Everyone hates a slow website. Visitors and hosts alike are always chasing lightning fast speeds to increase experience, please Google, and for e-commerce online stores it means converting visitors to sales. That’s why AmeriCommerce takes load times, request times and other speed metrics very seriously. These metrics can be the deciding force in an online store’s success.
One of the largest issues facing online stores is the fact that e-commerce platforms tend to struggle more than other Content Management Systems because of the data being served to each visitor. With WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, or any standard HTML website – content can be cached by servers and browsers so that the website content loads quicker. However, in the world of e-commerce, caching is a very fickle thing because what’s being cached is dynamic and ever-changing. Product catalogs, inventory, pricing, photos, etc. are all live and interacting at real-time speeds preventing the ability to utilize caching the way a static website would. Even using one of the above-mentioned platforms will require plugins that deliver content dynamically. Plus, technology stacks for static sites can be much simpler on average. This is a large disadvantage for e-commerce platforms and plugins and a large reason why anyone with an online store is always struggling to lower page speed times. Even though “the struggle is real” for e-commerce data-centers, AmeriCommerce owes it to our customers to put our best foot forward in our attempts to achieve stellar load times which is why we’re so proud to announce some recent achievements.
Tracking Average Request Times
For several years our tech team has been monitoring our average request times across all AmeriCommerce online stores so we can always be knowledgeable about how these times are affected when we make substantial data-center changes. Whether it’s moving to Cloudflare load balancers, adjusting the platform itself, or making complete hardware changes we’re always tracking the effects of every change we make. Here’s an example of one of many technologies reports we track internally:
Average request times can increase/decrease depending on multiple factors that may be out of our control. Therefore, we track a past 8-week average so we can attempt to measure the “average of the average”. It's also important to keep in mind these are only stats for front-end request times which means the time it takes a standard visitor’s browser to contact our data-center, or an AmeriCommerce online store and serve. This is very different from the speed in which a page loads, because that metric is not completely reliant upon AmeriCommerce. Simple scripts, large image sizes, incorrectly placed code and third-party applications can all weigh down a site’s total page load times which is outside of our control as the platform.
Reducing Average Request Times by 55%
Through 2019, our team has been making significant hardware improvements including upgraded hyper-visors, new SAN hard-drives, and let’s not forget the capabilities brought to us by our partnership with Cloudflare. AmeriCommerce has been chasing extremely noticeable speed increases as part of a customer-focused tech initiative. Recently our technology team discovered new ways to unlock the full potential of our hardware changes while in turn increasing our average response time across the entire platform. In turn, this has resulted in one of the best AmeriCommerce data-center improvements in years.
On June 2nd, these improvements started to take affect across the entire network of online stores served by AmeriCommerce and the results have been astonishing. To date we can accurately report that speeds have really taken off:
- Front end average request times: from ~400 ms to 177 ms (55% improvement)
- Back end (admin) average request times: from ~900 ms to 390 ms (56% improvement)
Front end average request times have even reached occasional 60%+ improvements depending on which point in time we're tracking from. The big achievement though is that we can officially state we are below 200 ms
on the front-end average request time for the first time in the history of AmeriCommerce!
Since we've been tracking this metric, we've seen the averages as low as 308 ms and sub 200 ms has always been the dream. When we started aggressively trying to average this down last year, we noticed peaks as high as 774 ms during rare events. So, from those peaks we are all the way down to 177 ms which, to us nerds, is awesome. That means a 77% improvement in page times from the peak to the new average which is massive.
What We Learned
Every company looks to improve the quality of their product or service and it’s common to feel discouraged due to hitting “walls” or “blockers”. The secret to getting through that is a relentless attitude to improve no matter what. AmeriCommerce knows the value of not giving up the chase to continuously improve our platform and the experience received by every shopper visiting an AmeriCommerce online store even though they may not realize it. We don’t say it enough, but we love our customers and the difference is small things like this that we continue to gain new users from across the world.
Enjoy the speed and remember to stay consistent with your OWN company goals – you never know when you’ll finally reach them! Stay relentless and in the end, your customers will love you for it.