How Not to Run a Load Test

Author: Infomentum

What can we learn from one an example of failure?

We all know that running a load test on your site is best practice. By putting demands on your systems, you can discover the true capacity of your site, as well as identify any weaknesses and bottlenecks. That’s as long as you do it right of course.

One company, sadly, didn't.

Beware the celebrity tweet

A member of the senior management team for a known brand decided they needed to run a load test on their web channel. They had good reasons – they knew a celebrity was going to be tweeting about them and expected some heavy-duty traffic as a result. So they hired a third party to run the test. So far, so forward-thinking.

But, they made one little mistake. One that added up to a colossal waste of time. They failed to let their internal IT team know what they were doing.

Maybe they wanted to see how their IT team would react under pressure – after all, it wouldn’t have been a true test if their team had bolstered their systems in preparation. Or maybe they simply forgot. Either way, it backfired on them.

Protecting the business, failing the test

When the third party ran the heavy load test and the system started to receive load alerts, the IT team did exactly what they were supposed to do. They immediately picked up the unexpected hits on the web channel and swung into action. Since they weren’t aware of any testing, it simply looked as if they were under attack. So they blacklisted the relevant IP addresses and blocked all requests from that third party.

For the IT team it was a win. They’d successfully thwarted a suspected attack and by catching and blocking the source of the hits, they continued delivering uninterrupted service to their customers.

However, in terms of the test, it was a total failure. The third party submitted a failed test report to their customer. From their perspective the site had fallen over (and done so remarkably quickly). As a result, the business learned nothing about the site’s capabilities and wasted a whole lot of money in the process. And all because they failed to communicate with their own colleagues.

So what can we learn from this story?

1) Testing is a good thing. Ambush testing is not.

Yes, you need it to be a true test. But if everyone involved doesn’t have the same clear objectives, then the test will be a waste of everyone’s time (not to mention your money).

2) Consider different scenarios for increased traffic.

There are many reasons a site might experience heavy-duty traffic, from hackers to celebrity tweets. If you have a clear idea of the possible sources, you can have a plan in place for each that doesn’t always involve blocking access.

3) Communication is everything.

Enough said.

Putting Your Users in the Driving Seat

Author: Infomentum

Research shows that a personalised web experience can increase click through rates by up to 300%. But how do you go about creating end-user driven navigation and search that works?

Life would be dull if everyone thought the same. Dull, but it sure would make web design simple.

If everyone's brains worked in the same way, you could create a fixed navigation for your site (public website, customer portal or intranet), confident in the knowledge that everyone would navigate around it in exactly the same way. But, back in the real world, of course they don't.

While it might seem intuitive to you for certain content and information to appear in a certain location, it might be the last place your customers expect to find it. But then you can't create a different site for everyone. Or can you?

End of the road for fixed navigation

Most sites use fixed navigation – a linear and supposedly logical way to find your way around. But this assumes that everyone's logic is the same. Which of course, it's not – as anyone who's ever watched an episode of The X Factor can attest.

So while fixed or perpetual navigation has often been seen as best practice, this doesn’t mean there are not even better alternatives. Today, it’s altogether possible to make the way content is presented dependant on the user journey – reorganising and re-emphasising relevant content in reaction to what the user does.

Understanding your customers

While this kind of user-driven (also referred to as ‘guided’) navigation and search is ideal, it's not always easy to achieve. For a start, if you want a site that responds to your users’ preferences, you'll first need to understand those preferences. And you can't do that unless they are registered with you and have a preferences-driven profile.

What you can do, however, is capture their behaviour as they move through the site and let the system decide what to render and when. But to do this you need to tag and classify all of your content using a strong classification mechanism. And ontology can help you achieve exactly that.

Ontology – the basics

Ontology is an advanced classification mechanism which defines how various entities in a hierarchy can be related or grouped. But unlike traditional taxonomy – the simple, hierarchical way most sites structure content – ontology is more about the semantic relationships between entities and hence the content.

For example, with tree-structured taxonomy you'd see something like this: Home > Products > Gifts > Chocolate. But with ontology the content would be tagged based on its semantic relationship (eg it would understand that chocolate is a gift, but it's also food).

To make this work for your site, you start by building relationships in your ontology and then continue to enhance the results by capturing your users’ behaviour, letting the system learn as it goes. That way, you'll end up with all of your content tagged by relationships, in ways you may well have never predicted.

Learning from Amazon and co

This approach shouldn't just stop at the first click or search result. If you keep adding to your users’ preferences at each level of the site, you will create a rich, personalised experience from start to finish. And the best part is that you can learn from users’ behaviour and enhance your ontology to gain deep insights into your own information relationships.

Take Amazon as the perfect example. You start by searching for a camera. Immediately, the results are filtered based on what Amazon has previously captured about your preferences. Then as the search filter becomes richer (eg as you filter by megapixel, brand and price) even then the products you see are related to your previous behaviour. Meaning you get to what you're looking for faster and you're clicking 'Add to basket' before you know it. Amazon can then go on to recommend more products that other buyers purchased.

