Black Friday and Cyber Monday point to the high demand put on many of the major retailing sites and the intense interactions and transactions they must withstand. Similarly, the top travel and hotel sites are expected to perform well – make that very well – under pressure. The week of November 25 – Thanksgiving Week - is probably one of those times when more people than usual are traveling and using these sites.
Keynote Systems examined the performance of hotel websites during that time period. Between approximately 6am PT and 3pm PT on Monday November 25 across a number of sites, Keynote noticed slowdowns and failures where measurements exceeded a maximum allowable time limit (timeout). In particular we saw Hilton, Intercontinental and Holiday Inn being affected.
The culprit appears to be third party content and specifically Yahoo! Advertisement Brands.
The role of third party content is an essential part of any major website. But ultimately the site owner has no direct influence over ads, social widgets and tracking tag performance when delivered from external companies like DoubleClick, Facebook and Adobe.
Having said that, while a website owner doesn’t have direct control, they do have a say in how to monitor and mitigate the impact. In this instance the culprit might be Yahoo!, but it highlights how even a major provider of third party content can succumb to performance challenges and in turn affect a site.
At Hilton, the most impacted metric was the “Time to Interact” – the amount of time before a user could swipe or click on a link to do something. In this instance, the placement of the advertising calls delayed the execution of the on Load event on the browser.
Once again, page design has a big impact on user experience; particularly the number of objects and where/how ads are placed in the HTML code. Ideally ads should be placed low enough on the page to limit their immediate impact. This is one of the best practices of page design. We see this happening with Comfort Inn, Super8, Choice Hotels and Ramada. As a result, third party content’s performance impact is minimized, avoiding any slowdown in the “Time to Interact.”
But instead over at Hilton, Intercontinental and Holiday Inn the site design is actually blocking the “Time to Interact”. Hence the timeouts.
So while Yahoo! experienced slow delivery of some of its content, it’s the way these lodging sites manage third party content that makes the difference to the overall page performance and end user’s experience.