The Internet and E-commerce are maturing at breakneck speed, and the days of getting an E-business started on a wing and a prayer are a diminishing speck in the rearview mirror. By all accounts, E-tailers no longer have the luxury of trial and error, as competitors and lost market share can swallow start-ups whole in a matter of weeks.

Survival in the current marketplace can certainly never be guaranteed, but one simple process can certainly diminish your chances of failure: Test, test again, and retest before you launch.

It Takes Three Times

QDI Strategies, which recently released a best practices study for business-to-business E-commerce, found that "It usually takes three times to get it right." According to Michael Barr, a principal with QDI, many things can go wrong with almost any application, and it takes trial and error before an application is ready.

Dan Schoenbaum, manager of E-business strategic alliances at Mercury Interactive, agrees. "With Web site crashes in the headlines nearly every day, testing has become paramount for dot-coms as well as large companies delivering Web applications," he said.

E-Business Alliance

Mercury hosts an E-Business Alliance program, which includes players such as BEA Systems Inc., BroadVision Inc., CommerceQuest, and DoubleClick. The alliance aims to deliver scalable, high-performance E-business applications that provide a positive user experience to their customers.

One member of the alliance, NSTL Inc., operates an E-Commerce Scalability Test Lab, where it previews the usability and performance of hardware and software. "IT managers need objective data that can form the basis for making solid technology decisions," said LloydHolder, director of testing for NSTL.

The lab is capable of generating a realistic load consisting of a mix of user profiles, simultaneously exercising different portions of a dynamic Web application based on real-world Web usage patterns.

Testing Keeps Customers

According to a JupiterCommunications study, 46% of users have on at least one occasion been driven to alternative sites because their preferred site failed. "Each site should allocate 20% to 40% of development time to Web application testing to reduce service outages," the study declares.

"Our clients count on us to help them realize the potential of the Internet as a global sales channel," said Roger Watts, manager of quality assurance at the Internet Solution Center at OneSoft Corp. "The flexibility and scalability of our solutions are critical because positive customer experience translates directly into a bigger bottom line for our clients."

For E-commerce companies, production time is tight and getting applications up and out can be pressured. It seems that smart E-commerce companies don't give in to the temptation of "launch then fix," but "test, test, test, thenlaunch."

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