Does your website suffer from capacity bottlenecks?

The modern consumer expects technology to “just work”. Not only that, but they expect things to be fast and easy to use, and anything else is cause for frustration and complaints.

For example, we expect online shopping to be quick and easy. Any delay in the process, either through confusing UX or slow-loading web pages anywhere in the journey, can easily push customers away to a competitor.

If you run such a website, how can you make sure critical steps in the user journey are not hindering sales by being slow at important moments?

Why is your website slow?

Does your site speed vary depending on the time of day, or in direct relation to your visitor levels?

TIP: Compare your website visitor and page speed charts within Google Analytics for a quick snapshot.

If so, it’s likely your website’s capacity limits are being stretched at peak traffic times. In short, your site can’t process requests quickly enough and your ability to deliver excellent customer service to all your customers is suffering.

Why can’t your site handle enough requests?

Every system has its limits. These can be distilled down to a few core limitations:

  • Technical restrictions
  • Available resources (staffing, equipment, facilities etc.)
  • Financial, e.g., budget constraints

The limit to a website’s capacity is probably a mixture of these things. Even a brilliantly built website maintained by an army of clever people won’t be able to keep a website up if there isn’t enough budget to buy or rent enough servers.

Likewise, a massive pot of money alone to spend on servers and facilities will be hugely wasteful if the website isn’t built properly, with appropriate levels of traffic across the various sections of the site mapped out intelligently.

The key to knowing whether your site has this balance correct (aside from waiting to see if your customers complain, or your sales figures slump) is through accurate load testing.

Are your load tests realistic?

Thorough and frequent load tests are the only way to know how much traffic your site can handle before limits are reached, yet all too often website owners rely on unrealistic test results.

Most commonly, load test scripts will run through a few basic journeys or even just look at overall concurrent users on the site. This is a missed opportunity to identify the real low hanging fruit of website capacity issues: Website bottlenecks.

Where are your website’s bottlenecks?

Websites are complex, interlinking with third party services, internal services, databases, CDNs and many other systems besides.

There are also a huge number of potential ways users can interact. Some interactions and requests are more computationally intensive than others, for example account verification or payment processes. If these areas get busier at certain times, bottlenecks in capacity can build up and the whole website can slow down or even risk crashing.

These are just general examples, as every site is built differently and has a different traffic profile. Both these factors can change over time, very quickly or even seasonally (for example, visitor levels and behavior are very different at peak trading times like Black Friday and Christmas) so frequent testing and preparation for change is always important.

How can you maintain smooth customer experience at peak times?

Another method of keeping your customers flowing smoothly through your website is by protecting bottlenecks with a virtual waiting room.

Limiting the number of requests coming into areas of the site creating bottlenecks prevents the whole site from slowing down or crashing. You might be able to handle thousands of users browsing product pages, but only a few hundred in the payment verification process, so why allow this bottleneck to negatively affect the experience of all your visitors?

Advanced virtual waiting room solutions like TrafficDefender offer the ability to protect specific areas of a website or mobile application with an online queue, so the whole site stays fast and stable even if areas that would usually cause a bottleneck become busy.

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