Be the Maestro of your Commerce Site

April 25, 2016 Tedd Rodman

Optimizing a Web site is like conducting an orchestra. A digital commerce site may have dozens of different components, each playing a different part – but when they all work together, it’s a beautiful thing.

Older Web apps were like chamber music, a small number of components working together in harmony. A quartet needs no conductor other than a battery-powered metronome, and by the same token, a simple commerce site with only a few elements can be managed with a few basic tools.

Today’s Web apps are like a full orchestra, and sometimes that includes some heavy duty elements. Think of these as the online commerce equivalent to cannon fire in the 1812 Overture.

Consistently Excellent Performance

Suppose your orchestra is on tour, and in general, puts on a good show. But, one day the flautist has a cold and is a little off the rhythm. Another day, the harpist is upset by a breakup with her boyfriend, and when you play Peoria, the first chair cellist gets into a bar fight just before the performance, and has to be replaced with a somewhat less-talented substitute.

As much as we try to make things uniform – whether it’s a symphony orchestra or a digital commerce property – there will be variances. However, those variations can be minimized.

In the world of commerce, where a major goal is to attract many repeat customers, having a consistent user experience is critically important. One good experience may not mean much, but ten good experiences are what will build customer loyalty.

An “orchestration” approach to website optimization is what produces consistently excellent experiences.

One major reason that online commerce has grown so rapidly is because more people have fast connections, and Web technology has improved to allow for more sophisticated interactions. Nonetheless, the Web is still inconsistent, and users will never get the same experience down to the millisecond every time. Undesirable latency may be introduced if one of the hops is experiencing high volume, and Internet packets have to be re-routed. “Last mile” problems may occur at the ISP level for any number of reasons that are out of your control.

How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?

There’s an easy answer to this – practice. That means reducing variability and performing consistently to the best level achievable. You’ll get to your goal when you’ve done an outstanding job each and every time, across multiple venues.

Some companies make the mistake of thinking that a single instance of good performance means that all performance issues have been solved. Even a great website with good performance will still have a range of performance issues, caused by a number of different inconsistent factors that do not replicate in every instance. As industry secret is that reducing that variability is just as important as getting better speed.

In the world of the Web, perception is reality, and performance scores can be deceiving, especially if they are dependent on a single snapshot. A rich e-commerce site has many components, and not all of them need to be served at once.

Achieving the Big Boost

As you “conduct” the operation of your eCommerce site, you assign priority to the components that users need to see right away. If people see those initial elements in less than four seconds, they will engage with the site, even if less important scripts and data are still loading in the background. As long as this background activity does not diminish or interfere with the user experience, you have achieved a perceived performance boost.

This can be accomplished by orchestrating each component – delaying JavaScript elements until they are really necessary, or setting some elements to load only when the user scrolls into a certain area or activates it with a click. The initial view is rendered as though the site was thinner than it really is, without losing any vital functionality. This layering takes a just-in-time approach to rendering, amplifying the perceived user experience.

By shifting and reprioritizing when each individual element loads – including third party elements – you can break the relationship between fat pages and slow speeds, to overcome the inconsistencies inherent in the Web.

Content orchestration is the missing piece for optimizing a complex and dynamic Web app.

Yottaa’s Customer Experience Index (CEXi) goes beyond the snapshot analysis of user experience and performance. It compiles conventional performance metrics like time to start render, and time to display, for both mobile and desktop tests – with extra weighting and balancing to account for parity between the desktop and mobile experiences, and the relationship between the weight and performance.

The result is a more realistic look at actual performance variances in optimization.

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