Web Development Steps to Take to Prepare Your Website for Holiday Traffic Spikes

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017
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With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the entirety of the holiday shopping season on the horizon, now is the time for businesses to make sure that their web design and web development are sufficient to withstand the influx of traffic they are about to experience. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday crowds having taken down the websites of businesses as large as Best Buy and Walmart in the past, no one is immune to the potential slow downs and crashes that can occur if a website cannot handle the influx of traffic created by holiday shopping and holiday sales. Here are a few steps to take in the coming weeks to help you ensure that your website can handle any volume of traffic.

Check with your web host regarding your server capacity.

The first step in preparing your website for holiday traffic spikes is to check with your web host regarding the capacity of the servers hosting your site. If they cannot handle the anticipated influx of website visitors, it is likely that they will crash, taking your website with them. To avoid this issue, ask your web host to prepare your site for an increase in traffic, either by moving your site to larger servers or by implementing scalable resources that can handle crowds of any size. Good choices include dedicated (instead of shared) servers and content delivery networks (CDNs). Once you are sure that your web host will not fail during the traffic spikes, you can turn your attention to web development details within your site that can make or break your site’s ability to handle larger than average traffic numbers.

SEE ALSO: Prepare for Black Friday/Cyber Monday with These Web Design Tips

Compress files to create faster load times on all devices.

When it comes to improving load speeds and avoiding slow downs and crashes, one smart web development move is to compress the files that visitors are downloading when they visit your site. For example, you need high quality images on your site in order to create a compelling and professional look. However, by scaling down the image size and compressing it so that it takes up less space, you can create faster load times that work across all devices (even mobile ones). You can also reduce the impact of your website’s files in other ways. For example, reduce the number of files needed to load your site by combining your scripts into fewer files, turning the menu buttons on your navigation bar into a single image, and so forth. An experienced web development company can help you to streamline and compress all of your files without compromising either the quality or the performance of your site.

Implement browser caching into your web development preparations.

Browser caching refers to the practice of a browser storing a copy of a web page. The next time a visitor visits that page, the browser can pull it from where it is stored rather than downloading the page all over again. This practice makes it faster and easier to load a website. As a result, browser caching can be an ideal web development tool for handling influxes of traffic. Browser caching will reduce the number of downloads required of your website (and its servers), thereby allowing your site to comfortably handle larger amounts of website traffic. In addition, the faster load times possible with the use of browser caching will serve as a strong indicator of your company’s competence and professionalism, encouraging visitors to come back again and again to do business with you.

Reduce dynamic content for the duration of the traffic increase.

Another web development tool you may want to consider if you foresee a large influx of traffic over a specific period of time (Say the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend) is static content. This is material (Or entire web pages) that does not need to be processed or changed in any way before being delivered to the website visitor. The same material is sent to every visitor. As a result, static content requires very little power from the servers, enabling them to deliver web pages and content to larger numbers of visitors. Static content is not generally preferable to dynamic content. It is much less interactive and cannot track real-time information (Such as product supply). As a result, you should not consider static content a permanent web development tool to use to improve load times or to handle increased traffic over the long term. However, if you are expecting a large influx of traffic that cannot be effectively managed through other means, converting some of your content to static content can help you to manage short-term spikes in visitors without experiencing slow downs and crashes.

Check your website performance by conducting load tests.

Once you have taken steps to improve your website’s ability to handle large influxes of traffic, you should conduct load tests to see if your site performs as expected with larger numbers of visitors. Do not be surprised or dismayed if the test reveals a need to improve your website’s performance in certain areas. The key is to identify any areas of slow down or weakness that may cause crashes when the website is being used by large numbers of people. Checking with your web host, compressing files, implementing browser caching, reducing dynamic content, and using load tests can help you to prepare for anticipated increases in website traffic. In addition, creating and effectively implementing a web development plan for handling the influx of holiday website traffic may mean bringing in an experienced web development company. These experts can help you to understand how your website is currently functioning, and what can be done to improve its chances of successfully weathering the extra traffic you will have throughout the holiday season. Through their expertise, you should enjoy a smoother and more profitable holiday season for your business or e-commerce website.

Ruth Hawk
Writer, WEBii
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