Living in an uptime world

11 practical tips to maximize e-commerce website uptime

Marieta Hovhannisyan
Speed image via Shutterstock

A website is the key to your business ROI, to the success of your brand and to the happiness of your customer. Just like a traditional brick-and-mortar business needs to be stocked, friendly and clean, so also your website needs to run as fast and efficiently as possible.

Every digital marketer today worth their salt knows there’s a direct connection between web load speed and conversions. Consider this metric: 1 in 4 visitors would abandon the website if it takes more than 4 seconds to load. And this one: A 2-second delay during a transaction results in shopping cart abandonment rates of up to 87%. E-commerce giant Amazon calculated that a webpage load slowdown of just one second could cost it $1.6 billion in sales each year.

When it comes to lost revenue from downtime, industry experts have a figure to throw at you: $7900 per minute. That’s a staggering $474,000/hour! Obviously, a down website results in lost time and money not to mention frustrated customers. There are going to be scheduled maintenance windows obviously. And unexpected things happen. We get that! But just keep in mind that E-commerce sites especially need to be always available, or at least 99.99% of the times. So let’s walk through some practical tips to help ensure that happens. Here are 11 best practices, in fact, that you should be adopting today to maximize your E-commerce website uptime.

As we delve into the methods to make your site and ecommerce earn at optimal levels the very first point is you will need a monitoring system. The adage of “you can’t manage it if you don’t monitor it” is paramount here. You need to be able to see what is going on and see it fast. You need to be alerted whenever there is an issue so that you can respond quickly and maximize your earnings.

1. Ensure 24/7 Website Monitoring

No technique for optimizing your uptime is as powerful as that of a quality website monitoring service. It’s impossible to manually do this, but thanks to the cloud there are services now available that will keep metrics on your site 24/7.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a monitoring service keeping an eye on your site for you? How about having a service notify you of any downtime events that are in progress instead of discovering it too late? Better yet, what about knowing in advance when there’s a performance drop so you can save the sales you would otherwise lose from downtime?

If you answered affirmatively to all of these questions (and who wouldn’t?!) then you need to look into a 24/7 monitoring service. Most of the services in the market let E-commerce businesses monitor their network anytime and from anywhere, including website uptime monitoring, full page load and transaction monitoring, and web load testing.

The benefits and takeaways from monitoring services are peace of mind and less stress. Knowing about the issues before they strike means you can be proactive rather than reactive. This is good for you and your business, and ultimately leads to better performance and happier customers.

2. Make sure your site is mobile first

It used to be that mobile visitors were seen as the fastest growing segment of E-commerce. But the landscape has changed and mobile is now dominant across the board for consumers. Forrester reported last year that it expected mobile commerce transactions in the United States to total $114 billion in 2014. You now have to think strategically in terms of M-commerce, and you absolutely must be Mobile First.

The paradigm of making desktop sites responsive for mobile devices must now be switched. The strategy should be to code for mobile users first and then progressively enhance the experience for tablets and desktops. Doing so will help reduce the number of unnecessary dependencies.

3. Check your web hosting

When thinking about your uptime strategy you also want to keep tabs on your web hosting service. They may offer you unlimited bandwidth but does that mean shared service with other sites that ends up affecting your own web performance? Are you frequently experiencing downtime or bandwidth issues? If so, it’s worthwhile to review your hosting options to ensure you’re getting the most efficient service. Don’t be afraid to insist on 99.99% uptime.

4. Have a contingency plan in place

Though highly unlikely, in the event that your host is down for an extended period of time, you need to have a backup plan in place. Don’t just leave things to chance as the cost is just too high. You should have hosting in place with a backup of your site saved on the backup host’s servers.

5. Reduce Image Size

Website uptime is often related to your website hosting. But remember, in this day and age if your customers have to wait a long time for your site to load up it might as well be like a scheduled downtime because they’ll leave and never return. So the more you optimize your front-end, the better your performance and overall user experience will be.

One place to start is with your image size. According to the HTTP Archive, 61 percent of a website’s page weight on a desktop computer is images. Make sure that your images are appropriately sized. Adopting new image formats, such as WebP and JPeg XR, can also help reduce image weight by 20 to 50 percent without sacrificing quality.

6. Try a CDN

A content delivery network is a way of taking a website’s static files, like CSS, images, and JavaScript, and delivering them through web servers that are closer to the user’s physical location. Shorter proximity amounts to faster load time and ultimately better performance.

But another benefit is that by offloading the bandwidth you also get less risk of downtime disruptions due to traffic volumes. Every way you look at it a CDN is a win-win for uptime.

7. Compress JavaScripts and load asynchronously

Just like it sounds, compressing your JavaScript files will remove extra spaces to shrink file size and ultimately improve load time. Another trick is to think about loading any of your third party JavaScripts asynchronously.

Websites today are increasingly integrated with third party content: social media, chat features, commenting services, information feeds, and others. So if you load async then in the event the third-party crashes, your page won’t be held up trying to load that resource. Async loading can also speed up page loads.

8. Improve DNS

Domain Name System, or DNS, is an Internet service that translates domain names into IP addresses. DNS is often overlooked, since it’s an attribute of your website host. But it shouldn’t be ignored because if DNS is down then your site won’t work.

It would be worthwhile to check with your host about upgrading from standard to premium DNS services to ensure an automatic failover to other servers on the network if the closest server goes down.

9. Build redundancy into your website

Another step to take in guaranteeing continual uptime is to invest in a DDoS mitigation platform. This kind of service can optimize and scale up your infrastructure if you experience a DDOS (distributed denial of service attack).

The way it works is by redirecting your web traffic to the platform server farms so that your site keeps on running inspite of being under attack.

10. Be deliberate about security

Based on what we saw coming from the dark world of cyber-crime last year, no one can afford to skimp on security and infrastructure protection. A serious hack could result in irreparable damage to your brand, increased expenses, and decreased revenue.

SEE ALSO: Java Performance Tuning – Getting the Most Out of Your Garbage Collector

Hire a security technologies firm to conduct penetration testing, which applies hacking techniques to exploit vulnerabilities in your infrastructure and determine how effectively it would stand against real attacks.

11. Communicate scheduled downtime early

The bigger and more sophisticated your E-commerce site becomes, the more likely you’ll need scheduled maintenances. You should list prominently on your website exactly when it will be down for maintenance so that your best customers will be informed in advance. This is all about courtesy and your customers will understand.

Marieta Hovhannisyan

Marieta Hovhannisyan

I’m a blogger, who is passionate about all things technology. I love writing about latest tech news, specifically topics such as cloud computing, IT systems monitoring and big data.

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