What to do when your website becomes too successful

It's a nice problem to have, but it's still a problem

Worldwide Web

"Build it and they will come", as the saying goes, and this mantra is repeated to many companies that have built websites. However, for some, a website can become too successful and groan under the weight of traffic.

This sounds like a nice problem to have, but if it means your customers are having a poor experience when the servers can't cope, action is necessary.

"While large traffic spikes are something most website owners don't need to worry about, it can and does happen – such as after a successful newsletter, popular article or viral video," says Karl Mendez, managing director at CWCS Managed Hosting.

"However, if a web server is overloaded and causes temporary disruption, it can do more harm than good for business. After all, online users expect websites to load quickly and, if they don't, they'll (more likely than not) go elsewhere."

This strain can happen around holiday time or other special events. The run-up to Christmas is an obvious example but other times of year can catch out website owners.

"Popular consumer events such as Black Friday are a prime example of when retail websites that see too much success in one go struggle to manage," says John Beechen, head of managed services at Salmon.

"As a result, websites can experience outages, slow browsing due to degradation in site loading times, and on retail sites queues that are implemented to cope with the high volumes can cause frustration for customers."

Frustrated user

Monitoring the situation

It is all too easy to blame lots of users, but often problems are caused by not addressing issues before they manifest as the traffic increases.

Paul Griffiths, technical director at Riverbed Technology, says that website failures are often a result of a number of network performance issues, such as poor change management or simply lack of capacity on the hosting platform.

"If a company doesn't have the monitoring and diagnostics systems in place to detect where the issues lie, it can take much longer to resolve and have the website back online as normal," he says.

In today's competitive environment, it's vital for a digital business to ensure that its website can scale in-line with the company's growth, or the firm can quickly become a victim of its own success. There are a number of key steps that businesses can take in order to do so, according to Michael Allen, Solutions vice president at Dynatrace.

"Load testing is key amongst these measures, enabling businesses to see how the website will perform under heavy traffic before it hits," he says.

This is becoming critical, as research has shown that application delays and failures during high demand periods directly affect revenue and brand reputation – 75% of all smartphone/tablet users will abandon a mobile site or app that is buggy, slow or prone to crashes, whilst 42% will complain on social media about a poor online experience.

"However, it's also important to continuously monitor website performance and maintain real-time visibility into the end-user experience. This will enable businesses to intervene in the event that users begin to experience difficulties, reducing abandonment rates and potentially lost revenues," adds Allen.