What is website scalability?

Posted on November 30, 2021

Caroline Blaker

What is website scalability? Image

Struggling with getting your website to scale? Illustration from undraw.co

It's an implicit promise in all new websites no matter where they start - Joomla! WordPress, Wix, wherever; scalability is your website's ability to change and evolve alongside business demands. All platforms express a giant "yes" when being evaluated for scalability early on, but as new websites are a jump in scale themselves, they aren't required to scale for some time. Ultimately, the realization that it's time for a website to change for the needs of a business can be startling, even abrupt. And depending on the direction your business has taken and what software supports your website - you may wish you had better options.

Concerns with Scalability

Scaling your website is another way of referring to handling challenges involving all things "More" on the web:

Jumps in traffic - Novel advertising, social media campaigns, or desirable content can all drive traffic - lucky you!

Additional offerings or products - New offerings mean new customers, and a jump in traffic (see previous.)

Changes in front-end workflow - adding convenience features for your users (forms, navigation) can change the landscape of your website and provide more for your users to do, thus asking them to spend more time on your website.

Site Speed & SEO - The importance of page speed cannot be overstated, especially for larger websites. The larger your website, the more important page speed figures into number of pages crawled by search engines, and thusly your online authority on the topics / sectors you address.

Failures with Scalability

When your website is on the edge of its capabilities, you may notice the following:

White pages (WSOD) - are you trying to add a normal feature that takes down your page or worse, your whole website? Are you just trying to perform updates or normal website editing? Something you're adding is causing your website to fail. This means it can't handle the change.

Plugin clashes - do you need to stick with certain features and put off developing others because you get white pages (see previous) when you add additional software to handle normal or new website operations? Do features break or go into "quirks mode" when trying to break out of a certain pattern? Developers work really hard to make their work accessible to everyone, but not all developers are interested in having you seek solutions elsewhere.

Sloooowness - your website technically succeeds at the job but it takes forever and frustrates your users. This is an anti-pattern to your website's success, no matter what it does.

Missed opportunities - customers that call to finish orders that don't go through on the website are only a small portion of the total users that happened to - the rest of which just moved on.

Brick wall limitations - "this software doesn't do that." Well, I can tell you what else you don't need.

Mega-caching - there will always be caching options. If you need sophisticated, nerdy, expensive interventions just to keep your old website standing without measurable improvements, (especially if it keeps you stagnant,) it may be time to move along.

Rocket and planet illustration
Rocket image from undraw.co

Solving Scalability issues

While it's possible to rewrite all your code with experts, it may not be the best use of your budget. Aquarian Web Studio has scaled dozens of websites using the following techniques:

Use a software that's designed for scalability While it may be possible or important to scale in a small way in your current software, moving to a software where you no longer have these issues will liberate your time, focus, and strategy away from the status quo and allow you to think about the future more constructively. Yes, you can add that. Yes, it can go faster. No, it won't crash.

Build custom, low-footprint features Instead of using one or two obligatory software features (Posts, pages) and bending them to the needs of the content, "scalable" website software (see previous) allow for new features to be built from scratch without the bending or stretching. When your software only allows one kind of content, the flexibility promised by developers is often gained by customizations and growth to this critical, giant feature which can cause it to slow down over time and with a growing user set. Yes, there is software designed to scale - and it can seem unnecessary or overwrought until you need it.

Keep your developer close Let your trusted web development team in on desired growth outcomes and vectors. The more information they have about these changes in your business, the more closely features can be built to suit you, often at no relative extra cost.

Examine Hosting and DNS for opportunities Shared hosting can be a source of slowness as can nefarious traffic. A robust DNS provider like CloudFlare can block some attacks because it knows the traffic is just spam - which saves more server for your customers & crawl budget. A robust host like Digital Ocean can decrease your TTFB dramatically. It's amazing just how much some adjustments here can be like "taking the training wheels off your Cadillac."

How Aquarian can help solve Scalability issues

When a new client approaches us with a website experiencing issues with scalability, we know a few things already:

  1. They know their online business well enough to easily pinpoint what works and what does not.
  2. They may have already sought out quick, non-structural solutions.
  3. There may be an imperative in the organization to "get back to normal," or "just fix it."
  4. At one time, they liked their website.

Aquarian can provide scalable software for your website, but oddly enough this break-out will likely ask an organization to examine many things about their website, not just scalability. In this process it is critical to notate what the client likes about their website, what ways of working with their website they want to stay the same, and what choices currently present in their website they still stand by.

Breaking out of a one-size-fits-all Content Management System (CMS) opens up questions about hows and whys that Aquarian routinely asks clients for answers on. We listen for all of these points in all of our meetings and we take our distillations of these points right to the code, revealing them to you as we go along. It's not just addressing scalability, it's getting your low-footprint, scalable website right the first time, changing your business. By the time we are done with our process, you will be very familiar with our choices and understand how we applied our expertise.

Aquarian Web Studio offers free one-time consults to websites looking to improve their scalability. Is this you? Let's have a conversation.

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