crash

Is there such a thing as a fair queue when buying sports tickets online?

When’s the last time you bought a ticket for a sporting event online?

You might remember the problems many people had securing tickets for the London Olympics back in 2012, where website glitches and various delays left many people frustrated (we covered it in this post about web performance nightmares).

Or perhaps you have recently been part of an online queue to buy tickets to the England Rugby World Cup, or to one of many Premiership Football games.

The popularity of these events and the relative scarcity of actual tickets to be sold puts the businesses selling them and maintaining these websites in a unique position. Even when you pretty much know you’re going to sell out, why should you care about the customer experience?

For one thing, fans are quick to voice their disapproval of a bad experience online and lose faith in the process altogether. Let’s take a look at some of the things being said on social media about the online ticket buying experience.

Inconsistent or unfair queue

Sometimes you get placed into a queue, but it never seems to move. Or your position seems to jump around at random, giving you little confidence that the information being shown to you is at all meaningful.

Here are some examples of this from people trying to buy tickets for the Rugby World Cup:

Get to the back of the line – Kicked out of the queue

There’s nothing worse than investing your time into waiting in line for something, only to get to the front and suddenly find yourself at the back of the queue. Are you going to go through the wait all over again or just abandon the queue and your purchase?

It seems like the fans of quite a few football clubs have suffered this fate:

Website crash – No chance to buy

Queues can be frustrating, but even worse is when a site simply breaks and won’t let you make your purchase. This is often down to the popularity of the tickets in question overloading the website with traffic.

Here are a few examples from top football clubs:

So why should ticketing site owners care?

Clearly fans become very frustrated by unfair, inconsistent or broken ticket sales. It makes sense for ticket vendors to use a queue to try to create a fair environment for fans whilst allowing the website to cope gracefully with the high levels of traffic, but often it seems the technology behind these queues are not up to scratch (as evidenced in the above tweets).

What can they do about it?

Intechnica have developed TrafficDefender, a solution specifically designed to provide the best possible customer experience during high demand web events such as ticket sales.

TrafficDefender is built to cope with extreme peaks in traffic to ensure the website defended won’t go down. What’s more, its advanced queueing functionality allows visitors to access the website or specified area of the website in a controlled “first in, first out” manner, always shows accurate information to those waiting, and has advanced features such as live reporting and VIP visitors.

Find out more about TrafficDefender

Web Performance Fails of the Week – April 10th 2015

Welcome to Web Performance Fails of the Week! Each week we’ll report on some high profile performance nightmares via @PerfNightmares on Twitter.

Don’t forget to check out “15 Web Performance Nightmares and the Damage They Caused”. Everyone loves a bit of is schadenfreude after all.

Who’s been in the spotlight this week?

GameStop – Latest amiibo figures go on sale

The latest collector craze sweeping the world is Nintendo’s amiibo figures, a series of toy figurines depicting popular characters, which can be used within video games themselves. The fourth wave of these figures was released for pre-order last week, with American retailer GameStop exclusively stocking a limited edition “Ness” character.

Rare, collectible and extremely popular, it was no wonder demand was high. The bad news was that this took down the whole site so that no other products could be sold until demand died down.

Owl Café – Ticket sale crushes website and app

Yes, that’s right – there’s a café in London where you can share the company of Owls. However, the café, Annie the Owl, is only offering this for a week to those who buy a ticket online – and demand was much higher than what they could actually achieve. This was reflected by the fact that the website just for those who registered for the pre-sale quickly brought the ticketing system crashing down.

There was some Twitter venom sent the way of ticketing site Billetto as well…

Mariah Carey – Caesar’s Palace website falls over

In case you didn’t know how popular Mariah Carey is, she’s actually the record setting solo artist for number 1 hits in the US. So it shouldn’t be surprising that her sending her fans to a website might crash it pretty quickly. In this case it was the Caesar’s Palace website that bore the brunt, having hosted a magazine cover featuring the singer, who will be performing there later this year.

Avoid your own Web Performance Fail

We help blue chip businesses across retail, media, financial services, travel, ticketing and gaming & betting avoid Performance Nightmares by helping them achieve a strategic approach to getting performance right in their applications, as well as implementing tactical fixes. Services includeperformance testing, performance engineering, APM expertise, web and mobile development, andmanaged performance and cloud services. Read more about our Performance by Design approach on our website.

