How to Prepare Your Online Shop for Black Friday
Can your website pass a load test?
The most anticipated sale of the year is coming! This means both customers and retailers have some work to do before the sale takes place. While shoppers only have to prepare their checkbooks and wishlists, online store owners are required to do way more than just put out nice-looking Black Friday banners and wait patiently for November 27th to come.
This year it’s all happening online, so commerce websites are likely to see the biggest visit and user spike ever. In this post, I’m sharing our tips on how to prepare for the biggest annual sale in terms of e-commerce website software testing.
Get Ready for a Huge Spike in Visitors
As unfortunate as it is, the global pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives. In the past, the stream of consumers was distributed among online and physical stores, which allowed sellers to balance the load out. But this year, COVID-19 precautions will stop most offline retailers from filling their stores with people. This means their only way to generate income from Black Friday will be to move the sales online.
To make sure a shopping website can handle the surge of Black Friday shoppers, quality assurance engineers turn to load testing. This method belongs to non-functional testing. It explores software or website behavior under different load levels, from low to normal and beyond.
The focus here is performance: making sure the interface doesn’t slow glitch, loading times don’t increase, and the overall user experience does not suffer.
During load testing, you get to check such vital aspects of e-commerce software as hosting infrastructure, load-resistance, performance during different pressure levels, response time, the maximum number of e-shop visitors, etc. Unlike stress testing, load checks do not put software systems under extreme conditions, but evaluate their operational capacity in usual, life-like situations.
This allows the QA team to detect so-called bottlenecks — components that decrease the effectiveness of the whole system. Once found and reported to the development team, bottlenecks can be reconfigured which in its turn will improve the performance of your software making it more robust.
Key load-related performance issues your e-commerce website may experience include long loading times, users’ inability to add items to their shopping carts, and general problems related to the slow response time of buttons and forms on your online shop.
Check Your Online Store’s Stress-Resistance
In quality assurance, stability, reliability, and recoverability of a software system are checked during stress testing, also known as endurance, capacity, and soak testing. This is a non-functional testing technique to determine how a solution works under unusual conditions, as well as find out situations in which it crashes. The key focus here is finding the point at which your website breaks, and seeing what happens when it does.
QA engineers perform stress tests by loading a system with enormous amounts of data to process or changing the regular files to corrupted ones to see how the software would react to that. The main aim of stress testing is to make sure that a website or application can easily recover after a technical failure and the results achieved right before the collapse will be saved when needed after the system’s back on track.
In the context of online shopping, I strongly recommend online retailers to run an off-schedule stress testing session before Black Friday. And not only for the website or application where consumers will shop, but the CRM system that workers use to process the orders as well.
The thing is, it’s not just a larger number of visitors that you should prepare your website for. The consumer behavior during such a large and anticipated sale also becomes a little chaotic: people storm into product catalogs, add and immediately delete multiple items from their carts, continuously refresh the page waiting for a restock, etc.
All this can put your online shop at serious risk and stress testing is a way to prevent that. Furthermore, not knowing how your website behaves and responds to a crash can also lead to security vulnerabilities.
There’s Never Too Much Security
When shopping online, customers are forced to share some sensitive information, so no wonder the e-commerce industry prioritizes data security so highly. To make shoppers feel safe filling in their billing information and home address, online retailers should perform security testing for their websites and apps.
Test cases to execute this type of quality assurance mimic cyber-attacks and unauthorized system penetrations to document how the application responds to them.
Although security is checked on a regular basis during almost any digital project, with e-commerce and Black Friday in particular, off-schedule security testing is highly recommended. This is because it’s not just you who knows about the upcoming burst of sales — people with less-than-noble intentions know about it too.
When online shops get flooded with transactions and are at risk of crashing due to an influx of traffic (see the stress testing section above,) information leakages can be hard to spot immediately. If you don’t want your shopping website’s data security to be compromised, I suggest going the extra mile with software security testing before the Black Friday sale starts. This is also valid for all the third-party integrations and APIs used in your system, like payment gateway REST API by PayPal, Amazon Pay, Skrill, etc.
I Want to Test My Online Shop: Where Do I Start?
As I established the importance of pre-sale software testing for online stores, it is time to move from theory to practice. Here the steps you could take to initiate the testing process.
Start with a manual check which you can execute yourself
Most business owners focus heavily on marketing and advertising before a Black Friday sale. However, I highly recommend finding some time in your schedule to spend on manually checking your website.
To do that, write down the test case scenario describing the situations your customers go through when shopping, as well as the successful outcomes for each procedure. These may include placing a new order, creating a wish list, registering, restoring a forgotten password, entering a coupon code (you can try both a fake and real code,) moving items from the cart to the wish list and vice versa, entering purposely wrong payment data, etc.
In case you notice any unexpected or unwanted results, document them as accurately as you can (take screenshots and write down a description of the situation.) Also, always mention the testing environment you found the bug in — the type of hardware (PC, smartphone, or tablet,) model (iPhone 11, Samsung Galaxy S10, Dell XPS 13 laptop, etc.,) operating system (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Unix, etc.,) OS version (for example, Windows 10 19042.630 build), and browser information (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc.)
All this information will serve as a bug report allowing your development team to reproduce the bugs and fix them accordingly.
Use software testing tools
Software testing tools are web applications that make the testing process easier and more efficient. Using them can make the testing process more precise by having all the test plans, bug reports, and timesheets in one place.
Also, many software testing platforms are very beginner-friendly and designed in a way that guides users through the testing process. Here’s a list of recommended tools to get you started:
- Testpad: This is a digital toolset for manual testing. It can be easily used even by non-professional testers. With TestPad, you can perform all basic types of software testing including load and security testing. It also makes adding test group members very easy by generating an invitation email that doesn’t even require registration.
- WebLOAD: WebLOAD is an integrated development environment created specifically for load and stress testing. With this platform, you can generate different levels of artificial user data and track the response of your website.
- SonarQube: This is an open-source security testing application. It has plenty of great features that allow website owners to spot the vulnerabilities right in the codebase of their sites. With SonarQube, you can provide code inspections and even simulate cyber attacks to prove the website is secure enough to stand them.
Hire an independent QA team specializing in e-commerce testing
Although educating yourself on software testing is always a great idea for a website owner, nothing beats expert-level quality assurance services. Professional testing companies can demonstrate impressive testing results because they check software without the bias or tunnel vision that’s usually present with an in-house development team.
Do your research on leading software testing companies in the e-commerce sector and choose the one that speaks to you.
Among the qualities to look for in a QA service vendor, I recommend checking the following: years on the market, portfolio, client testimonials, social media presence, ratings and reviews on platforms like Clutch.co, number of employees, office location, and pricing models.
Furthermore, if a company offers you a free consultation to discuss your project and meet your potential team, that’s always a good sign.
I hope that drawing your attention to such crucial aspects of e-commerce software as reliability, load-resistance, and data security, I’ll help you ensure Black Friday sales go smoothly for your online store this year.
The bottom line is this — preliminary testing saves nerves and money that you’d need for an urgent fix of a website that crashed due to overload. Don’t underestimate the interest of your shoppers or overestimate the reliability of your online store.