Why Web Performance is Key to Success in Online Gaming · There are three main reasons why online...

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iGamingBusiness n Issue 61 n March/April 2010 n 25 TECHNICAL More and more companies are starting to pay attention to the issue of web performance as a key success factor in their online businesses. Indeed, it is no less important in the competitive area of online gaming. There are three main reasons why online gaming operators should pay close attention to their web performance: 1. IT systems and services are becoming increasingly complex 2. SEO – Google is about to include “website speed” (load times) in its algorithm 3. A fast website is key to customer acquisition and retention The complexity of IT systems and services The fast paced development of web technology has made it easy for online gaming operators to integrate content and services from third parties. Most major operators now act as ‘content aggregators’ and offer products such as casino, poker and bingo from selected third parties under their own brand. As this complex ecosystem of content and interdependent services expands it becomes the daunting task of burdened IT managers to monitor and ensure the quality of delivery from every corner of their IT platform. In fact, if only one little piece fails, it can bring the whole website down. SEO and the importance of website speed At the end of 2009, Google leaked its plans to include ‘website speed’ in its ranking algorithm. As most online gaming brands are heavily dependent on successful SEO practices, this is news to be taken very, very seriously. What it means is that if you suffer from bad web performance for one reason or another, even temporarily, your ranking might be punished. We believe this will serve as a wakeup call for IT managers who have not yet taken a proactive approach to monitoring and improving their web performance. Website conversion and retention It is a well known fact that most Internet gamblers have accounts at multiple sites. When it comes to your most valuable players, your high rollers, you can be almost sure that you’re not the only one who’s quenching their gambling thirst. It is also a well known fact that Internet users are impatient by nature and will leave your site if it does not give them what they want, when they want it. Results from different studies vary, but in general you have a couple of seconds before a user will start to look elsewhere. So imagine when that dearly acquired customer arrives, loads your page, the page goes into ‘hourglass mode’ and just hangs, and the customer goes back to your competitor that you just persuaded them to leave?! Almost no other online business is as fiercely competitive in terms of customer acquisition as online gaming, so you simply cannot afford to let those expensive leads roll off your landing page. Apply web performance best practices and marketing managers will meet aggressive ROI targets time after time. Implementing web performance best practices We have seen many examples of IT managers dealing with web performance through the very common ‘putting out fires’ approach. As with other areas in IT management, the issue of web performance is best handled with a systematic long-term approach. Here is a seven step method towards reaching world-class web performance. 1. Align web performance goals with business objectives Too often, IT goals are not aligned with, and do not support, business objectives. Marketing managers are aiming for record highs but do you know if your site can actually handle the load associated with that? First things first – set business objectives. Secondly – get business and IT managers together to try to figure out what that means in terms of peak traffic and loads. IT, marketing and product management need to have the same view on the user demands on the IT platform. Then you have a good starting point for a professional approach to web performance management. 2. Make load testing part of your testing toolkit Despite exhaustive testing of functional and non-functional software requirements, many web projects still fail to launch stable performing web applications. The high hopes at project launch often dissolve into disappointment, starting a ‘blame game’ between ISP, hosting company, platform provider, developer and application owner. One explanation for this is the lack of load, or maximum capacity, testing. Therefore, you should make load testing a standard practice in your testing methodology. A sound load testing practice meets the following criteria: a. Always perform load tests at major releases or updates. b. Run realistic tests that imitate real user behaviour on your site or service. The load should be generated outside your hosting facility or else the whole end to end Internet delivery chain will not be tested. c. Perform tests on the production servers. Testing for maximum capacity on the test servers will give you an indication, but not the real answer, of your maximum capacity limit (since production and test environments are usually similar but not identical). 3. Monitor your web performance Ok, so the project is tested and successfully launched. Sit back and enjoy the ride? Not really. As web applications grow increasingly complex, content “Almost no other online business is as fiercely competitive in terms of customer acquisition as online gaming, so you simply cannot afford to let those expensive leads roll off your landing page.” Why Web Performance is Key to Success in Online Gaming Seven steps towards web performance best practice…
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Transcript of Why Web Performance is Key to Success in Online Gaming · There are three main reasons why online...

