Updated: Sep 11
One of the most common questions I receive when speaking with brands about their e-commerce site is “How will a third party integration affect my website performance?”. It's a great question and one that seems to be somewhat shrouded in mystery. We’ve integrated many third party applications and so hopefully I can clear up some of these questions.
The Evolution of Digital Integration
E-commerce sites have provided a fantastic opportunity for businesses of all shapes and sizes to expand their reach. With an absolute plethora of companies providing an eclectic array of products and services, businesses are spoilt with choice. It's easier than ever, with no coding experience, to spin up a website, a blog page, create a few products and start selling. Lovely jubbly.
However it's important to recognise that despite this acceleration in innovation and these brilliant user interfaces that seem like sheer magic, the complexity hasn’t disappeared. It's all hiding behind your site. And rightfully so. The lack of friction for businesses to set up e-commerce stores is a great thing for competitiveness and business growth as a whole. Some of said magic comes in the form of extensions and third party integrations which facilitate many aspects of your site, and with these additions comes a layer of trust. There’s a necessity for businesses and developers who are creating these extensions and integrations to provide exceptional customer service and technical know-how, to ensure that your site doesn’t crash and burn for your ever-loyal customer base. Given the outright competitiveness of these services it is nigh unacceptable to provide a sub-par service. Big no-no.
Third-Party Integration types
It's important to understand what the various types of integrations are before talking about their effect on website performance.
Plugins: this could be to facilitate payments, to handle shipping and stock management, SEO purposes or for analytics
Widgets: to display social media feeds, for calendar entries, for search purposes
API: Most modern integrations are usually API-driven solutions. These integrations are usually light-weight, and do not require you to change the look or feel of your website. They require the smallest changes to your existing code.
While third party integrations can affect website performance, they don’t inherently do this. A common misconception is that by adding more layers of functionality, that should correlate with degraded performance. It’s an understandable assumption but this is not the case. The key thing to understand here is that it's the way these integrations are developed and deployed that can affect performance, not the integrations themselves. By following some best practices you can ensure that your website thrives with boundless satisfaction:
Thorough testing: A Comprehensive testing strategy is critical. This means testing all changes and potential impacts in a production-like environment, (ie a fake website with all the same data as a real one). This kind of simulation of a real environment will give you peace of mind that it will work with the real thing. Make sure whoever you’re integrating with is doing this or that you can achieve this yourselves
Code optimisation: Shoddily written code and mishandling of data is never a good thing. Make sure that any providers you use have a track record of immaculate performance. Reviews, testimonials and referrals are very helpful with this. If the code is open-source (free and open to the public), it can be really helpful to get someone with technical expertise to have a look over the code.
Security measures: Poorly coded plugins make your site more vulnerable to hackers. The reputability of the plugin/integration is really important here
Monitoring and alerting: Understanding, metrically speaking, the performance of your site and its extensions is going to put you miles ahead of the curve when optimising your site. It allows you to granularly see which parts of your site are performing better than others and what effect plugins have on it.
Number of plugins: statistically speaking, the more integrations you have on your site, the higher the risk of something going wrong, especially if those plugins are not at the highest standard. There are more things interacting with your site which use up resources and can create latency. Prioritise quality over quantity.
We conduct testing in an environment that closely resembles production, albeit entirely isolated
Website performance impact
Client feedback: No impact. Data is sent to our platform in real-time, with the highest security standards in place
Who writes our code
All of our code is written in-house at Continue, we do not outsource this critical work
At Continue, our services fall under API integrations. We connect your website to our marketplace in order to allow customers to easily resell their pieces when the time comes. We’ve successfully integrated with many brands and have had an amazing response to customer experience and performance. I won’t use this blog to showboat but get in touch with us to hear testimonials from our partners.
The key thing to take away from this is that, at its core, third party services and integrations are a good thing for e-commerce sites. It allows brands to create sophisticated, user-friendly experiences for their customers with very little technical know-how. What is crucial, however, is to ensure the types of plugins and integrations are of the highest standard they can possibly be. You don’t need to be a computer wiz for this, either. Adhering to best practices and applying some common sense can help you on the way to a silky smooth and competitive website. Who doesn’t want that?