How Engineers Prepare Websites for Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and with it, two of the biggest shopping holidays of the year — Black Friday and its virtual counterpart, Cyber Monday. Last Cyber Monday was the most successful by far, with over $10 billion spent worldwide as millions of people flocked online to take advantage of the epic deals and discounts.

As you might expect, this is a critical time for e-commerce platforms. A lot of work goes into getting websites ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and if underprepared, a retailer risks missing out on a potentially huge day of sales.

So, how exactly do Web Developers and Engineers get websites ready for the biggest sale of the year? Below, we break it down into 7 steps.

1. Brace for traffic spikes

Most vendors will see huge spikes in web traffic during the long weekend after Thanksgiving — especially if they’ve launched a solid marketing campaign in the days (or weeks) prior. But what happens if your website can’t handle it? Servers can get overwhelmed, performance might suffer, or the whole site might even crash. And when shoppers are spending up to $12 million a minute, downtime couldn’t be more costly.

So, engineers have to make sure their sites can handle large amounts of traffic. This involves reaching out to web hosts to figure out traffic limitations, upgrading servers, and possibly having backup servers on standby (just in case).

2. Set up cybersecurity measures

With phishing schemes, scam calls, and suspicious emails abounding left and right, people are more skeptical than ever about sharing their private information (like bank and card info). In fact, about half of all users in the U.S. steer clear of online shopping out of data and privacy concerns.

So, what do you do? How do you reassure your customers that their information is in good hands?

As it turns out, there are several steps you can take.

SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certifications are a great way to showcase your commitment to cybersecurity. By encrypting communications between a site’s servers and its users’ browsers, SSLs help engineers keep data safe from prying eyes.

Aside from SSL certifications, other defense measures include setting up firewalls, captchas, and safe checkout badges. Many developers will also create banners listing well-known customers, clients, and/or press mentions to help boost their site’s credibility.

Want to learn more about keeping data safe? Learn the basics in our Introduction to Cybersecurity course.

3. Optimize for mobile devices

Today, more than half of all web traffic comes from mobile devices. Last year, mobile shoppers made up 40% of all sales during the holidays, generating over $3.6 billion. This means engineers now have to make sure their websites are optimized for smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices.

So, how do you optimize a website for mobile?

First, you have to make sure it’s responsive. Responsive websites automatically adjust to the user’s environment (e.g., screen size, platform, orientation, etc.), enabling a seamless experience across devices. To learn more, check out our Learn Responsive Design course.

Responsiveness is also great for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). The more responsive your website, the better it’ll rank on search engines like Google — boosting visibility and potentially generating more traffic.

4. Cut down load times

How long are you willing to wait for a website to load? Chances are, you’ll lose interest after a few seconds and turn elsewhere.

Data shows that 25% of users will leave a web page that doesn’t load within four seconds. Mobile users are even more likely to jump ship, with 74% exiting after five seconds. And, once they’re gone, these users aren’t likely to return.

Fortunately, there are several steps developers take to reduce load times (and appease impatient users). These steps include:

Compressing or resizing imagesCaching web pagesCutting unnecessary plugins

5. Streamline UI/UX

Your website’s design is just as important as its responsiveness and loading speeds. The harder it is for users to find what they’re looking for on your site, the greater the chance they’ll turn to one of your competitors.

To prevent this, engineers simplify their website’s user interface (UI), touching up menus, and streamlining search and checkout processes. The easier it is to navigate your site, the better the user experience (UX), making it easier to attract and retain customers.

6. Test everything

The last thing you want is to miss out on sales due to unexpected bugs or errors. So, in the days (or weeks) leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Web Devs will test a website’s functionality, responsiveness, load times, etc., to make sure everything’s ready to go.

7. Analyze data

This step technically comes after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but it’s still a key element in the process.

If you’re familiar with data science, then you know a website’s data is a treasure trove of information about its users. With tools like SQL and Python, engineers can learn more about their target audiences, including their interests and online behaviors. Then, these insights can be used to fine-tune the site and offer users a better experience during the next holiday.

Want to learn more about analyzing data? Check out courses like Analyze Data With SQL and Analyze Financial Data With Python. Or, for a more comprehensive approach to data science, try our Data Scientist or Data Analyst Career Paths.

The steps above go a long way toward getting websites ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Accessibility practices, which we cover in courses like Learn HTML and Learn Intermediate CSS, are another great way to maximize your audience. There are also tools like Angular and React that allow you to create SPAs (single page applications) that reduce load times and provide a seamless user experience.

Ready to learn more about website optimization? We’ve got a whole catalog of courses on web development. And, in celebration of Cyber Monday, we’re offering a discount for Codecademy Pro — so you can get access to our entire catalog (and more) for 50% off.

Ready to get started? Sign up now!

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