November 28, 2014, the day after Thanksgiving, is Black Friday. Based on sales from last year, most Black Friday events will start earlier on Thanksgiving and extend later throughout the Black Friday weekend and into Cyber Monday 2014 (December 1).

So…is your site ready for a double whammy and one helluva busy weekend? Shoppers will be scrambling to grab that bargain and get Granny’s Christmas present sorted! They will be doing this from their office desktop, on a laptop warming their thighs, or stuck on a train with their tablet.

Have you considered how busy you site will be? I am sure you have, but have you really done everything you possibly can to give your customers a positive online experience? Let’s run through the various measures you can take to see if you’ve hit them all.

Have you considered Adaptive Web Design for your mobile web site to provide a faster experience? Reduced the number of steps to complete a checkout? Load tested your infrastructure? Optimized the page construction? Increased the number of servers in your web farm?

adaptive web design

There are other standard web best practice methods you can easily apply to further speed up and enhance the online experience:

– A Content Delivery Network (CDN) will move content closer to your customers. By moving JavaScript, CSS, Images, Flash, etc. to CDN, it will create faster round trips and thus less load time. Some CDN providers can help with dynamic content acceleration and can assist with capacity issues during peak periods such as Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

– Enable HTTP Keep Alive (Persistent Connections), allowing for TCP connections to each domain to remain open until they are forced to close. This reduces the CPU and memory usage on the web server as fewer connections are open simultaneously, and also reduces latency in subsequent requests.

– Page Construction is key to improving Render Start. Ensure JavaScript and Third Party tags that are not required for the initial render and are moved to the bottom of the page and put CSS before JavaScript.

– Reduce the number of round trips the browser has to make. Make use of CSS Sprites for small images used to build menus & navigation, social media icons etc. Concatenate JavaScript and CSS where possible.

– Reduce the overall page size (especially for those on mobile devices). Optimize the images and serve appropriate file sizes for the requesting platform. Minify JavaScript and CSS, and again, only serve JavaScript and CSS that is relevant to the requesting platform. Serving up CSS, Images, and JavaScript that are designed for the desktop version of the site to mobile users will increase the load time and lead to customer frustration.

– Use compression on all text based content (HTML, XML, JavaScript, CSS etc.). Do not compress images as they are already using a compression format and that will double the work for the browser as it will have to unzip and then handle the image compression format for render.

– Domain Sharding is also another simple performance win by serving up content from an additional domain. You do not need different servers to do this; just create a CNAME, as the browser does not care about the final IP address, only that the domain names are different. The recommended and well-documented optimal number of domains is two.  For example, if you have a lot of images on your page you would configure two domains: http://www.acme.com and http://images.acme.com. You would then host your images on the images.acme.com domain. The browser can now make parallel requests of six or more requests (browser dependent) from each domain, and thus speed up the loading of the page by loading more data in parallel.

By utilizing a monitoring tool you can measure the impact of any performance and optimization modifications from above that you make to your site across desktop, tablet and mobile variants.

Optimizing the online experience for your customers will reduce your abandonment and increase your conversions, and at the same time reduce a lot of strain on your infrastructure. The modern web browser is a powerful and clever tool, and the more you can give it to do, the better your site will perform and the happier your customers will be.

 

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