You need the capacity to manage your customer requests comfortably
It doesn’t take an IT expert these days to know that there are websites and apps that run silky smooth, making transactions a simple and stress-free operation, and others that deliver a clunky, confusing interaction, leaving customers wondering if they’ve actually bought what they came for or not.
Worse still, there are plenty that take too long to load—or don’t load at all—forcing us to jump ship to track down one of those silky smooth sites we all prefer.
The failures of those poor performing sites come from a variety of issues. They could be badly built, poorly coded affairs that will never provide the user experience we’re used to. Alternatively, and more frequently, it’s going to be that the servers that manage the operation aren’t sufficient to handle the number of requests made by the website software and its traffic load.
What sorts of actions soak up server resources?
Every time a user asks your website to perform a task—whether selecting the next product page, watching a video or zooming in on images, adding an item to their basket or completing the checkout operation—it all takes processing power.
Delivering images, reading and activating scripts, performing site searches for particular products, calculating costs for shipping and taxes, and updating inventories all add weight to your system. During a normal day at the office, your website handles all that without a hitch. But what if you’re inundated with users that you didn’t expect? What if your site has to manage a hundred thousand visitors instead of the 10k you usually see?
Managing all of those additional functions makes a huge difference, the sort of difference that can cripple a website that isn’t prepared for such a boost. Not only will you fail to take advantage of all that bonus traffic and associated sales, but you’ll drop all of your usual daily conversions too.
How can you safeguard from too much website traffic?
Optimise your website to handle bigger numbers
It’s quite possible to optimise a website’s performance to direct more power into your most essential tasks from the same sized servers. For example, limiting your product ranges, the number of images you use to help sell each one, stripping out the video reviews and tutorials that use up valuable processing power can streamline your system performance. But why would you do that? They’re all the things your visitors love and want to see and the best players to help you achieve the ROI you’ve driven those high numbers to achieve.
There are other, far healthier, ways to optimise your site performance. Content distribution networks, for example, respond to the less important pages of your site, leaving your system to do the heavy lifting required by the dynamic content that earns you the big bucks.
Compression filters can help with load times or distribute the loading time over several view states, and stripping out those outdated or badly-coded scripts can help speed life online up too.
But is that enough to manage those vast bumps in traffic? Sadly, not usually.
Load testing provides the data that drives the best decisions
Putting your website through its paces in a safe environment is the best way to see how your current system will perform under pressure. Sending slowly growing levels of traffic into your website—under controlled conditions, of course—shows you precisely when its architecture is put under pressure and when it will crumble and crash.
With all that new data at your fingertips, you’ll have all the information you need to know when your site is likely to come to a grinding halt and how many visitors it will take. You’ll also see where bottlenecks are likely to happen, and where you can, you can use your new data to help rectify those weak points and solidify your process.
It’s a great process for testing—one we heartily recommend. If you want to know a little more about how load testing works, ask one of our experts. They’ll be more than happy to answer your questions.
Where does too much traffic come from?
You’ve carefully watched your website build pace, growing in size and attracting more traffic each month. As life progressed, you’ve even upped your server capacity to handle the regular traffic you achieve week by week.
All of your careful monitoring has kept you safe up to now, so why on earth would your diligence fail you in future?
Here are a few reasons why site operators are blindsided more often than you’d expect, even of the best, most popular and progressive operations.
1. Seasonal shopping days drive you over your peak
You’ve got a good handle on how much traffic flew through your homepage and your checkout system last year, but can you guarantee it’s going to be the same this year? Unfortunately, so many businesses underestimate what another year can do to grow their traffic and how much more popular online trading becomes over each year that sails by.
All it takes is one deal to make the headlines or a single must-have product to drive your figures over your limit. Black Friday, Christmas promotions, January Sales—have you really catered for every eventuality?
2. Unexpected traffic spikes
One of the biggest issues coming out of the unknown is receiving unexpected mainstream press coverage or a viral push from an unforeseen source. Without a chance to plan for your product featuring on a TV show, being worn by a superstar or highly praised by a social media influencer, the subsequent traffic they deliver can shut your website down before you’ve had a chance to react to the news.
There are also events from less than respectable sources that drive traffic to unexpecting websites. For example, bot traffic and black hat operations are designed to crash sites, bringing awareness to a particular cause—your site just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
3. Marketing campaigns that go far better than you expect
Okay, so your monthly emails and social media advertising bring roughly the same amount of visits and sales each month. But what about that stroke of genius coming from your marketing department that hits hundreds of brand new markets and new leads?
If you've failed to prepare for a high-volume day of traffic, you won’t just lose the sales from that day when your site crashes, but all the return and repeat business when your brand’s customer confidence hits zero for all those new would-have-been customers.
4. A new product, collection, event or appearance drives you over the limit
Product launches and single-day special events are some of the big-hitting traffic drivers that can cripple an ill-prepared business. Pre-event and pre-sales traffic is often enough to warn you of what’s ahead, or it could even be enough to choke your system before the promotion even launches. Being prepared for a big hit means preparing for all of its in-roads—not just sale day.
What does too much traffic look like to your servers?
It looks like a broken dam flooding a town in a disaster movie. Or what about those Boxing Day sales queues you see outside your favourite high-street retailer, whose teams and floor space are going to be overwhelmed as soon as they open the doors at 9am?
For your servers, there just isn’t the processing power available to manage excessive volumes of traffic. The result is grinding everything to a halt until the problem gets sorted.
What should you do with your overflow traffic?
The solution is to distribute your web traffic into areas where it’s safe yet still has access to your website at a pace your system can comfortably manage.
You could pay for those additional servers that will comfortably cater for every last user you could possibly attract, but then that’s a lot of wasted resources for the days you only use a tiny percentage of their capabilities.
It would be like paying for a fleet of gigantic trucks to deliver a few pizzas to the next street. Of course, for the few days each year that you need to transport 100,000 pizzas to the opposite end of the country, those trucks are incredibly handy, but for the other 360 days—you could drop those boxes off from the back of your bike. And all those empty trucks? When you’re not using them, they’re just draining your pocket in parking fees and maintenance costs.
Could there possibly be a way of efficiently managing excess traffic overflows that don’t mean investing in architecture you don’t need? Of course there is.
A comfortable queuing solution keeps everyone informed, aware, calm and content
Our online queuing system filters out your overflow of visitors into a simple, seamlessly delivered digital waiting room—in your company colours, brandishing your logo, speaking in your brand voice, keeping everyone calm, comfortable, and collected.
To prevent frustration rising, each customer is kept up to date with the information they need: where they are in the queue, how many customers are in front of them, how long it will be before it’s their turn and that the queue runs on an entirely fair, first-come, first-served basis.
Understanding that they’re being taken care of and that they’ll get those festival tickets or new trainers in just a few minutes, they’ll be happy to sit tight while your system catches up with its backlog.
Too much traffic is only a problem if you’ve failed to prepare for it
Your virtual waiting room might only kick in a handful of times each year, but you’ll be so glad it's there when it does. It’s the safety net that will save your website over and over again. It will help you boost customer confidence, conversions, and your top line figures. Isn’t it time you talked to our team before any one of those disasters we spoke about strikes?