When it comes to understanding and improving a website system, whether it be a personal project, a business venture or otherwise, it’s vital a web application is tested for its responsiveness in terms of its stability, i.e how well it can handle a particular workload. Businesses can also find out a lot about their website system through software performance testing, which can build performance into the design and structure of the system, prior to any coding taking place.

Performance testing encompasses a range of different tests which enable analysis of various aspects of the system. One of the simplest ways to test the performance of a website is through load testing. This provides information about the behaviour of the system when handling specific loads of users, who might be providing a number of transactions simultaneously on the same application.


The role of load testing in business

Load testing can monitor the system’s response times for each of the transactions during a set period of time. This type of monitoring can provide a lot of useful information, especially for business managers and stakeholders, who look for conclusions based on these results, along with any data to support these findings. Load testing can also raise attention to any problems in the application software and fix these bottlenecks before they become more problematic.

As with any test in performance testing, the results depend on the application under test. The main reason for carrying out such testing is to measure and report the behaviour of the website under an anticipated live load. As a result of testing, end user response times can be reported, as can key business processes, CPU and memory statistics. Importantly, it allows site owners to see how a planned release performs compared to a website system which is currently live.

These results can of course be affected by other factors outside of the system’s control such as the users’ broadband speeds. As with any application under test, every application will differ a little between the simulation of users and the live number of users when it comes to performance testing.


Different kinds of performance testing

Other areas which performance testing can monitor are stress testing, which deals with the upper limits of capacity within the system which determines how well the web application will perform if there is a sudden surge of demand and the current number of users goes above and beyond the maximum levels supported.

Endurance testing also monitors the system’s continuous load. For example, potential leaks can be detected in memory utilization, along with analysis of performance degradation and how the system copes under sustained use.

Other types of performance testing include spike testing, which involves a sudden increase in the load of users, to see how the system behaves and responds to a dramatic ‘spike’ in users. Meanwhile, configuration testing can look at configuration changes to any components of the system in terms of performance and behaviour. In some cases, isolation testing may be required to repeat a test execution and to reconstruct where a system problem lies.

All of these are methods of performance testing which can demonstrate that a system is meeting performance criteria. They can also analyse and compare the results of two systems and even measure which aspects of the system can be improved by discovering what causes it to overload.


Testing a future performance

As technology has advanced, performance testing has become increasingly more difficult to determine. This is in part due to the complexity of modern web browsers and advances such as HTML 5. These new web browsers have various complex features, for example websockets, which mean that messages are becoming more event-driven by user actions.

In the future, HTML clients are undoubtedly going to become more sophisticated, almost like full apps themselves. This will mean that simulated performance behaviour is more difficult and harder to mimic, making it more complicated to understand than the actual system.

The advantage that a performance testing system such as LoadStorm has in this aspect, both now and in the future is that it has a sustainable scripting solution which will be able to overcome a number of issues. While performance testing can sound daunting, its results mean that it’s a process well worth undertaking.

The purpose of performance testing provides its investors a high level of confidence in a web application’s ability to handle large volumes and patterns of traffic prior to going live. This is because testing a site’s web performance is an important part of the web design and optimisation process, an integral cog in uniting both the business and the consumer.