This week Google overhauled the way its search engine recommends websites on mobiles, introducing a new algorithm which would prioritise and favour those that are ‘mobile friendly’. This move, while eagerly anticipated by frequent mobile web users, poses a big challenge to firms, who will be ‘named and shamed’ for not adapting their websites for mobile accessibility. Such is the fear, that the world’s media and marketing community labelled the launch of the algorithm on 21st April as ‘mobilegeddon’.
Google’s new tool aims to help the user gain the best online experience and it means that businesses can no longer ignore the importance of creating optimum-performing mobile-friendly websites. However, it does not stop here. Google is also currently experimenting with a “slow” tag on its search pages. This red slow label first appeared on a few Android devices a couple of weeks ago, pre-warning users of slow performing websites before they receive the final search results.
Customers are looking to businesses to adopt the next emerging technology trends and if an organisation’s website doesn’t meet its customers’ high expectations, then they will likely go elsewhere. Customer patience is thin; in fact, the average customer will only wait three seconds before moving away from a loading webpage.
As a result, the consequences are grave, users will dismiss a brand and their loyalty will quickly evaporate when faced with a website that’s taking an age to respond. A great example of this is within the retail industry, during shopping frenzies such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These seasonal events amplified by the media, often showcase those that had prepared their website performance for customers in advance, and those that still need to shape up. As a record number of shoppers visited retail sites, many retailers including John Lewis, Argos, BHS and Debenhams experienced website performance challenges, with the latter experiencing a delayed response time as high as 16 seconds. Businesses in today’s competitive market can no longer afford to be named and shamed in such a way.
Instead, businesses will need to consider how to deliver optimum services that are accessible on multiple platforms, devices and browsers but they are working on borrowed time – the move by Google, highlights the importance of creating optimum performing and mobile-friendly websites to not lose out on vital web traffic and business. Developing and testing websites to ensure the best experience is provided for customers should now be a priority for all organisations.
Here are six simple ways a business can ensure its website is up to scratch and stands the best chance of surviving ‘mobilegeddon’:
Avoid delay – test early and often
Don’t wait until websites or applications are into production to performance test. Today’s applications typically have separate tiers for presentation, business and data logic and legacy integrations. Load testing all of these tiers in different phases of the lifecycle, from day one must become habitual. By testing earlier you’ll find defects or architectural issues sooner, and minimise costs – because defects can be up to 100 times more expensive to correct at the end of the software development lifecycle than at the beginning.
Know the effect of any size of load
What’s the maximum volume of traffic your website can handle? Not knowing can be disastrous for business, yet many organisations believe there’s only one costly way to find out – build a test environment. However, as an alternative option, businesses can look to running a cloud-based load testing infrastructure to simulate real-life scenarios –such as thousands of users, from multiple geographical locations. There are now pay-as-you-go versions to quickly simulate peak loads to ensure massive, global usage and user spikes.
Testing across multiple platforms and devices
Customers will use a variety of devices and platforms to access information, including mobile, and it’s vital that your website can be accessible whether it is seen on a smartphone, tablet or desktop. Teams will need to be able to performance test mobile web and mobile native applications for Android, iOS, Windows Phone and BlackBerry and consider testing the bandwidth of mobile network connections, including mobile phone standards like GPRS, 3G and 4G.
Understand True Regional End User Experience
Performance testing usually happens close to the source, like inside a speedy corporate LAN resulting in artificially fast response times. In order to get real visibility how actual users see your page you need to either test from the cloud or simulate the impact of different network conditions like poor antenna signal, high latency on long distance connections, and reduced transfer rates. Tools with network emulation capabilities can simulate packet drop rate, latency and various connection speeds ensuring that you understand what geographically distributed end users on both slow and fast connections will really experience.
Finding the root of the problem
It’s not enough to just find performance issues, you need to drill down to find the root causes. As part of your overall solution, diagnostic tools that allow you to efficiently locate the causes of performance issues (even under peak loads), will enable you to fast-track corrections, reduce test-and-fix cycles and accelerate time-to-market.
Ringing the alarm
Whilst regular performance testing will help to avoid a peak load bottleneck or worse, a website crash, how you become aware of an incident is equally important. Website monitoring should include the notification of a website failure in any shape or form. That means being notified about a problem within minutes. A robust monitoring strategy should include daily updates and reports which can help to determine where an issue occurred to prevent it from happening again.
Recent research confirms many organisations are unprepared for peak website loads. While 79% of 590 global CIOs polled confirmed they are aware of seasonal events that drive web traffic, 44% do not test their websites to see if they could handle the increase in traffic. Now that Google has introduced this new mobile search algorithm, website owners and operators will have no choice but to take speed seriously. In today’s world, no business can risk being stigmatised by Google, its mobile ranking and an underperforming website.