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Friday, Nov. 27, 2009 at 7:00 am

Who Is REALLY Ready for the Online Black Friday?

By Brendan Regan
November 27th, 2009

Well, Grokkers, the Holiday Season is officially upon us–Happy Black Friday! Most of FutureNow’s good advice about optimizing for the Holidays has already been given, and hopefully you’ve been busy acting on it.  Many merchants are about to lock their sites down so no major code changes will put their Holiday transactions at risk.

Amazon.comStaying in a mediocre hotel in Albany, NY (with mediocre WiFi) got me thinking about another optimization tactic that we forgot to post about this year: SITE PERFORMANCE.

[Note: I was curious about how the big industry players were doing in terms of performance, so I started hitting them from my lousy WiFi connection.  The un-scientific results are sprinkled throughout this post, and they aren't all that surprising ;) ]red.envelope

So, if the goal is to for your site to be flooded with qualified, motivated buyers all through the Holiday Season, has your site been optimized for that flood of traffic? Performance testing is a good start, but that can only tell you how fast code loads, http response times, etc.

The more important thing is what the customer experience is like when your B2C site is under heavy traffic loads:

  • What order do elements load in?  Is the user stuck staring at your logo while they wait for product images or navigation?
  • Are your calls to action bulletproof?  If the button images are slow to load, do you have text behind them that loads first and is still prominent and high-contrast?
  • Does your global navigation ALWAYS load quickly?  How about search?
  • Have you been “naughty” or “nice” in regards to having good alt test behind images and links?
  • Do javascript menus have alternate HTML versions?
  • Was your site’s code architected to provide the best user experience under the worst server load conditions?

Best BuyThe software development profession uses the phrase “degrade gracefully” to describe a site or application that still works with javascript turned off, images turned off, on dial-up connections, on Internet Explorer 4, etc.

I like to think the same concept should be applied to sites that are under heavy traffic stress. If every GrokDotCom.com reader decided to hit your site within the same 10-minute period, would your site ‘degrade gracefully,’ or would it be completely un-usable?  Go try shopping on your site on a dial-up connection.  Of course, it’s going to be frustrating, but do the important things load first?  Can you at least navigate/browse/search while you’re waiting for pages to fully load?

Site performance optimization is definitely not FutureNow’s area of expertise, but these screenshots are a good reminder that all the fancy conversion rate optimization in the world won’t help if your site takes too long to load, or won’t load at all (ahem…Bing.com shopping site!).  Remember that “Functional” is the base of the Hierarchy of Optimization!

bingOverstock

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Comments (29)

  1. Is black friday a national shopping day in USA or ?.

  2. @ Lan online: Yes, “Black Friday” is always the day after Thanksgiving holiday. Named after the fact that after this major retail shopping day, retailers hope to be “in the black” for the year, i.e. profitable.

  3. I didn’t realise that Black Friday was named after retailers being in the black.

    Too many major online retailers have overcomplicated drop down or pop out menus that when they break down pretty much leave the visitor with no other option than to scroll around looking for alternative links.

    The main problem with this is that the non web savvy consumer (and there are a lot of them) will just leave rather than looking for an alternative way to reach the product.

  4. Should be interesting to see how makes the most from Black Friday online my bet is Walmart but in a couple of days we will know for sure!

  5. Its good that you came up with this, although it always frustrated me to find a connection, i was looking for timed out but i never got thinking on these lines.
    Very basic yet very powerful.

  6. I realized that this season a lot of retailers were trying to present more interactive flash based interfaces to make the shopping process more intuitive. I could guess that they were trying to bring more customers that typically don’t shop online.

  7. Black Friday was great for me! Great tips on how to be successful for Black Friday =]

  8. awesome, have a great Black Friday folks!

  9. I think this article is applicable not only for the black friday, traffic stress can happen anytime, and it’s a good point of view to be made as a stepping stone for dealing with it

  10. [...] Who Is REALLY Ready for the Online Black Friday? November 27th 2009 5:05pm pWell Grokkers the Holiday Season is officially upon us8211strongHappy Black Fridaystrong Most of a hrefhttpfuturenowinccom targetselfFutureNow8217sa good advice about optimizing for the Holidays has already been given and hopefully you8217ve been busy acting on it Many merchants are about to lock their sites down so no major code changes will put their Holiday8230p From: http://www.grokdotcom.com [...]

  11. Great post.

    Thank so much.

  12. Black Friday turned out pretty decent. Thanks for the great tips!

  13. thx for the article..

  14. Hi Brendan, great article here. The Xmas period is always a very strange period for visitors. Google seem to be tinkering with their alogorithm and of course shoppers are coming online more so than ever to purchase their goods. Will be interesting to see how this month pans out for everyone.

  15. I think that the most prepared for Online Black Friday were iTunes. I bought few things from there , without a problem.

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  17. Brendan you need to beef up your broadband my friend. Unfortunately many of the concerns you pointed out in your post hit me hard on my site. Oh well live and learn. Great post!

  18. Good article. Unfortunately, many sites don’t use this information when preparing for Black Friday.

  19. I’ve seen Black Friday searches rising in Google Trends but i didn’t know is a traditional shopping and sales day…I would have push my Amazon site a bit…

  20. I am new to Black Friday. I’ll be sure to try something for next time. Thanks for sharing.

  21. Black Friday can bring massive traffic to sites and it is important to handle those well as every clicks lost is potential revenues.

  22. Very nice information. All online businesses should use these tips for Black Friday.

  23. Very useful article. Waiting for your next information.

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  25. Dear Friend,
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  26. I know that this post is from last year, but metrics such as page load time are becoming increasingly important regardless of anticipated page traffic, so this is always relevant.

  27. Agree with John – in google webmaster tool, you can now see how is it with your site speed…

  28. It’s just as hard to keep a website up when the internet traffic is coming in like an attack from a worldwide bit attack, than it is to buy from one.

    I think that the news articles and information about this shopping day should start discussing the potential statistics more than just this deal and that sale.

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