Web Performance Fails of the Week – March 6th 2015

Welcome to Web Performance Fails of the Week! Each week we’ll report on some high profile performance nightmares via @PerfNightmares on Twitter.

Don’t forget to check out “15 Web Performance Nightmares and the Damage They Caused”. Everyone loves a bit of is schadenfreude after all.

Who’s been in the spotlight this week?

V Festival – Pre-sale Woes

The Virgin Media customer-exclusive pre-sale of tickets to the popular V Festival was due to start from 10am this Wednesday. However, to this collective dismay of would-be ticket buyers, this was suddenly bumped back; first by half an hour, then until the afternoon, and finally until the next morning. It seemed that a technical glitch was the cause of the delay.

Kickstarter – Pebble Time Steel rush

Wish smartwatches growing in popularity, the announcement by Pebble of a premium metallic version of their trailblazing timepiece sent fans into a frenzy on the Kickstarter site. This seemed to slow the whole of Kickstarter down significantly, with some unable to access the site.

Forestry Commission – Forest Live ticket sales (ongoing!)

This is seems to be going on as I type this! The Forestry Commission is selling tickets for a “Forest Live” series of gigs across its wildlife venues, featuring acts such as Sam Smith and Robert Plant (no pun intended). However the servers didn’t seem to be able to cope with the demand for tickets, and visitors didn’t seem impressed with the unclear queue they were being placed in to get to the site.

Server busy - Forest Live

Avoid your own Web Performance Fail

We help blue chip businesses across retail, media, financial services, travel, ticketing and gaming & betting avoid Performance Nightmares by helping them achieve a strategic approach to getting performance right in their applications, as well as implementing tactical fixes. Services includeperformance testing, performance engineering, APM expertise, web and mobile development, andmanaged performance and cloud services. Read more about our Performance by Design approach on our website.

Web Performance Fails of the Week – February 27th 2015

Welcome to Web Performance Fails of the Week! Each week we’ll report on some high profile performance nightmares via @PerfNightmares on Twitter.

Don’t forget to check out “15 Web Performance Nightmares and the Damage They Caused”. Everyone loves a bit of is schadenfreude after all.

Who’s been in the spotlight this week?

Adidas – Yeezy Boost flash sale

What happens when one of the biggest celebrities in the world designs a sneaker, unveils it at the Grammys and it goes on sale online? Well, for Adidas Originals, the online sale of Kanye West’s “Yeezy Boosts” went something like this:

Ahead of the European release tomorrow, those wanting a pair of the “extremely limited availability” shoes share the same wish.

Trainsplit.com – Press coverage overloads website

A new website professing to enable visitors to save money on train tickets launch this past week in the form of trainsplit.com. It uses a loophole in the rail ticket booking system to split journeys up into several cheaper tickets as opposed to one more expensive one.

It seems that the process of doing this is quite intensive on their back end systems, especially after press coverage drove more than enough traffic to the site to slow it to a crawl.

TrainSplit

Eventually the site went down altogether.

UK Antarctic Heritage Trust – Job advert crashes website

The UKAHT posted a job advert for four people to work at the Port Lockroy post office off the Antarctic Peninsula. Despite the description (“Can you enthuse to visitors when it is -5C° and blowing a blizzard as well as cook supper cheerfully after a long cold day and very little sleep?”, it cheerily asks), there seems to be plenty of people who find the prospect of living amongst the penguins of Goudier Island attractive, as the website went down.

Port Lockroy, Antarctica

Avoid your own Web Performance Fail

We help blue chip businesses across retail, media, financial services, travel, ticketing and gaming & betting avoid Performance Nightmares by helping them achieve a strategic approach to getting performance right in their applications, as well as implementing tactical fixes. Services include performance testing, performance engineering, APM expertise, web and mobile development, and managed performance and cloud services. Read more about our Performance by Design approach on our website.

Web Performance Fails of the Week – February 20th 2015

Welcome to Web Performance Fails of the Week! Each week we’ll report on some high profile performance nightmares via @PerfNightmares on Twitter.

