The risk of a website going down is one which affects all businesses big and small. Even the biggest tech companies including Facebook, LinkedIn and Paypal have all faced some downtime in recent years.
Some have even used humour to combat the situation. A statement from Tumblr issued following an outage straight after Facebook had experienced the same problem, stated: “We thought Facebook’s outage today was pretty cool, so we wanted to have one too. They did 15 minutes, and we topped them with a full 20.”
Whilst humour can make light of a situation (as engineers frantically try to work out what has caused the outage and get the site back online), some users don’t always see the funny side. For those whose user experience has been interrupted at a crucial moment in tasks such as renewing their car tax, registering to vote, signing up for health insurance or accessing money (high profile websites have crashed in all these situations), the negative result can be quite detrimental to both brand and business.
Prevention better than cure
So how can it be prevented if reasons for ‘downtime’ are often unknown and unpredictable? The ‘prevention is better than cure’ approach can be taken by carrying out load testing and implementing monitoring to act as a 24/7 security guard for any website. It will actively keep watch, testing at intervals to check all pages, content and functionality are performing as intended. If any problems do start to occur these can be detected before users come across them and fixed before they halt operations and become open to criticism.
Is it just the making of a mountain from a digital molehill?
It seems not. Opinions matter and Voice of the Customer (VOC) programmes are a common way to improve customer and user experience in business. When it comes to online, 3 seconds to load is the expectation before anything starts to be classed as a problem, so there is little room for error. Many users and wider industry experts will no longer accept the presence of a “404 error” message or “unprecedented demands” as a reason for failure and they will be quick to make their voices heard if it occurs.
In 2015 Computer World UK reported that post launch of an online service for car hire by the DVLA, around a fifth of users were unable to access the site. Many users took to social media to vent their frustration and “user satisfaction with DVLA’s service tumbled from about 91 percent to 82 percent”.
They also reported that in contrast “Vote for Policies, a website run by a team of less than 10 people, managed to scale up its cloud servers to cope with 20,000 users per hour before the election.”
In cases like this where success is dependent on online performance, preparation and prevention are key. With even the smallest of businesses outperforming the larger ones, there soon won’t be many excuses left as to why any online business or organisation failed to be prepared.