An Overview of Web Application Performance Testing & Its Importance
According to a survey, users are less likely to accept delays of over 10 seconds when using an application, and only 52% of web apps are able to meet the performance targets when released. Undoubtedly, the user experience is the very first fundamental impression that can make users linger on an application or drive them away. And the key element that can make or break the good user experience of a web application is its performance. A stable, fast, and functional web app is the ideal target users aim at, and the developers who crave it should put more thought into the performance testing.
What Is the Concept of Web Application Performance Testing?
To clearly understand the concept of web application performance testing, you should go through the definition of performance tests first.
Definition of Performance Testing
Generally, performance testing is one of the different software testing types. This non-functional testing methodology aims to measure the overall performance of an application, system, or software in terms of responsiveness, stability, scalability, and resource usage under the normal load of a number of concurrent users. When the QA teams execute performance tests, they desire to ensure that the product can work flawlessly without any error or performance issues based on the test results. In the end, the goal of successful performance testing is to measure the performance criteria, including speed, data transfer velocity, response time, resource usage, etc.
Different Types of Performance Tests
Performance testing consists of various sub-types of software testing, but the most typical ones are load testing and stress testing. In brief, a load test is a testing process of putting the expected load on the application and measuring its response under normal circumstances. Load testing tools like LoadRunner, JMeter, and NeoLoad help QA engineers simulate the expected load on the application and collect essential performance metrics. On the other hand, stress tests are the process of putting unexpected or peak load conditions on the application to check maximum operating capacity.
The load and performance testing are often mixed up with each other due to some similarities and misconceptions, but they are not interchangeable in any aspect. Typically, load tests are done to check the application’s response under various conditions, whereas performance tests are carried out to verify different performance-related aspects.
What Is Web Application Performance Testing?
When it comes to web application development, the performance test plays a significant role in securing the overall quality of the product and ensuring that the end-users have a smooth experience while using it. In its simplest terms, web application performance testing is a subset of performance testing that is specifically designed to test web applications, which is carried out to determine how well a web-based application performs in terms of speed, web server response time, network latency, database queries, and so on. By running web application performance tests, businesses can verify the functionalities to see which are workable and which are not, identify performance bottlenecks and optimize their web applications accordingly.
Web application performance testing can be done manually or using automated tools. When manual testing is used, testers identify key scenarios and use different testing tools to monitor the system performance under those scenarios. In automated testing, testers use a performance testing tool to generate a load of virtual users and analyze the system performance under that test data. Some of the popular performance testing tools that are commonly in use are HP LoadRunner, Apache, JMeter, NeoLoad, AppDynamics, Dynatrace Ruxit, etc.
Why Need Web Application Performance Tests?
In this nowadays competitive IT business world, every software company strives to stand out from its competitors by offering the best user experience to its customers. A significant part of providing an excellent user experience is ensuring that the digital product’s performance is able to meet the user’s expectations in terms of speed and responsiveness. If a web application is slow or not performing as expected, users will quickly become frustrated and may even switch to a competitor’s product. This is where web application performance testing comes into the picture. By conducting performance tests for your web apps, you are stepping closer to the target of delivering a functional product to end-users. Here are some of the main objectives of performance tests:
Validate the Core Functions of the Web Apps
One of the key principles to generating web app success is to ensure its solid foundation and the performance of its basic functions. End-to-end performance testing is not a functional testing technique, but it can ensure that all the key features of a web application work properly before release by checking the app’s response time, network latency, database queries, and other important performance metrics. For instance, if you are crafting an e-commerce website where online shoppers wander around and make purchases, then you have to make sure that the key functionalities, such as adding items to the cart, checkout process, and payment gateway, work perfectly. And the optimal way to guarantee everything is functional is to test the web app performance over and over until the test results meet the developers’ requirements and the users’ expectations.
Minimize Downtime & Reduce the Risk of Outages
It is not rare for web applications to experience downtime or outages due to various reasons such as a period increased number of users during peak hours, system updates, or third-party integrations. While some downtime is inevitable, it is better to keep it to a minimum as it can have a negative influence on the user experience and also result in app abandonment and eventually revenue loss for businesses. By performance testing the product before release, software engineering companies can also get the opportunity to identify potential areas of improvement and take actions to not only avoid or minimize downtime but also enhance the overall performance of the outcomes. Moreover, load and performance testing can work side by side to provide more comprehensive test coverage and reduce the risk of web application outages.
