

Do check your web acceleration tools if they’ve been installed for a while; ideas of what constitutes best practice change constantly and what might have been recommended 18 months ago could be defunct. If your accelerator is ‘sharding’, for instance, it may be not helping much at all. Some accelerators are great in theory, but in reality don’t help in the majority of cases.

thinkTRIBE has lots of free, well-researched, experience-based resources online – why not take a look at some of the travel industry tips in our beach-ready travel blog and sign up for our monthly blog round up newsletter while you’re at it!