Website Performance: Learning from Mistakes

by | June 19, 2017

When it comes to a website outage, customers will sometimes give the offending company a second chance, especially if the issues get swiftly amended. In fact, customer forgiveness is very important for businesses to redeem themselves following errors, allowing them to retain both loyalty and expenditure. But what happens when their site crashes again? Mistakes clearly haven’t been learnt from, so when customers see further slow response times, they often leave – for good.

A recent example of organizations failing to learn from previous outages occurred during the UK’s 2017 election. In 2016, the ‘Brexit’ referendum’s website crashed due to an increased amount of web traffic. Yet, fast forward to 2017, and two relevant election sites crashed for the same reason. First, the Electoral Commissions’ website failed to load twice on the final day of registration – an unhelpful time to fall over. Secondly, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), unexpectedly called upon to play a large part in the government, saw their website crash completely as users flooded to the site to learn more about them.

The DUP website’s total outage in the wake of the election result shows that organisations need to be prepared for both the expected and the unexpected at all times. The DUP should have prepared their site to handle higher levels of traffic and load tested accordingly before the ‘big day’. Instead, their first impression on thousands of visitors was an error message, which damages their reputation straight off the bat.

Similarly, there was no excuse for the Electoral Commission website crashing in the run up to the election, or for the Brexit referendum site crashing back in 2016; they should have expected high levels of traffic. For peak events such as this, the only sure thing is that load will be 5-10 times the normal traffic. It’s essential that organisations have the right infrastructure in place to deal with this, as unfortunately, the consequences for website or app failure are often severe.

For example, British Airways are still struggling to restore consumer faith after their IT system failure grounded thousands of unhappy passengers, and they have been hit in their pocket (with a significant chunk wiped off their share price) and their reputation (as people took to social media to slate them).

In short, website providers need to ensure that their websites can handle spikes in visitor traffic by preparing–and consequently testing and capacity planning – to improve performance in advance. All party and election websites should have learnt from the 2016 referendum outage that caused chaos, and avoided a repeat performance for 2017.

If mistakes aren’t leant from, it is likely that consumers won’t forgive, and won’t forget.