Ensure Stability on Multiple Devices & Browsers
With the current growing number of Internet users and the popularity of mobile devices, it shall be a dead end for your software products if you limit them to one platform only. Therefore, it has become extremely important for any web application to provide features that are seamlessly accessed on various supported platforms and offer a great user experience across multiple sorts of browsers, devices, and operating systems.
Since different platforms, browsers, devices, and else definitely impact the load time and other metrics in one way or another, this is where performance tests come in handy and aid you in mitigating the risks of losing prospective users and potential leads due to poor performance and support for one or a few operating systems. In short, checking the cross-platform compatibility of a web application thoroughly while still in the production environment helps developers secure the stability of the final outcome, which is advantageous for the overall success of a digital product.
Best Practices - How to Do Performance Testing for Web Applications Efficiently
As you can see, quality assurance is important in measuring web app performance and if it is done right. Hence, it is essential to build the software testing best practices into your development process to make sure the end product is of high quality, able to meet users’ expectations, and offers a great ROI. However, there will be no one-fits-all format, but at least you can figure out your own optimal set of performance testing types and tools that work best for your project by taking the commonly used ones into consideration. The successful performance testing consists of some crucial steps as below:
1. Prepare the Performance Testing Environment
In this first stage, the QA team and software developers should work along to set the performance acceptance criteria and objectives of the testing. This includes deciding which performance metrics to measure, what kind of workload to use in the testing environment, and how to simulate the real-world user environment as closely as possible. Furthermore, it is also necessary to establish thresholds for each metric so that you will know when the application is not performing as expected and needs further improvement.
Once the performance objectives are determined, it is time to set up the test environment, plan performance test data, and configure the test tools. This is a fundamental stage that can pave the way for the rest of the testing process. The ideal test environment often comprises network configurations, hardware, and software tools. Remember that you should involve both software developers and testing engineers in this stage if you want to establish a fully functional test environment.
2. Design the Test Cases & Scenarios
After having an intelligent testing plan in place and getting the environment and related stuff ready, it is time to start designing the test cases and scenarios to ensure that all the performance objectives set at the beginning are met during the actual testing process. This is also a fundamental stage where the testers identify and predict all the situations users may require help or support with. Therefore, the test cases and scenarios should be designed based on the user stories or use cases of the web application to make sure that all potential user actions are covered.
3. Execute Tests & Analyze Results
Execution is the next step in which all the developed tests are put into action to check whether the web application can meet all the performance objectives set at the beginning. The tests should be conducted on a regular basis and in different environments (such as development, staging, and production) to make sure that the web app can work stably and smoothly in all possible scenarios. This stage can be broken down into two sub-stages:
- Sub-stage 1: Conduct actual performance testing in line with the test design. This will give you an opportunity to detect errors and bugs related to the application’s speed, responsiveness, and stability.
- Sub-stage 2: Once the tests are completed, analyze test results to identify which areas need further improvement. This will help you determine what changes have to be made to the code or architecture of the web application so that it can perform better when handling different workloads.
4. Make Improvements & Retest
After analyzing the performance data, it is time to make adjustments to the code or architecture so that the web app’s performance can be enhanced and optimized. This stage usually requires the software developers and testing engineers to work hand in hand. The former should make necessary changes to the code, while the latter should retest the web application to check whether the changes are effective. If not, more tests and improvements should be made until the application meets all the performance objectives.
5. Deploy & Monitor Production
The final stage of the performance testing process is to deploy the web application in the production environment and monitor its performance on a regular basis since the test results can still fluctuate in time. Repeated and smaller tests will help you detect any potential flaws related to the web app’s speed, responsiveness, and stability so that you can take immediate action to fix them.
In brief, performance testing is essential to the success of any web application. By taking the above steps, you will be able to ensure that your web app can meet all the performance objectives set at the beginning and offer a great experience to users. On the other hand, if skipping the performance tests or taking them less seriously, you may have to deal with a lot of unexpected issues and problems due to the overestimation of the web app’s capacity.