A letter to LoadStorm about first-time user experience

When designing an online service, always try to anticipate the motivations of potential new customers, and make it easy for them to get a taste of how things work.

I recently created an account at LoadStorm.com in order to conduct a load test of my blog, having switched hosting providers. I found the site confusing and quickly gave up and left. Today, someone from LoadStorm reached out to ask about my experience, and here’s how I responded:

Thanks for reaching out. I recently switched hosting providers for my blog (dafacto.com), based on a review that someone conducted of several providers, in which they used LoadStorm to conduct load testing. After switching, I thought it would be interesting to conduct a load test of my particular website, at its new home, just to get a sense of what might happen if an article of mine suddenly received a lot of traffic. Arriving at the LoadStorm website, I was happy to find a “free” trial option, but after signing up I found the user experience to be—and please pardon the candor—quite awful. I suppose the concepts of “plans”, “scenarios” and “steps”, as well as all the configuration parameters associated with actually running a test, exist to provide the flexibility to build sophisticated testing scenarios. But as a new user, I was completely confused and quickly gave up and left. In my opinion, it might be worthwhile to assume that some new visitors to your site come with the basic idea of, “I’d like to load test my site” and then present a workflow with some sensible defaults that allow them to do just that — even if not in an ideal configuration — just so they have a chance to experience how a load test works, and get a feeling for the kind of data and information that are produced as a result. My guess is that achieving that would dramatically lower your churn (though I could be wrong.)

Agree? Disagree? What do you think?