Quick Website Optimizations for Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday is just around the corner. Even a millisecond of downtime could lead to a missed opportunity if your website is mission critical. Here are three important considerations to prepare for one of the year’s largest online shopping days.

Visitors: They Are Coming

Question: How do you know if your site can handle a huge influx of new users?
Answer: Send it some big traffic beforehand!

There are many ways to make sure your site is ready for whatever traffic levels you hope for and expect, but the most common method is “load testing”. We recommend using sites like loader.io, loadimpact.com and blitz.io, some of which have a free option to send plenty of virtual visitors your way. If you’re comfortable on the command line, you can use wrk, siege, and apachebench.

When and how you test will be critical. An easy option is to test your site at an off-peak hour since you will be testing the limitations of your site capacity and maybe pushing beyond it. Yet, if you don’t want to risk your live site, try testing on a staging system with the same software and hardware configuration as your live site.

Some of these tools are very simple and will only load specific links, such as a landing page. Often this is good enough but if you need more in-depth testing, there are sophisticated tools that can test your interactive features such as having virtual shoppers put items in carts, or allow you to simulate different types of users (mobile versus desktop, for example).

If you’re not getting the kind of performance you want from the load test, the next steps depend on what you’re actually using to run your site. Generally speaking, the next move is to optimize your caching, which allows a site to do less work every time a visitor arrives by serving up pre-generated content. Another good strategy is to add a Content Delivery Network (or “CDN”), which can be configured to speed up your site to visitors when they’re actually ready to buy. Check out our comprehensive article on Caching and CDNs to better understand how a CDN can help.

The Mobile Experience, Optimized

As of January 2015, major Internet retailers found they had crossed an important milestone: Over 50% of their users were now visiting from mobile devices. Over a year later, we’d wager that this percentage is way higher. With that in mind, here’s a few things you want to look into:

  • Ensure that your site looks great and behaves well on tablets, phablets, and smartphones, and test critical processes – like adding to cart and checking out – across all of them. There are paid services that can help with this, but you can visualize a wide range of devices right from your browser: Device Mode in Google Chrome lets run an easy test.
  • Take advantage of Google’s free tool, the Mobile-Friendly Test, to evaluate how mobile-friendly your sites are.

Security – From Start to Finish

A small hole in your website security can open up a whole host of problems. Your customer’s trust should be a top priority, and that means preventing everything from a simple malware infection to compromised personal data. Here are a few easy steps to improve your security:

  • If your site is running on a CMS, update the CMS, plugins, and themes to the most recent version.
  • If you’re running your own server, make sure all the system packages are up-to-date.
  • Double-check all your passwords to make sure they are strong and unique to each site.
  • If possible, “lock down” any special logins. For example, in WordPress, it’s a good practice to add an extra layer of security (e.g. only allowing access from your known IP addresses, adding extra password controls) to the admin login pages. Many popular CMSs and e-commerce tools have good “hardening” guides, such as this one from WordPress.
  • Of course, be prepared for the worst with a solid disaster recovery plan. Here’s a strategy for when disaster strikes.

By taking these steps, your site can be one click closer to one of the smoothest online shopping experiences this Cyber Monday.

About the Author Josh Barratt is the Chief Architect and former CTO of Media Temple. His technical and administrative leadership has been felt across all our hosting solutions. He is currently focusing on simplifying cloud technologies to enable more people to unleash their power. More by this Author