Why Web Performance is Key to Success in Online Gaming · There are three main reasons why online...
Embed Size (px)
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
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
There are three main reasons why online gaming
operators should pay close attention to their web
1. IT systems and services are becoming increasingly
2. SEO – Google is about to include “website speed”
(load times) in its algorithm
3. A fast website is key to customer acquisition and
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
A sound load testing practice meets the following
a. Always perform load tests at major releases or
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
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
No. of users
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
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
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
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