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Moving to a Mass Market Websites – The Numbers
19th June, 2017

I’m going to talk Numbers this week and question how we might get to a Mass Market Websites proportions.

The say all businesses start with a good idea – I can live with that, but let’s think it through… you want to be rich or do well, you live in your community and send children to school, employee people or work as much as you need to, for the house, cars, holidays – all absolutely fine and normal, we all do it regardless or our situation and with varying degrees of success.

Usually at some point in this process there is a website involved, it will showcase your products or services and that is all fine too.  However, how do you go to the next level?  In terms of IT what has to happen.

Most people know how to expand a business… more financing, more employees, moving offices, opening new offices.  It’s great and well known.  We even have a rough idea on how to expand financially, getting listed on stock exchanges, raising VC finance and to help that happen we buy smarter cars, go to smarter restaurants, live in smarter places. it all makes sense.

But technology and the Internet is different – or is it.  The concept is you can more or less be a millionaire from your bedroom, with a website you can be global, have no assets and just facilitate things like AirBnB – but sadly I no longer think this is true.

Allowing my own imagination to run away for a moment, think visitors, users and hits to your website.  Most website get what 30, 40 visitors per day, a few hundred or a few thousand per month, I think even a celebrity we worked with years ago was looking at 60,000 visitors a month.  Divide that up to how many visitors per hour or minute and you get 83 per hour or just over 1 a minute… even if you crunch the numbers you’re looking at no more than 10 a minute.

Now, computers are fast – you click something and in 100ms (1/10th of a second) you get a result.  A web page takes 4 or 5 seconds at the most to load – you looking at easily being able to handle 20 visitors a minute.  Double our most visited website on our books ever!  And that with just our most basic set up.

These days we’re geared up for 100 times that number… Our servers are great, we have Azure, Dedicated and VPS, plus the rest, housed in data centres and that sort of thing.  In short we have tremendous capacity for more visitors.

BUT wait hang on – if we hit Mass Market things leap into action, things really do change.  A few million visitors per month is like 70 visitors per minute on average – which might mean 300 per minute at peak times.  The difference is staggering.  You cannot run a website on a single computer at these levels.  10 million visitors and you might be looking at up to 1000 visitors per minute at peak times.  And that is before you include any redundancy or spare capacity.

Then let’s look at ‘news’.  If you’re doing well and people take notice, it’s likely you’ll hit the news, in which case get ready fro some real action as News is global.  Some examples we’ve had recently are Prince George wearing a clients clothes – this led to 10 times the normal level of visitors.  Equally, Terrorists recently used weapons of a not dissimilar type to some house hold goods we have made a website for.  The association was unwanted – but the visitors leap from 20 a day to nearly 400 that day, nothing too much, but imaging if that website had already been getting 500 visitors a day and it shot up to 10,000.

The issue with a Mass Market website is the difference in peak and normal traffic.  At night you might drop to 500 visitors per hour, but during the peak times it might increase to 3000 visitors per hour.

The point of this Blog post is not really about solutions to these problems.  It’s more about raising awareness that these are the problems.  Mass Market websites are an extraordinary phenomenon, reaching millions of people every day, day in day out required infrastructure of a massive level.  No surprise then that the big Tech companies of the world have so many data centres, computer systems and logistical head aches.  It’s the numbers that are staggering, truly staggering, that little wire that comes into our homes with Broadband on it – represents access to literally billions of websites and it is extremely hard to get even our human brains to deal with the size of the situation.

And now the crux.  If you are lucky enough to have had that germ of an idea, and want to get everyone using it or partaking it, be very aware that your own website at realistic costs of under £1000 per year will have a market penetration of staggering low proportions – you simply cannot do it.  You might get to 20000 visitors a month with 10% conversion rates (200 orders), and you’d be a big and busy business.  But truly to reach mass market – its a whole other ball game and infinitely more challenging.