London2012.com performs worst in Olympics online experience tests
Official London 2012 Olympics website may struggle to cope with high demand
By Derek du Preez | Computerworld UK | Published: 11:15, 25 July 2012
The official London Olympics website, london2012.com, has been found to be the worst performer in a number of online tests carried out to gauge end user experience amongst key 2012 Games websites.
Other sites tested include londonolympics2012.com, visitlondon.com/london2012, timeout.com/London/Olympics-2012, tfl.gov.uk and lastminute.com, all of which are expected to experience high demand and traffic during the event.
The London 2012 Olympic Games begin at the end of this week.
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Compuware completed its analysis on 9 July using SpeedoftheWeb.org, where the websites were tested according to 15 key performance indicators relating to user experience, browser, content, network and server.
The performance of the sites was benchmarked against the performance of the Alexa 100, a global web index.
London2012.com performed badly in a number of key areas.
For example, the Alexa 100 median for server requests, which looks at the number of client/server interactions required to load the content of a web page, is 61.
A high number of server requests indicates inefficient content delivery to the end-user, whilst putting pressure on the server.
London2012.com ranked worst in this test with 261 requests, which compares to a mere 36 requests on londonolympic2012.com.
Michael Allen, Director of IT service management at Compuware said that the high number of requests could lead to the website buckling under high demand.
“As the traffic increases we expect that some of the architectural issues that we have identified will proliferate to what is a performance problem. The number of requests, for example, is probably okay if you only have a few hundred users accessing it concurrently," said Allen.
"However, if you have thousands it’s going to put the servers under increased pressure. People will be denied content because a server can only have so many open connections.”
Compuware suggests that to help resolve this issue, those working on the website should look to group images, such as logos, into one request to reduce the burden on servers.
Wait times were also an issue for london2012.com. The amount of time the browser spent waiting until it could start downloading resources was 1.9 seconds, which compares to 0.04 seconds on lastminute.com.
This is likely to be due to a slow network connection or a large number of resources that have to be downloaded.
The total load wait time, which is when all the content on the web page is loaded, was 12.2 seconds for london2012.com, compared to the Alexa 100 median of 4.9 seconds and just 2.3 seconds on londonolympic2012.com.
Compuware’s Allen believes that these metrics are all things that should have been designed for when the official Olympics site was built, especially considering its high profile.
“I think a lot of these things they won’t be able to change rapidly, it’s probably too late now. Many websites look at performance and design from the outset, you would think that if you were building the Olympics website you know it’s going to have a relatively short lifespan, but in that time it’s going to be under huge amounts of pressure and have high visibility,” he said.
“You would think they would have built performance in from the outset.”
Although Allen said: "[it would be] very difficult to make significant changes now that we are a few days away from the Games”, he does recommend a few measures to reduce pressure on the websites.
“I think you could look to make some rapid changes. One of the problems with london2012.com was the size of the site – the homepage was 4.3MB, which compares with the Alexa median of 0.4MB and tfl.gov.uk’s website of 0.6MB,” said Allen.
“That’s pretty heavy for a homepage. You could compress a lot of the images, which you could do pretty quickly. That would take a lot of the burden off the network. Or they could look to rapidly provision extra datacentre capacity, but that’s an expensive option.”
In other Olympics news, G4S’ CEO, Nick Buckles, confirmed to MPs last week that problems with the company’s scheduling system is partly to blame for the shortfall of over 3,000 security staff for the London 2012 Games.
Speaking at a parliamentary committee meeting, Buckles told MPs that he got a call from the group’s COO, David Taylor Smith, on 3 July, while he was on holiday in the US, citing problems with the company’s rostering software.