Sunday Internet Surfers – A Rant on Site Capacity

(I started writing this a few days ago but fell asleep due to the general slowness of websites I was trying to visit and the resulting boredom)

It was a Sunday afternoon – unseasonably cold outside, and a day that there’s not any particularly interesting social events going on.  Oh yeah, the Olympics were finishing up,  but most people watch TV from behind a computer these days.

And apparently, I wasn’t the only one trying to get online to my favorite forums and bookmarking sites.  “This server is too busy,” “Try again later,” and one minute delays before pages even started loading…

Well, this is no way to run websites I think as I sigh, and shut down the computer for an afternoon nap…

So listen up, you don’t know when your website traffic is going to go up because of a boring Sunday afternoon, bad weather, or because you got some kind of ridiculous link from the New York Times or the front page of Digg.  The point is, don’t be like Digg when they were in their slow phase!  People see your page starting to load slowly and chances are they’re gonna hit the back button or close out the new tab.  Google is even getting sick of it, as a big part of their Caffeine plans seem to revolve around the speed of their own sites and the typical speeds of the sites they link to.

Look, its 2010!  Most sites are still mostly text, so there’s really no excuse for slow load times unless your code is messy and crashing into errors at every other execution.  Even affordable hosting providers can deliver lots of bandwidth, so unless you’ve just got an absolute lemon for a host you should probably be able to get the site running fast by hunting down bugs in the error logs.

Now, bigger sites run in to problems as running multiple instances of dynamic content puts a high demand on the server’s processors.  But hey, if Facebook can make PHP run fast on what might be the world’s largest & busiest website – and even freely share their progress with the web – what excuse does anyone else have left?


  1. hi John,
    What websites were you trying to reach? I haven’t seen a “server too busy” message in a long time… Can you give an example?
    That said, I think it is still important to design sites as if someone might have to access them via dial-up… That is, make sure there is some text to read while the images load… at least something so I don’t do as you say and click away after 5 seconds…
    Very good point. Steve
    PS. Come to think of it, I was at a forum the other day that took FOREVER each time I tried to go to a new page… can’t remember what it was though.
    Yeh, good post. 😀

  2. Sunday just sucked for my favorite sites to browse idly: DigitalPoint, Reddit, and the FourthTurning forums (some obscure socio-political theory certain to stay obscure because the webmaster actually wants to keep the spiders & traffic away).

    Eh. It actually seems to be that the problem is related to old versions of vBulletin (plus Reddit’s code not scaling well with its huge traffic growth).

    I see it all the time on Pligg sites too – and mostly people need to clean up deleted entries from the database, or at least delete the spam that typically clogs up said platform.

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