  • iGamingBusiness n Issue 61 n March/April 2010 n 25

    TECHNICAL

    More and more companies are starting to pay

    attention to the issue of web performance as a key

    success factor in their online businesses. Indeed, it

    is no less important in the competitive area of online

    gaming.

    There are three main reasons why online gaming

    operators should pay close attention to their web

    performance:

    1. IT systems and services are becoming increasingly

    complex

    2. SEO – Google is about to include “website speed”

    (load times) in its algorithm

    3. A fast website is key to customer acquisition and

    retention

    The complexity of IT systems and servicesThe fast paced development of web technology has

    made it easy for online gaming operators to integrate

    content and services from third parties. Most major

    operators now act as ‘content aggregators’ and offer

    products such as casino, poker and bingo from

    selected third parties under their own brand.

    As this complex ecosystem of content and

    interdependent services expands it becomes the

    daunting task of burdened IT managers to monitor

    and ensure the quality of delivery from every corner

    of their IT platform. In fact, if only one little piece

    fails, it can bring the whole website down.

    SEO and the importance of website speedAt the end of 2009, Google leaked its plans to include

    ‘website speed’ in its ranking algorithm. As most

    online gaming brands are heavily dependent on

    successful SEO practices, this is news to be taken

    very, very seriously.

    What it means is that if you suffer from bad

    web performance for one reason or another, even

    temporarily, your ranking might be punished.

    We believe this will serve as a wakeup call for

    IT managers who have not yet taken a proactive

    approach to monitoring and improving their web

    performance.

    Website conversion and retentionIt is a well known fact that most Internet gamblers

    have accounts at multiple sites. When it comes to

    your most valuable players, your high rollers, you

    can be almost sure that you’re not the only one who’s

    quenching their gambling thirst.

    It is also a well known fact that Internet users are

    impatient by nature and will leave your site if it does

    not give them what they want, when they want it.

    Results from different studies vary, but in general you

    have a couple of seconds before a user will start to

    look elsewhere.

    So imagine when that dearly acquired customer

    arrives, loads your page, the page goes into ‘hourglass

    mode’ and just hangs, and the customer goes back

    to your competitor that you just persuaded them to

    leave?!

    Almost no other online business is as fiercely

    competitive in terms of customer acquisition as

    online gaming, so you simply cannot afford to let

    those expensive leads roll off your landing page.

    Apply web performance best practices and

    marketing managers will meet aggressive ROI targets

    time after time.

    Implementing web performance best practicesWe have seen many examples of IT managers

    dealing with web performance through the very

    common ‘putting out fires’ approach.

    As with other areas in IT management, the

    issue of web performance is best handled with a

    systematic long-term approach. Here is a seven

    step method towards reaching world-class web

    performance.

    1. Align web performance goals with business objectivesToo often, IT goals are not aligned with, and do not

    support, business objectives. Marketing managers are

    aiming for record highs but do you know if your site

    can actually handle the load associated with that?

    First things first – set business objectives. Secondly

    – get business and IT managers together to try to

    figure out what that means in terms of peak traffic

    and loads.

    IT, marketing and product management need

    to have the same view on the user demands on the

    IT platform. Then you have a good starting point

    for a professional approach to web performance

    management.

    2. Make load testing part of your testing toolkitDespite exhaustive testing of functional and

    non-functional software requirements, many web

    projects still fail to launch stable performing web

    applications. The high hopes at project launch often

    dissolve into disappointment, starting a ‘blame game’

    between ISP, hosting company, platform provider,

    developer and application owner.

    One explanation for this is the lack of load, or

    maximum capacity, testing. Therefore, you should

    make load testing a standard practice in your testing

    methodology.

    A sound load testing practice meets the following

    criteria:

    a. Always perform load tests at major releases or

    updates.

    b. Run realistic tests that imitate real user behaviour

    on your site or service. The load should be

    generated outside your hosting facility or else the

    whole end to end Internet delivery chain will not

    be tested.

    c. Perform tests on the production servers. Testing

    for maximum capacity on the test servers will give

    you an indication, but not the real answer, of your

    maximum capacity limit (since production and test

    environments are usually similar but not identical).

