Dell's reputation for ecommerce excellence has come under attack after performance tests showed that, in more than a third of cases, its homepage fails to download.
Research on the performance of Dell's UK ecommerce site, conducted by application performance tester Jyra and revealed exclusively to Network News, showed that in 36 per cent of cases the page fails to download first time. Most browsers will cover up this problem by automatically retrying, but this means download times for end users can be extended by around 15 seconds.
"Dell has a fast site - when it can be reached. Unfortunately, it is let down by the number of failures when attempting to retrieve the home page," said Toby Rees, Jyra Research's European technical consultant.
Michael Dell, chief executive of Dell, said industry demand for the quarter was solid. He added that sales via Dell's website surpassed $18 million (£11.3 million) per day during the last quarter, accounting for 30 per cent of overall revenue.
Jerry Gregoire, chief information officer at Dell Computer, told an audience at the recent Giga Information Group's Gigaworld IT Forum that creating an unmatchable user experience online was the secret of the direct PC vendor's success.
"In a diminishing world of goods and services, experiences count and those who do it the best will win," said Gregoire.
Dell admitted that not all of the sales are actually taken online. Much of the company's revenue comes from products viewed online. However, he stressed the pivotal and growing importance of the firm's Web presence.
"We're increasingly applying the Internet to the entire business - from component design to user support - making it easier to do business with Dell, enhancing relationships with customers and suppliers and reducing costs," Dell added.
Dell posted a 42 per cent rise in profit for its first quarter. The direct manufacturer reported net income of $434 million, compared with $305 million in the same period a year ago. Revenue for the period exceeded $5.5 billion, up from $3.92 billion.
During the tests, the time taken for each website to download its homepage was recorded once every 30 minutes over the course of a week, using Jyra's Java based service management technology.
The testing looked at sites from Dell, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and IBM. Dell's site showed the worst performance when it came to both errors in downloading the full page and every item on a page.
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