Written By: Adam Dince
Scale—how often do we think about it? When our clients come to us with a problem, are our solutions scalable? Do we build foundations that allow our clients to grow? Do we set our clients up for success from the very beginning? Do we even truly understand what scale means?
Merriam-Webster defines Scalability as, “capable of being easily expanded or upgraded on demand” – http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/scalable
Scale is an important consideration in whatever decisions we make in life. Let’s say you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to learn photography and need to purchase a digital camera. As you’re shopping, you come across two types of cameras—cameras that allow you to upgrade the amount of storage space and cameras that don’t. Which type of camera would you prefer? I’m guessing the camera with the scalable memory. In fact, you might even ask the question, “Why would any brand make a camera that I can’t add more memory to?”
Now put yourself in your client’s shoes. Would they ask similar questions about their Website? Would they ask questions like, “Why can’t I add another layer of navigation to my site?” Or, “Why can’t I implement redirects easily on my server?”
As professional marketers, our job is to find solutions and create products for our clients. And our clients have customers that use the products we build. Ultimately, our clients will only be as successful as the products we build allow them to be. It’s more often the rule than the case, that I speak with new clients who are frustrated with their lack of Website scalability and ask us to help them re-calibrate. When a brand invests a significant amount of money in a Website build, they want it to be as future-proofed as possible. Here are 10 scalability tips to think about when developing Websites:
- Pick a flexible CMS: There are many superb free and paid CMS solutions to consider. For small businesses and organization, I highly recommend WordPress. For larger enterprise clients, I highly recommend looking into MRM Worldwide’s proprietary CMS platform or Adobe’s CQ.
- Scalable Information Architecture: When you’re building out a Website’s architecture, consider future content and assets that may be added on later. Ensure that your I/A design allows for structural scalability.
- Flash: How are you building Flash files? Are they built in such a way that enables someone to easily add or modify Flash content? Is there an easily accessible alternate version of Flash on your Web pages?
- Hosting Environment: Choose a hosting plan and/or server environment that allows you to scale with your needs. For small businesses and organizations, sites like GoDaddy allow you to easily upgrade and/or downgrade your server and hosting plans. For enterprise clients, in my humble opinion, Rackspace has the best solutions for trusted and scalable hosting and server environments.
- Server Architecture: Build a server architecture that allows you to easily scale as necessary. For instance, if your Website starts getting more traffic than your servers can handle, you’ll want to be able add load-balancers and additional servers to the mix.
- Links Architecture: Do not hard-code or use absolute URLs within your Website’s links. Ensure that you’re using a relative URL structure within your HREFs. One of the benefits of using relative URLs in HREFs is that it makes updating links automatic during some site migrations. Furthermore, publishing content from a dev to production server is much easier when relative URLs are used.
- Caching: As your Website continues to grow and as more people use it, there will be increased strain on your servers. Ensure your pages are cached properly to ensure you are achieving optimal server response times.
- Microsites: Please, please, please stop building microsites on multiple top-level domains (TLDs). This just creates an extremely segmented environment for client’s content. Build microsites utilizing your primary TLD. Then leverage vanity URLs in marketing material to redirect visitors to your primary URL. Example: bobsnewproduct.com can be redirect to bobsnewproduct.bobbrand.com.
- HTML: Ensure that the HTML on your CMS page templates is W3C compliant. If your Web page template HTML is not compliant, each page created from the CMS will exasperate the issue. A free and easy tool to use to validate W3C compliance can be found on the Web Developer Add-On for Firefox https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/web-developer/
There are many other important factors to consider when building scalable Web solutions and I highly encourage you to continue researching ways to future proof your Websites.
Thank you for reading and I hope you found this information valuable.