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The importance of traffic profiling for load testing

18th November 2019

Getting the perfect match

We’ve talked a lot in previous blogs about how you can schedule a load testing programme that’s designed to return accurate, actionable results. But we can’t emphasise strongly enough the role that traffic profiling plays in ensuring your site delivers the best user experience (UX), even when demand is at its highest.

At thinkTRIBE, every load testing project begins with the creation of a traffic profile that represents how users interact with your site or application, to make sure that we map the profile to a known peak. The purpose of load testing is to provide a reliable assessment of how a website fares under normal and anticipated peak load conditions, in order that potential pinch-points and bottlenecks can be identified and mitigated.

It’s the kind of analysis that can only be achieved by tapping into real user traffic data and using it to extract a realistic event profile.

What are users doing?

Obviously, the specifics of how users move around your site will depend on your niche. But, for a typical e-commerce application, user actions may include browsing a product catalogue, searching for particular items, adding products to the shopping cart and checking out. By analysing traffic data, we can learn more about user activity – which pages they’re visiting and where they’re dropping out – even including the types of devices they’re using, so you can optimise for mobile browsers, for example.

A realistic traffic profile, based on the actual UX, will help to build a load test that covers a variety of journeys that accurately reflect activity at different times. Because the value and quality of the data returned by a load test is only as good as the data upon which it’s based, it’s crucial that the traffic profile is as authentic as possible.

Calculating the variables

It goes without saying that no two businesses are alike, although businesses in the same sector may share similar peaks and troughs. Travel companies mostly experience their annual peak just after Christmas, while electronics retailers will enjoy spikes in traffic in the run up to major holiday periods like Christmas. From the customer’s perspective, the fluctuations in demand don’t really impact their expectations – which means that online retailers are expected to deliver a glitch-free experience all year round.

While a load test isn’t a magic bullet for eCommerce businesses, it is a smart move for any company looking to deliver the best service possible – while minimising the risk of losing customers as a result of an underwhelming online experience. An effective test will not only simulate a mixture of real journeys – including those who drop out before making a purchase – but will also check that page content is working and confirm that links are operational.

The benefits of traffic profiling

  • Confidently plan for peak periods
  • Gather accurate data on performance
  • Gain crucial insights based on real behaviour
  • Identify potential bottlenecks
  • Optimise for browser types

By conducting traffic profiling, we can evaluate performance based on real behaviour and gather more accurate data on possible pinch points and on the number of users a site can support before degradation.

At thinkTRIBE, we undertake load testing from the user’s perspective simulating an increasing number of concurrent users carrying out multi-page transactions. We not only cover a range of different journeys, but also weight the volume of each journey type using a proportional breakdown over different time periods, so reflecting the requirement to manage different kinds of traffic peak across the site.

Our bespoke load testing measures the impact of increased loads on timings and error rates at every step of a journey and also identifies failure criteria, as well as measuring recovery after failure and predicting when upgrades will be necessary.