How to prepare your website for Black Friday
Black Friday is an imminent event that has slowly been gaining popularity over the last decade, where everyone releases stock or services for sale with very affordable prices.
Regardless of whether you are an online e-commerce business or any kind of service provider like us, you need to be prepared for the event.
There are a plethora of different factors that you need to take into consideration when it comes to successfully preparing for Black Friday and in this article we are going to focus on some of the most important ones. So without further ado, let’s dive right in!
Ensure your website loads fast
First and foremost, you need to make sure that your website loads as quickly as possible.
The average user takes no longer than 2 seconds to evaluate the content that they are being presented with, meaning that a slowly-loading website will have a higher bounce rate, which will consequently result in loss of potential customers.
Not only that, but as of 2021, user experience (UX) has been considered by most search engines as a key ranking factor. This means that you definitely need to consider page render and load speed as they will be reflected in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
There are a number of UX metrics that you need to take into account. To ensure the best possible performance for your website, you need to make sure that you optimize for all of them. Using tools such as Google Lighthouse to identify potential improvement areas can help you along the way.
Here is some advice that we can offer you when it comes to optimizing your pages.
Preload high-priority resources
Preload resources that will be needed immediately after a page has loaded such as fonts, large text elements or header images. The ‘preload’ attribute for the <link> tag is going to be your friend here. You can also use the ‘fetchpriority’ attribute to give signals to the browser about which elements should be rendered first.
This can help you lower UX metrics such as CLS for when fonts are being requested and then swapped as well as the loading time for your LCP element, which will also impact how fast your page loads in general and becomes interactive.
As a side note, you can also consider employing an efficient cache mechanism, which will result in returning visitors being able to access your content and pages much faster.
Avoid using outdated image formats
Images are an important part of Web design as our visual perception is the primary information evaluation. Because of this, it is quite important to have a website that works fast and looks good and this is something that most businesses constantly strive for. But looking good and showing pretty pictures won’t get you outperforming the competition on Black Friday - page optimization will.
Due to this, you need to make sure to avoid using raster file formats such as JPG for elements that need to be of high quality. Image formats such as WebP and SVG load much faster and have become the norm over the last couple of years.
Also, stray away from using PNG images as buttons as well as incorporating them into your page design and user interface. Instead, use SVGs or code any graphics purely using CSS.
Disable unused website functionalities
Having large chunks of unused code sitting around on Black Friday where you could be experiencing large volumes of traffic is something that you also need to address.
It is a common practice in the industry to disable such underutilized functionalities and plugins during the promotion day, especially with regards to content filters and additional checkout options, as that can save you valuable resources and improve your page loading speed.
However, while beneficial, this can also have a negative impact on your overall performance if not done correctly. Because of this, if you wish to utilize this optimization method, make sure you do so by rigorously testing every functionality of your website that you will be disabling months in advance so that you can be sure that everything will work as intended on Black Friday.
Additionally, if you are operating a WordPress website, you can also check out our article on how to speed up your WordPress website.
Make your website & Black Friday pages responsive
The next very influential aspect that you need to cover is to ensure that your product or service pages are responsive. Over 70% of online traffic is generated by mobile users, meaning that if your website is not optimized to show on their devices, you could lose a lot of potential customers.
Some general principles when it comes to making responsive web pages are:
- Don’t omit information that is present on the desktop version of your website from your mobile version.
- Make sure the main navigation is easy to operate.
- Prioritize simplicity over complex designs, animations and long passages of text.
- Don’t leave a large amount of unused space
- Ensure that elements are big enough to be clickable, but also make sure that they are separated enough so that users don’t misclick them.
You can get some extra tips on responsive design from our article on mobile website optimization.
Create separate landing pages
A principle employed by many businesses and companies online is to create specific landing pages for their products or service when advertising on Search.
If you happen to already have such pages then you can directly start using them for your Black Friday campaign. Just remember to mark them with the ‘canonical’ attribute on the appropriate meta tag to ensure that they don’t get flagged for duplicate content!
If you don’t have custom landing pages, it is a good idea to create some. They can help you showcase your Black Friday deals and promotions immediately, rather than making users go through your website, searching through your goods or services. Remember that the easier the path of the user to a given product, the more likely they are to purchase it.
As an example, we have created a separate landing page for our dedicated server offers that provides users with all of the information that they might need in terms of our servers’ features and our hosting plans.
Design a simple checkout page
One of the most important things to check is whether your checkout works as it should. Remember, you could have a substantial number of customers using it at once. Because of this, you need to ensure that your website and server can handle the number of concurrent requests.
Also, remove unnecessary clutter from your checkout and make it as simple and straight-forward as possible. If there is a page that you absolutely need to make user-friendly, it is this one.
Some tips and tricks to consider when designing and tweaking your checkout page for Black Friday are:
- Allow users to easily modify quantities.
- Enable users to remove items from their cart effortlessly.
- Ask for card details or other types of payment methods last after shipping information has already been inserted.