Don’t forget to check out “15 Web Performance Nightmares and the Damage They Caused”. Everyone loves a bit of is schadenfreude after all.

Who’s been in the spotlight this week?

Amazon – Outage across Europe

Proving that even the biggest names sometimes slip up, ecommerce juggernaut Amazon suffered a brief but embarrassing outage all over Europe this week, although its US site seemed to be unaffected.

It even affected Amazon’s Fire phones, much to the user base’s chagrin.

VisitIthaca.com – Florida advert breaks website

Ithaca is a popular vacation spot in the state of New York, but with the recent weather not being ideal on the east coast of the US, this local travel website decided to admit defeat and suggest that would-be holiday makers choose to go to sunny Florida instead.

It turned out to be an effective publicity stunt, but a flood of new traffic caused the website to get snowed under.

BQ – Ubuntu phone flash sales

The first phone running the Ubuntu mobile OS was released across Europe today, and demand was so much higher than supply that the website struggled to gracefully cope with several “flash sales” promoted by retailer BQ.com.

It seemed that getting one of the handsets truly was a case of being one of the “lucky ones”, as there didn’t seem to be any queuing or intelligent traffic management systems in place to handle the influx of visitors.

Avoid your own Web Performance Fail

We help blue chip businesses across retail, media, financial services, travel, ticketing and gaming & betting avoid Performance Nightmares by helping them achieve a strategic approach to getting performance right in their applications, as well as implementing tactical fixes. Services include performance testing, performance engineering, APM expertise, web and mobile development, and managed performance and cloud services. Read more about our Performance by Design approach on our website.

Brace yourself: Black Friday is coming… in 9 weeks. Will your website stay up?

Winter is coming, which means Black Friday is coming. And Cyber Monday… and Boxing Day – the three busiest days of the year for online retail.

Each year more and more shoppers in the UK are becoming aware of the crazy bargains touted by retailers, both in store and online. And if you think Black Friday and Cyber Monday are only relevant in the US, consider these stats from 2013:

  • Last year, John Lewis reported a large rise in online traffic from midnight to 8am on Black Friday – up 323% on other November Fridays.
  • From 7am to 8am, they saw a 1,340% spike in mobile traffic.
  • Even smaller brands are affected: Maternity focused retailer Isabella Oliver saw a 1,200% increase in traffic on Black Friday.
  • Amazon UK reported than Cyber Monday was even bigger than Black Friday, selling 47 items a second.

The Christmas period in general is a big deal for online retail, accounting for 26% of the year’s sales overall, but while eCommerce and marketing teams are plotting the best campaigns and optimisations to capitalise on the season, IT teams are also working hard to ensure everything runs smoothly.

This is very important when you consider that a crashed website can generate no revenue.

So… will your retail website stay up when the traffic starts pouring in?

Won’t elastic, auto-scaling infrastructure keep us going?

There are lots of ways to ensure websites will remain fast and not crash when Christmas shopping fever hits, but eventually it comes down to sheer available capacity. When you have a fixed infrastructure, this looks like the chart below:

fixedinfrastructure

The black line is the capacity of the website, with the blue line being traffic level over time. For most of the time, you’re not using most of your available capacity – you’re balancing having enough overhead and spending on infrastructure you never use. But in the example above, the blue line (let’s say it’s 7am on Black Friday) peaks above the website’s capacity in the red area, which represents downtime – customers unable to use the site. During this time, everyone already on the site suffers slowdown or gets booted off altogether.

One popular solution is cloud-based auto scaling infrastructure, which looks like the below:

elasticscalingexpected

The expected result is that you scale your infrastructure up and down with your traffic levels, which means you only pay for what’s being used and you can scale up to react to spikes and peaks in traffic.

This works well, but in practice the most sudden and extreme traffic spikes look more like this:

elasticscalingspinup

Because the process of scaling the infrastructure up and down is automated and it takes several minutes to spin up additional servers (as seen in the flat line and red area above), there is lag in auto scaling elastic infrastructure. This means that elastic auto scaling is still vulnerable to sudden peaks (say from a TV advert or celebrity/sponsored tweet) and the website can still experience downtime, even to those who came to the site before the traffic hit.

