June 12, 2008, 12:00 AM

Web 2.0 isn’t all fun and games, site performance expert says

Retailers should be sure that the flashy Web 2.0 features they want to add to their sites aren’t added at the expense of essentials like fast page loads, Imad Mouline of Gomez Inc. said at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition this week.

Retailers should make sure that the flashy Web 2.0 technologies they want to incorporate into their sites aren’t added at the expense of essentials such as fast page loads and clear product images, Imad Mouline, chief technology officer for Gomez Inc., said this week at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago.

It’s easy for retailers to be wooed by the glitz and glamour of mesmerizing Flash sequences and rich AJAX functions, Mouline said during his presentation, “What Might Go Wrong With Web 2.0: How to Anticipate and Fix Problems.” And he said it’s natural for merchants to want to stay on top of changing technology. “End users’ expectations are changing,” he said. “And more retailers are wanting to make their sites as rich as possible.”

But before rolling out new features and functions, Mouline suggests merchants take time to test the technology across Internet browsers such as Mozilla’s Firefox, Apple Inc.’s Safari and the multiple versions of Internet Explorer such as Internet Explorer 6 and 7. They also may want to consider how their web sites will look across different operating systems and screen sizes and how fast the pages load with dial-up, high-speed broadband and regular-speed broadband connections. Even different geographical regions can have an impact on a user’s site experience, he said.

“Make sure your site looks the way you intend it to look,” Mouline said.

Mouline recommends merchants test their sites outside the work environment to see how they work across browsers, in different locations and on different operating systems before employing new 2.0 features. To demonstrate the importance of testing, Mouline showed case studies of sites where entire images disappeared in the shift to a different browser and how one page that loaded quickly on one operating system returned a time-out message on another.

He also suggested retailers closely monitor their vendor relationships and constantly test to make sure third-party content served up on their sites doesn’t clash with content produced in-house. Coding such as Javascript put out by one company can clash with that produced by another, he said. And, because retailers may not know when vendors update their systems, they should monitor and test routinely. “It’s still your site and your brand,” Mouline said. “Users aren’t going to blame a third-party vendor.”

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