Last fall, AlertBot debuted its first website “Showdown,” pitting cell phone giants Apple and Samsung against each other in an epic web performance death match (of sorts) to see whose website performed the best. (For those results – and to see who won – check out that blog here.)
For our second Showdown, we decided to grab an oversized bucket of popcorn, an unreasonably large cup of soda, and a pair of cheap, plastic 3D glasses and plopped down into the comfiest of chairs to evaluate two of the premiere movie ticket buying sites: Fandango and MovieTickets.com.
If you’re a movie buff who loves a night out reclining in front of ceiling-high silver screens to watch the latest Hollywood has to offer, chances are you’ve purchased tickets online before. And what would be more frustrating than website failure while you’re trying to combat the masses to secure your entry into an anticipated film’s opening night?
We used AlertBot’s external website monitoring system and its TrueBrowser™ technology to monitor both sites from December 26, 2016 to January 16, 2017. Not surprisingly, the performance proved to be pretty good overall, although one of the sites experienced some pretty significant issues on one of the days. Both sites saw some minor “Slow Page” warnings, but MovieTickets.com took a hit right after Christmas with a dreaded “Server Too Busy” error, meaning their website couldn’t withstand the weight of the traffic it was getting.
For the reliability evaluation of a website, we look for failure events (like when a page doesn’t fully load or it is completely down), and we look for the causes of those failures.
Fandango’s website experienced not one single failure event. The worst things seemed to get for Fandango in this time period was a handful of minor “Slow Page” warnings on Dec. 29th and after the new year on the 2nd and 5th. (Fandango 10/10)
Meanwhile, MovieTickets.com experienced what AlertBot considered to be 13 failure events. While most of them were only 3 to 5-minute-long for slow page loads, on Dec. 27th (a Tuesday), the site saw some significant outages where the site was down and reporting a “Server Too Busy” error for nearly 6 hours! When visiting the site during this stretch of time, chances are users were met with the dreaded “Server Too Busy” error message in their web browser instead of the actual site. This would have been super frustrating for visitors (especially if you’re trying to order tickets in a jiffy). (MovieTickets.com 7/10)
When evaluating a website’s speed, we look at the time it takes the site’s homepage to render and load to the point of being fully interactive by the user. We run these tests inside real Firefox web browsers using AlertBot’s TrueBrowser ™ monitoring.
Both websites have pretty busy front pages, but both tend to change often and feature videos or Flash-driven ads and some graphic-heavy content – all of which can really compromise a website’s load time.
Fandango’s speed is solid, averaging less than 2 seconds. Its fastest day was Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 at 1.7 seconds and its slowest was Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016 at just over 2 seconds. (Fandango 9/10)
MovieTickets.com didn’t fare quite as well, unfortunately. On its best day, Tuesday Jan. 3, the front page took almost 4 seconds to load. On its worst day, Dec. 27 (also a Tuesday), it took almost 7 seconds to load – which is definitely below the current online industry’s website load time standards. (MovieTickets.com 7/10)
It’s always interesting to see how sites perform differently across the world. If we look exclusively at the United States, it’s intriguing to see which states regularly see faster or slower times than others. Fandango saw the fastest load times in California (I suppose that makes sense, given the movie industry being centered there), with the slowest happening in Texas. Still, the slowest times were typically still under 2 seconds of load time, with Washington, Virginia and Texas all seeing load times around 2 seconds or pushing 3 seconds. (Fandango 10/10)
For MovieTickets.com, it’s a different story. We already know they struggled with speed, but the question here is – where? California is also the best location for MovieTickets.com, with load times around 2.7 seconds. The worst, again, is Texas, with almost 6.5 seconds. Florida and North Carolina also performed well, while Washington joined Texas as one of the slower locations. (MovieTickets.com 8/10)
For usability, we select a common task a user might typically try to accomplish when visiting the sites and replicate it. For our previous Showdown, we chose the task of ordering the latest cellphone from the respective sites of Apple and Samsung. For these sites, we’ll see how the experience of ordering movie tickets compares to one another.
By selecting a brand new film, it was easy to find the film on the homepage of Fandango.com and start clicking through to order tickets. From the point of typing http://www.Fandango.com into our Firefox browser, clicking on the LEGO Batman Movie poster, putting in our zip code, selecting the next available time and number of tickets, it took roughly 40 seconds to get to the Fandango checkout. That’s not bad. If this were for real, we would have probably spent extra time checking our show time options a bit more, choosing 2D over 3D, etc. But for this task, we figured it’s best to keep it simple. The whole process took about 4 clicks of the mouse with a little typing to put my zip code in.
For MovieTickets.com, we found the experience to be mostly the same. Except, when we put our zip code in, it seemed like MovieTickets.com gave more options right off the bat. Fandango suggests the closest theater for your zip code and the first batch of showings it finds (in this case, it’s a 3D showing), while MovieTickets gives you the full list of showings and format options. Our experience felt more thorough with MovieTickets, getting more choices right away. But we also feel like more options delayed our browsing experience because we had to read and think more. Still, the browsing time for MovieTickets.com – to complete the same process – was the same 4 clicks and around the same 40 seconds.
We tried both again from Google Chrome, and not even factoring in our newfound familiarity with the process for both sites, we found both processes to take 30 seconds each this time. They’re easy sites to navigate and their load times were swift.
So, with all things considered, with the goal being to get tickets for one of the most recent films released ordered, here are the Usability scores:
(Fandango 9/10) (MovieTickets.com 10/10)
We’d say Fandango won by quite a bit, given their better web performance over MovieTickets.com, but I think I enjoyed the usability of MovieTickets.com over that of Fandango’s. The fact that Fandango doesn’t present show time options upfront is a little unfortunate.
Still, one cannot ignore good web performance, and I have to hand it to Fandango for achieving impressive site speed and reliability. So, with that said, the result of the second AlertBot Showdown is…