Monday, July 11, 2005

I'm Taking Notes, It's the Little Things

Have you ever noticed something at your place of employment that made you think to yourself, "That's not what I would do if I ruled the land." - Of course you have. If you haven't you're not paying attention, you don't care, you work for the most perfect people on the planet, or you're not that bright!

Today, I spoke up about something that has been bothering me at work. (While I am working on forming this software company called, Ataraxis Software [maker of the future "greatest web-based Project Management software, ever" ;) ], I still have to work a regular job-type-job.) As the title of this blog post suggests, it's a little thing. It probably wouldn't bother most of the people in the world, but it's driving me up the wall.

Our team has built and maintains a pretty successful transactional web site. The site serves up our product list from a database, customers pick the one they want, and then proceed through a few screens to purchase it.

Now, here's the part that is driving me crazy. (Don't jump to conclusions and say, "a few screens!" That's too many for any ordering process! Calm down, it works for this industry.)

When the marketing people need to update something related to a product, they put the content into the system. In order for the non-critical information to appear on the web site we need to do what we now call a "refresh" of the site. In a nutshell we run something that clears out all the cached data in the server's memory, and the next page hit to the web site starts refilling the memory.

What drives me crazy about this?

The first page hit to the site after a refresh takes about 7 seconds to load.

"7 seconds? That's what is bothering you?"

Well, yes. It is. I don't have exact numbers (and I wouldn't give them to you anyway), but there are several other items you then multiple to the 7 seconds to determine just how broad of an effect this refresh has on the site. The point I'm trying to make is that a whole lot of people are being forced to wait, what I consider, a long time before they see content show up in their browser. If they stick around that long! - My concern is that it could cost us customers.

In the big scheme of things, yeah, this honestly is a "little" thing. The site is a success, and it's beaten out every expectation the company has placed on it.

But that's just how I am.

I suggested we only do a site refresh during the slowest period of activity, but it was deemed not severe enough of an issue to deviate from our current modus operandi. Since it was deemed not severe enough for that kind of a change, I can't see it being given a priority for a programmer to cook up a staged cache-refilling situation that would be near-seamless to the user. There's more important enhancements to make to the site, and I understand that. We're probably going to make more money on the other planned enhancements then on what I'm suggesting.

But I'm taking notes.

#1) There better be a damn good reason why the user experience is interrupted.

Now let's see if I can be that high-horsed when it comes to my company and my products. ;)


Anonymous Andrey Butov said...

7 seconds !!!

Do you know how much work I can get done in 7 seconds! :-)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005 12:20:00 AM  
Blogger Michael Sica said...


More importantly, how long will you wait for a web site to respond to your input before you are frustrated and leave?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005 12:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Ian said...

Just curious about why you just don't modify the cache cleaning script to make a few http calls at the end and hence force the pages to rebuild before too many customers get stuck doing this?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005 9:44:00 AM  
Blogger Michael Sica said...

Ian - we can do that, but the site would still be out of commision while that is happening. With a little thought something could be put together that would be pretty seamless to the users. It all comes down to priority, and I'm not in charge of that. :(

Tuesday, July 12, 2005 10:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Ian said...

Well hopefully that changes soon ;-)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger Maxim Porges said...

DISCLAIMER: I work with Michael, and know exactly what he's talking about...

Ideally, we'd just update the cache for the items that changed. This would probably take only a few hours to code an admin for, but as you stated, Marketing isn't terribly concerned about the 7 second delay.

If it bothers you that much, I'm sure you'll be excited about coming in on a Saturday to code the solution... :) "Yeah... we're going to need you to work on Saturday AND Sunday..."

- max

Thursday, July 14, 2005 10:28:00 PM  
Blogger Michael Sica said...

Max, If I was earning commision off of the sales, yeah damn right I'd code up a solution!

(Here's another disclaimer - I rarely do any work related to the site I'm mentioning in the post. I'm on other projects, but it still bugs me!)

Thursday, July 14, 2005 10:36:00 PM  

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