December 2, 2004, 12:00 AM

How eToys keeps up site performance as sales rise 34%

Even though sales on eToys.com rose 34% year-to-year on Nov. 26, the retailer maintained site performance through steps such as limiting page weights to under 200 kilobytes, eToys says.

Even though sales on eToys.com rose 34% year-to-year on Nov. 26, the retailer maintained site performance through steps such as limiting page weights to under 200 kilobytes, Steve Ridley, director of technical operations for eToys Direct Inc., tells InternetRetailer.com.

“We haven’t seen a significant performance impact from the holiday surge,” Ridley says. “But it’s a difficult battle in the toy industry, because we want rich pages with lots of graphics and that can slow pages down.”

EToys has taken several steps to maintain the speed of page downloads, reduce traffic surges and help shoppers find what they want faster, Ridley says. It will continue to test page design, for instance, to get the best mix of graphical presentations that allow a page to download in about 3 seconds. That requires a maximum page weight of about 180 kilobytes, though Ridley says he’d like to get that closer to 100 kilobytes.

In addition, eToys uses a mix of internal and external monitoring tools. It uses tools from Keynote Systems Inc. to monitor Internet speed outside of its web site, and compares that information to data it collects with in-house tools that monitor internal site speed.

It has also worked to improve its site’s shopping experience in other ways. EToys installed a new site search function in August from Endeca Technologies Inc., replacing an in-house system and significantly shortening the time it takes shoppers to find particular products, Ridley says.

And to keep orders and other operations moving quickly during peak periods, it designed an in-house system that alerts eToys managers whenever batches of orders or other commerce transactions get backlogged. “It alerts us if we have an immediate problem, so we can react faster,” Ridley says.

In addition, eToys has launched online versions of its catalogs hosted by a third party to reduce traffic volumes on the eToys infrastructure. And it uses a content delivery network that caches and delivers images to site visitors from the nearest caching data center, maximizing the speed of page downloads.

EToys Direct also owns and operates doll retailer MyTwinn.com, and it operates KBToys.com under a long-term licensing agreement. (EToys.com and KBToys.com were once sister web sites under KB Toys Inc.) EToys Direct also handles online toy operations for Sears.com, Buy.com and QVC.com.

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