- Clearly state shipping costs and time needed for shipment.
- Offer free shipping if possible.
- Allow customers to purchase items or services without registering if possible.
- Offer a wide range of payment methods. For example, Bitcoin has many advantages as a payment method.
You can also make use of A/B testing to provide different customers with different checkout pages in order to test which one will be more suitable for your business, which will ultimately get you more conversions in the long run.
Advertise in advance
In order to get a lot of traffic to your website on Black Friday, you need to make sure you advertise your offers and promotions in advance.
Generating buzz through your blog or social media pages can get you a lot of interest from people when the date rolls around.
We for example like to use our blog to let potential customers know our Black Friday offers in advance.
Ads on Search and platforms such as YouTube, Twitter & Facebook are also a good option to get people talking about your promotions.
Ensure that your website can handle a lot of traffic
Getting people talking is one thing, having them actually visit your website is another. If you manage to generate a lot of buzz for your Black Friday offers, then the next logical step is to consider whether your website can even handle that much incoming traffic.
Having a good server is absolutely essential when it comes to dealing with a high amount of traffic. Because of this, we don’t recommend using shared hosting as such hosting plans limit the amount of resources that you need for your website to run smoothly.
As a matter of fact, we would advise online service providers, business owners and ecommerce websites to make use of either a VPS or a dedicated server, depending on their scale, reach and expected traffic.
The aforementioned server types offer many independent resources and utilize virtualization resources to ensure that you will have everything you need and that your website will be able to handle all of the customers that will be entering your website and buying items/making orders on Black Friday.
Our VPS and VDS hosting plans are also really flexible and the servers are also scalable, meaning that you can always purchase additional resources to help you accommodate the drastic spike in traffic without having to change your entire hosting plan and server.
Test how much traffic your server can handle
Regardless of your server, however, you need to manually test whether your server will be able to deal with the amount of traffic that you expect to receive on Black Friday. Make sure you conduct a series of performance tests in advance so that you can be sure that your server will manage to keep up on the day of the promotions.
Experienced businesses and service providers
For those businesses that have already been through a number of Black Friday campaigns over the years, you can easily get the data from previous years and analyze it accordingly. You can gain some very useful insights and make sure you are prepared for the next Black Friday.
Check how much resources your server consumed, the load that it withstood and the traffic that you had. Make sure to also take into consideration your current growth since the last campaign and whether you expect to see a drastic amount of extra visitors to your website.
Overall, based on the information that you have, you need to consider whether you will need extra resources and if you need to change your entire server type and hosting plan.
Black Friday first-timers and newcomers
If you haven’t experienced a Black Friday promotion before and you are afraid that you don’t have enough data to make a reasonable prediction about traffic and how much your server can take, you don’t need to worry.
There are a plethora of online tools that can be utilized to help you make an educated judgment on the topic and decide whether you will need to invest into more resources.
Testing tools and software
There are a number of tests and testing tools that you can use to check how your website will perform. The most popular test is the so-called load test.
A load test simulates traffic demand and user interaction on your website. The goal of this test is to measure the number of one-time visitors that your website can handle without crashing. This test will ultimately give you a basic understanding of your website’s maximum concurrent user capacity, which will in turn allow you to know whether you need to purchase additional resources.
In terms of software that you can utilize to perform a load test, there are quite a few. Jmeter is one such option that is also free and open-source as well. Another free and simple instrument that you can use is AB - Apache Bench. This tool, however, is very basic and you shouldn’t rely solely on the data from it.
Overall, performing a realistic simulation on your website by yourself is quite difficult as you need to have a large infrastructure with a substantial amount of resources. However, there is premium software that will carry out such tests on your behalf and provide you with the results with one such example being BlazeMeter. Such testing softwares and services are much more reliable, but also cost money.
Ultimately, regardless of whether you decide to go for the free testing tools or the primum applications, a critical point to monitor during the tests is your server’s resource consumption. Pay special attention to your CPU, RAM and storage space as well as the amount of I/O operations.
If you see that one of these resources is reaching its maximum capacity or performance, you should consider upgrading your server by either adding more resources or by changing your server type and hosting plan.
While we wish we could give you a specific answer on what to focus on in terms of resources, we unfortunately can’t. This is because every website is different, it runs on a certain CMS and has a divergent infrastructure which can vary based on hosting provider, server type, user interface and even content. Despite this, remember that it is crucial to check your server’s resources when performing any kinds of tests.
Is your website ready for Black Friday?
Overall, Black Friday can be a stressful time for many businesses, service providers and ecommerce stores. It is important to take many things into consideration such as your website’s overall design and performance as well as how easy it is to operate.
You need to make sure that your pages are responsive and directly provide your potential customers with all of the information that they might need.
Remember to create a simple checkout that is also functional and don’t forget to test your website and server in order to check whether you will need to get additional resources to accommodate the traffic that you will be getting.
We hope that you have found this article helpful and we wish you a stress-free and profitable Black Friday experience!