A faster FT.com

How slow websites damage publishers revenue

The FT is building a new version of its website.

Conventional wisdom states that web performance matters and the emphasis of new technical standards like H2 and products for publishers like AMP and Instant Article is speed, acceleration, and instantaneousness.

But why does this matter to our business?

We wanted to understand how much the speed of our website affected user engagement, specifically, the quantity of articles read, one of our key measures of success. Using that data we then wanted to quantify the impact on our revenue.

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Can We Test It? Yes We Can

Hopefully as developers who practice more-or-less test driven development, the excuse that “this code isn’t really testable” should always be challenged these days – indeed, one definition of “legacy code” is “code without test cases”. But what about the non-executable artefacts of a component? There’s usually more than just a binary file involved in deploying a service: for example, a service might transform documents using XSLT, invoke an internal scripting engine, or have a configuration file generated by some templating framework. Can we automate checking on these additional pieces of the jigsaw to reduce the risk of launching broken deployments?

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QuickStart Software Development

What is QuickStart?

Here at the FT we have been trialling a new method (at least for us!) of beginning a software development project. Essentially, the entire team (developers, testers, product owners) assemble in a room with the aim of producing a quick and dirty prototype based off a given value statement. We also invite people from other teams who have an interest in what we’re about to do: either they’re going to use the functionality we are developing or they need to provide us with something for it to work. We call this a QuickStart session.

The idea is that we learn about complexity to a good level of detail early on, allowing us to provide reasonable, evidence-based estimates to the business.

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Improvements To FT.com Content Functional Tests

Did you read Martin Roddam’s blog post? If not, it’s well worth a look before you read this blog post. He explained the automated testing on our current CMS (content management system) for FT.com. He also described the new testing strategy being utilised in the forthcoming CMS replacement. This blog post is a sequel of sorts, explaining what we did to solve some of the testing problems on the current system. We intend this to form part of a trilogy of epic testing blog entries.

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Issues working with large legacy automation test suites and how (we think) we got it right the next time

“The automation tests are passing at around 80% so I think we’re good to release”

We’ve heard this expression before and it doesn’t bode well. We release code into the production environment and within a few days a new defect is reported.

“How did this get missed?” asks the editor.

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Mobile Testing: The Uphill Struggle

The Early Days

When the Financial Times launched its first Mobile Web App in 2009, little was known about the potential impact mobile platforms would have on the way we consume news and information.

The existing, but recently launched, m.ft.com site was already a successful platform in its own right, primarily aimed at the business user on Blackberry Devices which were unable to effectively render www.ft.com.  In 2007 the launch of the Apple iPhone device and subsequent success of the App Store, provided an opportunity to offer a portable digital FT that FT.com Desktop users could access from their pockets at any time.  The iPad was launched a few years later along with a small number of Android alternatives.

The FT met this new challenge with native apps that would work on each of these individual platforms.  The initial presence in the App Store and the subsequent retreat in 2011 are well documented.  What has been maintained throughout has been an opportunity for FT readers to access the FT on whichever platform they choose.

In 2010, the FT Mobile QA team was in its infancy.  One part-time test resource was assigned a handful of devices based on what was currently being actively sold and marketed. This was a fairly simple task given there wasn’t much choice on offer at the time.  The devices included handful of iPads, iPhone 4’s, HTC Desire’s, Blackberry and a Samsung Galaxy 7”.

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