Power to the customer

Why bother giving your users this much control over what they see and how they interact with your site? Simple. The more a site is personalised, the better the user experience and the more likely a user is to engage with it on a deep level. Whether that means buying from you or coming back to your site time and time again. Some sites using this approach have seen a massive 40% increase in their page views.

The more control a user has, and the more they drive the contextual search for content, the more you can learn about them. Which in turn means a better user experience for all your visitors.

And that's one bit of logic everyone can agree on.

Becoming a 2.0 Enterprise with Oracle WebCenter Portal

Author: Infomentum

In this post, we going to take a technical look at how a WebCenter Portal can enable effective collaboration throughout an organisation, starting with the simple integration of a discussion forum.

Forget stocks, shares and even bricks and mortar. In today’s information age, a company’s knowledge is its most important asset.

But if that knowledge isn’t shared – so everyone who needs it has access to it at all times – it can be next to useless.

Take when someone leaves for example. If what’s in their head hasn’t been distributed to the rest of the team, you not only lose the person’s skills, you lose their valuable knowledge too.

But that needn’t be the case with a WebCenter Portal.

Unlocking the power of collaboration

A WebCenter is a single point of access designed to share resources throughout a company. So every interaction a company has with its customers, partners, employees and suppliers can be recorded and evaluated via a single source.

Being an Enterprise Portal 2.0, WebCenter enables powerful collaboration tools throughout any organisation. As such, it includes out-of-the-box components for team collaboration and enterprise social networking that are ready to plug into your enterprise portal.

For the purposes of this post, we’re going to focus on just one of those components: how to integrate a discussion forum.

A step-by-step guide to integrating a discussion forum into your WebCenter portal

Step 1:

Run the Managed Server WC_Collaboration. This is the server that allocates collaboration services as discussions and announcements.

Step 2:

Login in to: http://PortalURL:8890/owc_discussions/admin

Step 3:

Select Content from the menu and create the Categories and Subcategories you need. This will generate an ID for each category, making for simple integration later.

Step 4:

In JDeveloper, go to your Portal Application. In the Application Resources, right-click Connections then click Discussion Forums.

Step 5:

Type the name for your connection and ensure you select: Set As Default Connection.

Step 6:

In the next screen, type the URL of your Discussion Service, for example: http://PortalURL:8890/owc_discussions.

Note for admin user: if the security of your portal is set to default then set weblogic as the admin user.

Step 7:

Create a Page inside your Portal Project. This page is where you will integrate the Discussion Service.

Step 8:

Go to Resources Palette –> My Catalogs –> WebCenter Portal –> Service Catalog –> TaskFlows. Then drag and drop Discussion Forums to your Discussions Page.

Step 9:

You will need to set up at least one of the parameters shown in the taskflow property popup, for example:

  • categoryId: set the Category ID from the category you created at the beginning (recommended).
  • forumId: Setting this parameter will force the taskflow to show only the threads of this forum.

Step 10:

That’s it. You’re now ready to invite your colleagues to join the discussion.

A Business Guide to Generation C

Author: Infomentum

Author: Rachel Edwards

With Generation C already a huge demographic which is growing every day, businesses need to ensure that they are capturing Gen C’s attention, whether as their customer, potential customer or employee.

Despite the fact that this group is constantly expanding, the findings of our research report indicate that businesses are not catering for Generation C as effectively as they could be. As a result, they could be missing out on generating revenue by exploiting the connected generation.

Retaining your Gen C employee

As their employee, one simple thing that bosses can do to accommodate Generation C is to allow flexibleProductive Generation C Employees working; the survey showed that this freedom allows them to be more creative. Better still, the vast majority of bosses involved in the survey noted that they trusted employees not to skive when they aren’t in the office – great news for Gen C employees.

For CIOs and IT managers worrying that their equipment simply isn’t up to scratch, there’s also good news. Gen C aren’t necessarily aiming for the best and most expensive technology on the market, they simply want to work in the best way possible for them. This could mean bringing their own device to work, or the option to work flexibly from different locations. For this to happen, it’s the internal systems which crucially need to be up to standard.

An effective content and information management system will allow Gen C employees to access documents quickly and easily, without wasting time looking for the information they need, or worse, having to recreate a document that they can’t find. This system needs to be accessible whatever the device being used, and whether or not the employee is in the office.

Don’t forget your website

It’s not just internal documents that need to be accessible on the go. With both employees and consumers using your website, it’s also essential that it gives the best possible user experience across multiple channels. Gen C expect websites to be responsive to the type of device they are using.

Gen C don’t appreciate being bombarded with sales message, and will be immediately switched off from websites with annoying pop-up adverts. Perhaps more frustrating for these digital natives however is not being able to get onto a website at all; over half of survey respondents noted slow loading pages as their biggest bug bear online.

Socialise with Gen C

Generation C are highly collaborative and appreciate two-way conversations. With that in mind, utilising social media is indispensable, through whichever channel is the best medium for your business and industry.

For more hints and tips for businesses to interact effectively with Generation C, download the full report ‘Generating Success with Generation C’.

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