Bill Huang sits down at his computer. As he connects to the Internet, he glances out at the sun poking its nose above the Hong Kong skyline. It will be another busy day, and he has to order those slippers for his wife before rushing off to a meeting.
He types in his search terms and Google faithfully reports: "Results 1 - 100 of about 1,760,000. Search took 0.34 seconds."
Bill clicks on a the Big Soft Slipper web site and waits for the page to load. "Site unavailable," Bill reads. He hits the "back" button. Then he clicks on another of the 1,760,000 pages Google offered him.
High above Cleveland, USA, the executives at Big Soft Slipper are clinking their glasses and patting themselves on the back. "We sure did it," the CEO crows. "Look at that beautiful home page. Look at the easy navigation. Look at how fast it loads."
Somebody please tell them about Bill Huang.
"Very few people realize how the web site that loads so zippy in their office, flows like molasses on their customers' computers – and may not even be accessible at all," says Vadim Mazo, CEO of Dotcom-Monitor ( http://www.dotcom-monitor.com ), a web site monitoring company. "While they celebrate, they could be losing customers."
Even in the United States, the most developed Internet market in the world, one out of five Internet users still operate on 56K connections. Smart companies have gotten wise, and test their web sites on slow connections – usually 56K. That leaves 13 million Americans with even slower connections – along with hordes of customers in India, China, Australia, Russia, South Africa and elsewhere around the world.
Who is monitoring your web site from Europe and Asia?
"We just opened up a new web site monitoring station in Hong Kong, because there is a growing demand for monitoring web site performance from Asia," Mr. Mazo adds. "While nobody can monitor individual connections, we can monitor sever side connection speeds and web site accessibility – both of which are affected by transatlantic transfers."
In fact, bottlenecks can develop in several spots along the transatlantic connections – bottlenecks that could slow down or even block a web site completely. If a webmaster is not monitoring the performance of his web site overseas as well as at home, he will not be aware of the bottleneck and unable to contact his provider about it.
The fact is that a web site will load slower on the opposite side of the world, regardless of the type of connection the surfer has. But that is compounded when the transatlantic connections, or other local connections, block up.
Is connection speed a problem worth monitoring?
In May 2001, Zona Research reported that slow loading web sites accounted for $25 billion in lost sales each year ( http://www.marketresearch.com/map/prod/483429.html ) As Internet usage continues to climb around the world, that figure might be closer to $40 billion by now.
Another study, by BizRate.com ( http://www.bizrate.com ) in 2000, revealed that most people abandon purchases on the Internet while already in the shopping cart section – 21 percent due to slow-loading pages. In other words, even when the home page and the sales pages operate at a satisfactory speed, customers get frustrated by slow loading or failed shopping carts.
"It's one thing to know that your web site is accessible. It is another to know that all your forms and your shopping carts are performing to your customers' satisfaction," Mr. Mazo says. He adds that web site monitoring avoids the embarrassing moment when the customer lets a company know its site is not accessible. "The only thing worse is if nobody lets you know and you just keep losing sales."
This suggests there is value in monitoring your web site from overseas -- and in monitoring the forms and shopping carts and anything other server requests and user transactions
Stella Huang loves her new slippers. They are just perfect. She really does not care where they come from. The executives at Big Soft Slipper were not monitoring their web site performance, so they have no idea that they just lost a customer. And another customer. And another...
David Leonhardt is a freelance writer, and an online and offline publicity specialist. Contact him at:
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