Survey: Shopping trolleys are wobbly online, too

The majority of UK websites have unreliable shopping carts, according to a recent survey

Too many online shopping carts are proving as unreliable and erratic as their real-world counterparts, according to new research. One fifth of online shopping carts did not function for 12 or more hours in a four-week period, in a recent test of 51 UK ecommerce Web sites conducted by SciVisum, a Web testing company.

Over three-quarters of Web sites failed to meet 99.9 percent availability of shopping carts, equating to 43 minutes of accumulated failures a month. Only 20 percent of shopping carts were found to be able to handle daily and weekly traffic patterns consistently, according to the survey.

The best performers included John Lewis, WHSmith and Figleaves.

Ian Tansley, head of IT at John Lewis Direct, on Friday said the company achieved its strong performance online by "doing stacks of monitoring and load-testing" to ensure the constant optimal performance of the website.

"The key is keeping it simple -- and having a good design to start with," said Tansley. 

He warned that downtime usually happens after changes are made to a website and that it is vital to pay particular attention at these times.

Companies need to get online shopping carts right as the trend towards online shopping increases. Research conducted by Visa found that its UK cardholders spent more than £2.4bn on the Internet in the first quarter of 2004, an increase of 123 percent compared to the same period last year.