Super Bowl 50 is upon us and while millions tune in for the faceoff between the Broncos and Panthers this Sunday, software testers will hold their breaths as these same fans flock to promoted web and mobile applications in droves.
To the players, Super Bowl Sunday presents two paths: one to glory and one to crushing disappointment. Obviously, vying for victory is a team effort. But sometimes, just sometimes, the difference between winning and losing falls to one individual. With the biggest game of the year on the line and everyone watching, the final play commences.
Wide right. After losing three consecutive Super Bowls, the Buffalo Bills lost their fourth as Scott Norwood’s field goal attempt sailed just past the righthand goalpost. Imagine the sheer number of Buffalo fans that must have thrown up their hands while crying out exasperatingly, “You had one job!”
If you’re a software tester, this may hit close to home. Application outages and failures typically produce similar reactions, especially when a company is expecting significant website traffic and ensuing revenue. The Super Bowl demands over-the-top advertising campaigns designed to generate huge amounts of traffic and if your website isn’t prepared to handle it, it’ll end up as the Scott Norwood of this year’s Super Bowl.
Learn From the ‘Scott Norwoods’
Despite the preventative measures organizations take to ensure the seamless performance of their applications and/or microsites around the Super Bowl, it seems like every year we’re plagued with application outages from not just one, but several major corporations.
Coca-Cola, Sodastream, Axe, Acura and Calvin Klein are just a few of the companies that have bitten off more than they could chew. Powerhouse marketing campaigns are only as good as the websites they lead to and if interested viewers are met with blank screens or error messages, they won’t hesitate to click away. In one way or another, these corporations dropped the ball in terms of application performance and undoubtedly lost potential customers in the process.
Channel Joe Montana and Come out on Top
While both Scott Norwood and Joe Montana left behind unforgettable legacies, the two couldn’t be more different. Montana’s extensive list of achievements landed him the #4 spot on the NFL Network’s The Top 100: NFL’s Greatest Players and an induction into the Hall of Fame. His game-winning passes in both the 1982 NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XXIII are still regarded as some of the most memorable events in NFL history.
QA teams should be constantly striving to deliver web and mobile applications that perform as well as Joe Montana, and here’s how to do it:
1. Create the most realistic test scenarios
You need to be sure that your application can handle whatever is thrown at it. This means you’ll need to make your performance testing scenarios a bit more complex, otherwise you may overlook areas that could impact the user experience.
To create the most realistic tests, you’ll have to accurately account for realistic user conditions. With your load testing tool, simulate different user devices, browsers, and geographic locations (via the cloud). Think comprehensively about the way a user navigates through your application. This will allow you to execute parameterized recordings in which variables are randomized and represent what happens most often for people.
2. Account for mobile users
Companies seem to overlook mobile users all too often. With Adobe stating that 53% of all eCommerce traffic on Black Friday 2015 came from mobile devices, you can assume that Super Bowl viewers will be much more likely to pull out their phones and tablets to search something when they see a commercial rather than cracking open those laptops.
When testing mobile, it’s wise to use a network virtualization tool, which will mimic the network characteristics that mobile devices actually experience. Bandwidth constraints, latency and packet loss will have a profound effect on mobile users’ experience, so be sure to test these commonly ignored attributes.
To make sure you’re not leaving anything out, view a detailed list of the top things testers overlook when it comes to testing mobile here.
3. Go above and beyond!
When your marketing team sends over application traffic predictions, double it. It’s way too easy to underestimate the user load likely to hit your site. Ideally, you should test until you find the point of failure. Successful tests are great, but they won’t give you insight into your application’s weaknesses. These should be identified early on in order to best prevent load-related performance issues in production.
If you want to stay out of the spotlight and keep your application performing like Joe Montana, test under the most realistic conditions, account for mobile users and expect the unexpected.
We quoted a Reddit user in a previous post and his comment couldn’t be more relevant leading up to this Sunday: “When things work well, it’s because of the glorious vision of Operations and Marketing. When things don’t, it’s because we’re plagued by IT glitches that hold back the glorious vision of Operations and Marketing.”
It’s true, this dynamic exists. I’m sure whichever companies experience performance issues this weekend will point fingers at QA and demand answers. However, if you implement the aforementioned measures, you can follow in Joe Montana’s footsteps and ensure you‘re part of the winning team.