Software QA FYI - SQAFYI

Testing-as-a-Service – The new “Third Way” for Performance Testing

By: Paul Caine

As recent online sales figures have shown increasing numbers of us are choosing the Internet for our regular purchases and to access services such as banking and utilities. Last year online sales totalled over £40billion in the UK alone making the development of a Web storefront something no serious retailer can afford to ignore.

As with their traditional bricks and mortar outlets in order to attract more customers and to give them an intense experience whilst accessing their website, many organisations have had to invest in a variety of techniques and content to garner their share of this huge revenue potential including a whole new way of thinking:
* Search engine optimisation to capture customers
* Ad-words to meet specific search requests
* Dynamic content and personalised content
* Flash and video content, including live video in some cases
* Integration with numerous web service providers for specific content services
* News, blog and social network feeds
* Hand-off to external payment processing organisations

However all this content has an impact on the complexity of the application and the infrastructure needed to support it. This increased complexity means the application is rarely in the same state for very long before a change is made either to content or to the code or to the infrastructure underlying it. Software and security updates get applied daily, any one of which could create a performance bottleneck, resulting in poor page load times on the customer’s desktop.

Page load time is extremely important for today’s online customer, with 2 seconds for a page to render being the limit for 47% of online shoppers. Speed also breeds loyalty, a scarce commodity in the online retailing world with 52% of online shoppers saying that quick page loading is important to their site loyalty according to a Forrester survey published in May 2009.

Dissatisfaction was attributed to a number of things, with the top two being due to the web site being too slow - 23% or taking too long to render due to site crashes or error messages, 17%.

Forrester go on to say that “seventy-nine percent of online shoppers who experience a dissatisfying visit are likely to no longer buy from that site. Also, 46% of dissatisfied online shoppers are more likely to develop a negative perception of the company, and 44% will tell their friends and family about the experience. With 87% of customers shopping in both online and retail channels, the impact of a bad online experience reaches beyond the Web”.

This background to current customer performance expectations needs to be treated very seriously, especially with the trend towards the use of mobile browsing devices such as smart phones and netbooks. Increasing numbers of customers have shopped via mobile devices, with a high proportion (27%) of them reporting that it is dissatisfying due to the mobile shopping experience being too slow.

As a consequence of this change in the level of importance attributed to their Web presence the need to embed performance testing as an element of the application development process has assumed critical importance.

It also follows that testing in general needs to evolve and become more disciplined, which to a certain extent it already has, as can be seen by the increasing influence of the Testing Maturity Model (TMMi). The application of the TMMi model to software quality tends to focus on functionality and meeting of the specification, with maturity of non-functional characteristics like performance lagging somewhat behind the curve.

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Testing-as-a-Service – The new “Third Way” for Performance Testing