In 2013, Cyber Monday - the nickname for the Monday after Thanksgiving - was the busiest day of the year for online transactions, with a 170 percent transaction rate lift over average. Black Friday came in second at 114 percent. And nothing will ruin such a cash-filled weekend faster than a website that doesn’t work.
As holiday shoppers move more towards buying from home and less from making the trek to stores, having an operative website is going to be crucial if you’re planning on Black Friday putting your business “in the black.” Even if your web store is usually about as busy as a Tuesday matinee showing of “Vampire Academy,” you’ll be shocked by the amount of traffic that comes in during the season.
So preparation is key, and you may need to devote some entire days to making sure your website is ready. How do you go about this?
The code project has a pretty extensive guide to what you can do. But knowing you’re a small business owner - and therefore have about as much time for reading as you do for ironing your clothes - here’s their quick checklist.
- Functionality Testing
- Usability testing
- Interface testing
- Compatibility testing
- Performance testing
- Security testing
Functionality testing basically means clicking through your entire website and making sure every single link works. Because it will inevitably be that one broken link that causes a user to stop mid-purchase and abandon a thousand-dollar sale. This means check links going outside your website, links going to internal pages, links to email, and links that may go to pages that no longer exist.
Usability testing means checking to see if your site is user-friendly. You look at it every day, so all the instructions for getting further information and/or buying might seem simple. Have someone who doesn’t spend half his day looking at your website go on and play around to get some feedback. Then make the changes you think might work ASAP.
Interface and compatibility testing are somewhat related. Interface testing means that your server is responding to what’s requested by the website appropriately (like product searches for example).
To test compatibility, you’ll need to try your website on every browser a customer might conceivably use. So, maybe not Netscape Navigator, but Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Google Chrome, iOS, Android, or any others should be thoroughly checked out to make sure pages are displaying as beautifully as they are on whatever system you use.
You may also want to try testing your site at a variety of monitor resolutions to see if your graphics look like a fun house mirror when you blow them up too much
Performance testing is a little trickier. This will involve testing to see whether your website can handle the massive amounts of traffic you’re definitely going to receive over the holidays.
The two best ways to do this are through load testing and stress testing. Load testing tests how pages perform when large numbers of users are accessing it at the same time. Stress testing is, much like the stress tests performed on humans, designed to stress your system to its limits so you can see exactly how much it can handle. But unlike with people, the system should bounce back right away without massive amounts of Gatorade and protein shakes.
How does one go about performing these tests? Well you COULD ask every single person you know to log onto one page at the same time and see what happens. Fun as that would be for them (and a logistical nightmare for you) the best way is to either outsource the process or invest in software that does it for you. Web Performance and Net Mechanic are a couple of popular ones, but there are plenty of options.
Finally, there’s security testing, to make sure you and your customers don’t get your info hacked by a Grinch determined to literally steal Christmas. While you may not have time to check every possible security breach, at the very least try logging into your site with invalid usernames or passwords and see what happens. Then cut and paste internal URLs into your browser when not logged in and see if it goes directly to that page. If so, that’ll need to be fixed.
All these tips are helpful, but they are far from everything. In addition to the stuff we mentioned, take a stroll through any online purchasing forms to make sure they’re as simple as possible and don’t encourage conversion rate drops. Every extra field on a form will decrease the number of people who finish it.
And finally, if you have a new site, check to ensure the URL’s your developer used have all been converted to the ones that will go live on your businesses website.
Will doing all this 100 percent ensure your website will run smoothly throughout the holidays? You’ve been in business long enough to know the answer to that is no. And if you want even more options, Yahoo has a great list of them here. Like anything, the better prepared you are, the less chance for disaster. And the more you can enjoy the wonderful stress that is Cyber Monday.
Image courtesy of tiramisustudio / FreeDigitalPhotos.net