    3. Monitor your web performanceOk, so the project is tested and successfully

    launched. Sit back and enjoy the ride? Not really. As

    web applications grow increasingly complex, content

    “Almost no other online business is as fiercely competitive in terms of customer acquisition as online gaming, so you simply cannot afford to let those expensive leads roll off your landing page.”

    Why Web Performance is Key to Success in Online GamingSeven steps towards web performance best practice…

    25-26.indd 25 25/2/10 17:56:59

  • 26 n iGamingBusiness n Issue 61 n March/April 2010

    John Ekman is CMO at web performance company, Apica. John has been in the online gaming business since 2003, formerly as a VP of Marketing at NetEnt as well as a former Casino Manager at Betsson.

    John EkmanCMO, Apica

    Response time

    No. of users

    Lost Business

    Peak hours

    TECHNICAL

    managers, external service providers and many

    others have many chances to wreck what you built

    up with a simple mouse click.

    Therefore, you should constantly monitor your

    web performance. Many operators monitor what

    goes on at the server side, CPU usage, database

    connections and so on. The problem is that all

    servers might be working just fine, but your

    customers could still be complaining that your site

    is slow.

    You need to monitor using your customers’

    perspective. Use the same realistic user scenarios that

    you defined in your load testing and run them every

    two, five or ten minutes. Test if a user can open an

    account, logon to that account, load a casino game,

    open the poker client, retrieve odds, etc.

    Then run those tests from computers placed

    where your customers are – Sweden, Poland, Turkey –

    wherever they happen to be.

    When you know that all your key customer

    processes run without breaks, every minute,

    24/7, then you know you are delivering a quality

    experience to your customers.

    4. Test on both sides of the firewallYou should have your test agents deployed both

    on the Internet, where your users are, and inside

    the firewall. By comparing test results from these

    two locations you will be able to know if any

    performance problems originate from lacking

    capacity or faulty configurations on the server side or

    if it is mainly attributed to lacking delivery capability

    between your hosting provider and your end user.

    5. Use test results to improve web performanceWhatever tools, techniques or software you are

    using to test your web performance you should make

    sure that those tests yield results that are clearly

    analyzable and can serve as a starting point for

    improving your web performance.

    Knowing your maximum capacity limit or your

    average page load time is really not much help if

    you do not know what is causing that load time or

    load limit. Only when you run tests that pinpoint

    performance bottlenecks will you be able to start

    your efforts to remove them. Your testing software

    should allow for the use of drill-down techniques

    and visual presentations such as waterfall graphs

    and time series graphs. You should be able to sort

    load sequence test results by largest or slowest

    component, and so on.

    6. Manage potential web overloadMany online operators are subject to sharp peak

    loads. It’s good news when visitors arrive in great

    numbers at major sports events or as a result of a

    successful campaign. But if you’re unable to handle

    the extra traffic loads the new visitors will destroy

    the experience for everyone as response times

    deteriorate.

    We recommend that you use the so-called

    ‘shop sale’ technique if you want an extra layer

    of performance guarantee. This is a sort of ‘worst

    case scenario’ remedy and it is also a cost effective

    measure, compared to other investments in

    increased capacity which is superfluous outside of

    your peak hours.

    With this technique, only traffic up to a preset

    volume is allowed and all other traffic above this

    volume is redirected to an external ‘wait page’.

    Compare this to a bouncer that allows eager

    shoppers into a physical store, only as previous

    customers leave. Without this technique impatient

    users will click and refresh their browsers, creating

    web overload and eventually the site will crash.

    7. Be aggressiveOur final advice is to use superior web performance

    not only to keep your customers, but to get new ones

    as your competitors fail to deliver a fast website

    experience to match yours.

    It is a well known phenomenon that web users act

    like stampeding herds in peak times. If one popular

    site goes down or is slow, fleeing customers will

    immediately seek out the next alternative increasing

    the load on that site and potentially bringing that

    one down too. As a whole web audience is driven

    towards one or a few sites that manage to stay up,

    those sites could be grabbing a big chunk of their

    competitors’ customers.

    These are just the first, but crucial, steps towards

    world class web performance. They should be

    seriously considered by every online gaming

    operator as it becomes increasingly important to

    convert and retain your customers. n

    25-26.indd 26 25/2/10 17:57:22