Pulling the rug out from customers’ feet

The trouble with capacity is that once a website is full, it doesn’t only stop more people from getting in; it effectively slows down or throws off everyone already on the website. Even if a customer has spent 10 minutes filling their basket, servers don’t discriminate and the chances are those baskets will be abandoned.

So what’s your plan?

Fortunately, it’s not too late to invest in an insurance policy against your website becoming overloaded and unable to generate revenue. Intechnica have developed a solution that can manage any overflow in traffic, protecting the website from performance issues while delivering a good, consistent experience to new visitors.

The best part for the IT team is that it’s extremely quick and hassle free to implement – no code changes or extra capacity needed – so it can still be put in place in time for that seasonal peak traffic.

Protecting revenue even at full capacity

The solution is called TrafficDefender, and it works like this:

traffic-defender-queue-diagram

TrafficDefender protects existing website visitors by deferring potentially overwhelming traffic away from the website, keeping revenue flowing beyond website capacity

TrafficDefender watches how many visitors are entering and leaving a website (or entering and becoming inactive). Once capacity is reached, new visitors are automatically directed into a queue to get into the website. Instead of getting an error page or nothing at all, they see a branded page showing where they are in the queue, how long they’ll be waiting and whatever else the website owner wants to put on the page (exclusive discount codes, games, product photos etc.)

As soon as existing visitor’s session ends (either through becoming inactive or navigating away), the next visitor in line is taken straight to the website as promised.

This ensures that you are always delivering the clean, uninterrupted experience to existing customers all the way through their visit, even with the site “over” capacity.

Webinars coming up in October

Join us at 11am UK time on any Thursday throughout October to hear how TrafficDefender works and how it can keep your website running, even if Christmas peak traffic would otherwise bring it down.

Click here to book your place now.

When tech glitches become business problems

Technology and specifically IT are essential to business growth, but IT can become a double-edged sword. When things go wrong, tech glitches become real business problems.

As people begin to expect more out of technology advancements, and these advancements have the potential to improve our day-to-day lives, more and more businesses are looking to innovations and the next progression to support their growth. As we’ve seen in recent years with the demise of traditional brick-and-mortar high street businesses unable to adapt in time to new digital trends (in the past year alone we’ve seen HMV, Blockbuster and Jessops hit hard, and nearly 2,500 stores affected), embracing technology is more important than ever to thrive, especially in the retail space.

However, as important as implementing new technologies is, it’s just as important to get the technology right first time. The investment in IT is now so high that tech glitches are now business problems in the most real way. IT glitches are now recognised as a mainstream issue reported on the front page of newspapers (and perhaps more significantly, virally spread digital news sources and social media discussions).

Chaos at Argos

An IT glitch caused chaos at one of the new Argos digital stores.

One recent high-profile example in the news concerned Argos’s new ground breaking “digital-only” stores. Argos has been a true trailblazer in the “click and collect” genre of retail, and the six new flagship stores are designed to fully embrace the sleek “touch screen”-y experience of the future. However, a technical glitch meant that orders were placed to be collected from these new stores before they were actually opened, leading to a frustrating experience as customers turned up to collect goods only to find closed or unfinished stores.

But it’s not just innovative new initiatives that can cause problems. Even fairly routine progressions and changes can damage business if not carefully implemented. Take, for example, BrandAlley, who brought ire to customers after delays in orders being processed. The cause was a switch to a new IT platform, instigated to prepare for international expansion. IT advancement was necessary to grow, but ended up causing a real business issue. BrandAlley has since given out vouchers worth £25 each to affected customers to save face.

I’ve written about a lot of performance specific tech glitches that cost businesses a lot of money and lost trust from customers on the blog before – from the Facebook IPO crashing NASDAQ leading to legal action, to the BT Sport app being unprepared for demand on the first day of the Premier League – and since performance issues are typically much more difficult to put right than functional issues (just look at the ongoing Healthcare.gov fiasco in the US), it really makes so much sense to pay close attention to performance. Just look at how much poor performance can damage brand and revenues.

So with the pace of IT advancement ever quickening, and our need to see the next advancements growing at least as quickly, just as important as keeping up with the “wave of the future” is making sure these changes don’t do more harm than good. After all, tech glitches ARE business problems.