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Web Performance is a Journey, Not a Destination

Mehdi Daoudi

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Why The Gap’s ‘Scheduled Maintenance’ Feels More Like an Outage

This post was co-authored by Greg Rubin & Narangerel Bat-Ochir

September is a critical month for online retailers. With one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year just a couple of months away, September is crunch time for ecommerce companies to wrap up optimization tasks before many enter a holiday code-freeze. This is also when customer experience and brand reputation can truly make or break your holiday revenue.

Last week, however, The Gap had an even bigger issue to deal with. According to Internet Retailer, four of the ecommerce company’s five brands went offline in the effort to update their sites for a “better shopping experience.” OldNavy.com, Athleta.com, Gap.com, and BananaRepublic.com went down Thursday morning, displaying an error message stating the sites were unavailable while they were making improvements.

This is The Gap’s homepage performance right before the maintenance occurred:

gap-before2http://assetsblogfly1.catchpoint.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/GAP-Befo... 300w, http://assetsblogfly1.catchpoint.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/GAP-Befo... 768w, http://assetsblogfly1.catchpoint.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/GAP-Befo... 624w" sizes="(max-width: 1014px) 100vw, 1014px" />

 

Shortly after, the webpage displayed a 503 response, which is used to communicate when a service is unavailable.

gap-downhttp://assetsblogfly1.catchpoint.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/GAP-Down... 300w, http://assetsblogfly1.catchpoint.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/GAP-Down... 768w, http://assetsblogfly1.catchpoint.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/GAP-Down... 624w" sizes="(max-width: 625px) 100vw, 625px" />

After roughly 10 hours of downtime, Gap.com was back up and users were able to access the site.

gap-outtage1-jpghttp://assetsblogfly1.catchpoint.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Gap-outt... 300w, http://assetsblogfly1.catchpoint.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Gap-outt... 768w, http://assetsblogfly1.catchpoint.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Gap-outt... 624w, http://assetsblogfly1.catchpoint.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Gap-outt... 1497w" sizes="(max-width: 625px) 100vw, 625px" />

 

While this was apparently scheduled maintenance, customers were not notified that access would be prohibited and, according to some Twitter users, email promotions were offered during this time, even though access to the site was limited.

“I love it. @gap just sent out an email sale promo and their site is down. Better shopping experience?#badmarketing,” tweeted Tierney Helmers ‏@TierneyHelmers1.

“@Gap How am I supposed to shop when up early w/ toddler if site is down? I’m guessing it wasn’t ‘scheduled,’” said Kayla Wherry Haley.

Whether this was truly scheduled maintenance or not, the limited access should have been communicated directly to customers to ensure that customer experience remained intact, even when shopping wasn’t impossible. Amazon and Salesforce offered examples of how to do this during recent outages.

Today’s Internet landscape requires online businesses to perform frequent maintenance and improvements to keep up with their competition. This instance, however, is a humbling reminder that user experience should always be your top priority—especially during the biggest shopping season of the year.

The post Why The Gap’s ‘Scheduled Maintenance’ Feels More Like an Outage appeared first on Catchpoint's Blog.

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Catchpoint radically transforms the way businesses manage, monitor, and test the performance of online applications. Truly understand and improve user experience with clear visibility into complex, distributed online systems.

Founded in 2008 by four DoubleClick / Google executives with a passion for speed, reliability and overall better online experiences, Catchpoint has now become the most innovative provider of web performance testing and monitoring solutions. We are a team with expertise in designing, building, operating, scaling and monitoring highly transactional Internet services used by thousands of companies and impacting the experience of millions of users. Catchpoint is funded by top-tier venture capital firm, Battery Ventures, which has invested in category leaders such as Akamai, Omniture (Adobe Systems), Optimizely, Tealium, BazaarVoice, Marketo and many more.