A Guide to Load Testing: What It Is and How to Implement It

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 6, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When creating a system or application, having a well-thought-out plan can help you develop an effective final product. One way to create this plan is to complete a load test, which allows you to identify and resolve potential concerns early in the development process. Understanding more about this test and how to perform it can help you minimize repair costs and improve customer satisfaction.

In this article, we explain what load testing is, discuss the benefits of using a load test, explain how to complete one, describe other available performance tests, and offer tips to help you improve efficiency.

What is load testing?

Load testing is the practice of simulating applications or systems once they're in their finalized stage. Design and development teams often use this process to determine if what they're building can function or perform as expected. Using load testing may help provide measurements of the following:

  • An interaction's response time: This refers to the time it takes for content to load after an interaction occurs, such as when someone clicks on a navigation bar to access a new page or clicks the play button on an embedded video.

  • An application or system's breaking point: The breaking point addresses potential loading issues with applications or systems when high concentrations of users try to access it, such as when people buy concert tickets immediately after release.

  • A production's throughput rate: This measurement helps identify the rate at which designers and developers produce the application or system and where companies can reduce complications throughout production to help increase their return on investment (ROI).

Benefits of using load testing

Completing a load test in the early stages of a project offers plenty of benefits, including the following:

Decreased failure costs

Implementing a load test can help you subsequently save money by allowing you to identify and fix errors before they occur. Testing during the development process may also prevent system or application takedowns for repairs. If you take an application or system down, it can discourage people from using it, which may lower revenue. Testing and fixing errors ahead of time may prevent this.

Advanced scalability

When testing the loading capabilities of an application or system, you can identify any limits it may have. For example, you may discover that the current plan only allows 100 users to access an app simultaneously. This information allows you to adjust the plan and scale the capacity so the application can support more users at once. Being able to advance the scalability can help you improve the final product, which may make the application or system better for its users.

Increased customer satisfaction

Completing a load test on systems and applications allows you to find and correct issues long before you release them to the public. This can help you improve customer satisfaction as it minimizes any errors they may experience when using the product. Completing a load test can help you improve user experiences in several ways, such as reduced loading times on an application. This may lead to positive reviews from customers, which may encourage further purchases.

How to complete a load test

If you want to complete a load test, here are the steps you can follow:

1. Determine requirements and criteria

Before you test a system or application, it's important to determine the requirements and criteria. Making a list can give you a guide to reference throughout the testing process and ensure the system or application meets all the requirements and criteria. These conditions may also help provide measuring points for success. Some examples of what these might look like include the following:

  • The home page takes no longer than six seconds to load, even if the user capacity is at a maximum.

  • The system throughput rate supports 100 interactions per second.

  • The central processing unit (CPU) use remains at 80 percent or lower.

Related: Top 12 Manual Testing Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

2. Identify testing scenarios

To focus on key components, consider identifying the most important scenarios to test. For example, if you're testing a new e-commerce system, you might examine interactions such as browsing or the flow of browsing. The flow of browsing testing scenarios may focus on all the steps a customer takes on that system, beginning when they view a product and ending when they check out. To determine what these scenarios are, you might consult with:

  • Business teams

  • Design teams

  • Development teams

Together, you can make collaborative and informed decisions about what scenarios are the most important to test. When you lead a meeting like this, you can first provide everyone with an overview of the system or application and its components.

Related: 6 Different Types of Teams (With Teamwork Examples)

3. Model the workload

After you've determined the specific scenarios you're going to test, you can create a design that models the workload. These designs usually imitate the expected navigation menus and interactions within the system or application. When modelling the workload, it's also important to consider how long you expect users to take for each interaction to help determine whether the loading time is efficient.

4. Design and develop the test

Every load test is different to suit a project's requirements, so you may want to design your own. You can do this by using data such as user patterns, the number of expected users, and typical business flows to create realistic testing simulations. Here are some common time patterns you may use for the test:

  • Slowly ramping down for 10 minutes

  • Slowly ramping up for 10 minutes

  • Steady testing for 30 minutes

To choose a time pattern, determine which one can yield the best results according to your goals. For example, you may use more than 30 minutes of steady testing if you're planning to test several interactions.

5. Implement and complete the test

Once you design the test, you can implement it. To stay organized and keep track of what you're doing, consider creating a checklist. This helps ensure the tests are as accurate as possible. Some items to include on your checklist are as follows:

  • Configuration settings check

  • System or application stability check

  • Load test environment check

For desired results, you may want to start the test with a lower load before increasing it. This may prevent the system or application from overloading.

6. Analyze the results

When completing your load test, you can gather results and analyze them to process how the system or application functions. There are tools you can use, such as application performance monitoring (APM) tools that allow you to easily gather and analyze data. Analyzing your results can help you identify any primary concerns so you can develop a plan to solve them.

7. Create a final report

After completing the testing and analyzing your results, you can compile your findings in a final report. This allows you to summarize any errors or limitations you have found and outline any potential solutions you developed. You and your team can then reference this report when improving the system or application. You can also present the report to stakeholders and managers to obtain their input and keep them updated on your progress.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Report Writing

Other types of performance testing

A load test isn't a team's only option for performance testing. Many companies even choose to complete multiple performance tests throughout a project to ensure their final product is ready for public use. Here are some common types of performance testing:

  • Scalability testing: This test determines whether software can handle an increase in workload. It involves adding data or users while monitoring performance to ensure the software can handle it.

  • Volume testing: Teams flood their application or system with data to see how it handles it. They want to identify whether the application or system can process large amounts of data without slowing down or breaking.

  • Stress testing: Stress testing encourages teams to overload their application or system, allowing them to identify how stable it is. This test allows teams to identify at what point the application or system fails, so they know its capacity.

  • Soak testing: This test identities system problems by evaluating how it performs with a normal workload for an extended duration.

Tips for using load testing

Using load testing can provide many benefits if executed effectively and efficiently. Here are some tips to help you throughout your load test processes:

  • Analyze your current traffic data to estimate how many users may engage with your system or application when it's launched.

  • Consider the browser or server customers may use and how its compatibility with a system or application might influence the load time they experience.

  • Recognize the locations of your users, such as country or region, and determine how those might influence load times.

  • Choose the best testing environment to run your simulations and think about which ones can replicate potential user environments.

  • Consider additional testing as needed, even after releasing the system or application.

  • Reference different testing methodologies to help guide your process and decisions.

  • Evaluate back-end and front-end results to ensure you monitor all activities during testing.

  • Create user personas to help you better understand potential users and their needs.

  • Develop user journey maps to identify where users currently face challenges and how you might avoid or solve them.

  • Share updates and results with stakeholders and managers to keep them informed throughout the testing process.

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