Wait, are there really any Magento web hosting secrets to reveal? Here at ZeroLag, we’ve published numerous resources covering a variety of Magento web hosting topics, including a whitepaper on how to optimize Magento web hosting to improve sales and customer satisfaction, an infographic on SEO for Magento, and many Magento-specific blog posts on issues of interest to online merchants. So after all that, what more can be said on the topic?
Well, you might be surprised. We love talking about Magento, and it seems like there is always something more to share. Today, we’re bringing you 5 “secrets” we’ve learned about Magento web hosting that we thought you should know.
1. Faster web sites sell more, so design for speed
We’ve written extensively about web site performance and we’d like to think speed is in our DNA – it even inspired the name of our company. When it comes to e-commerce, the importance of web site performance — measured in page load times — cannot be overstated. All other factors being equal, a faster web site will yield a higher customer conversion rate and generate more revenue.
But how fast is fast enough? To help answer that question, earlier this year, we tested the top 500 e-commerce sites (according to Internet Retailer) to gauge the real-world performance of leading online merchants. We weren’t surprised by what we found — the average page load time measured 3.67 seconds, which is respectable. But given the consumer expectation of 2-second page load times, it leaves a lot of room for improvement.
As a Magento web hosting provider, you might think our advice would be to throw more servers and network resources at a site to speed it up. But not so fast (no pun intended). In our experience, the #1 factor influencing Magento site performance is the architecture and design of the site. An improperly developed Magento site won’t achieve its performance potential regardless how fast the web hosting environment. For more information, check out our video from Magento Imagine which discusses the results of extensive testing on Magento sites we host. Unfortunately, building for speed frequently requires compromises. But the sacrifices will show up as black ink on the income statement.
2. Magento extensions: proceed with caution
While 3rd-party Magento extensions — purchased through Magento Connect or elsewhere — offer useful and innovative functionality, many of these extensions are poorly written and inadequately tested. If your customers or admins are experiencing sluggish performance, hangs, or freezes, a misbehaving plug-in (not your Magento web hosting provider) is the most likely culprit. Resist the temptation to load up your site with unnecessary bells and whistles which are provided by extensions. And when it comes to the extensions you feel you must use, make sure that you’ve fully and individually vetted each extension to ensure it doesn’t degrade your site’s performance and stability.
3. Always use a CDN
Implementing a content delivery network (CDN) is probably the fastest and easiest way you can improve the online shopping experience for your customers, which as we have discussed, will manifest itself as improved customer conversion rates and greater revenue. A CDN shoulders part of the Magento web hosting load by moving static content such as images and html to a network of servers which are strategically located around the world. This not only reduces the load on your web server, but speeds up page load times, because these static elements are fetched from the CDN server closest to each web visitor. The net result is a perceptibly faster web site that can handle more traffic, without any need to upgrade your hosting environment. It sounds like a no-brainer because it is.
4. You get what you pay for when it comes to Magento site development
Since its introduction in 2008, Magento has experienced a meteoric rise to its enviable position as the web’s #1 e-commerce platform, with 30% market share as of October 2014. Demand for custom Magento development has grown rapidly as well, creating enormous opportunity for capable Magento developers. But predictably, many less qualified developers have jumped aboard the gravy train. Merchants weighing proposals from developers must conduct through due diligence to ensure a prospective developer is up to the challenges of their Magento project. If a low bid seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.
5.You get what you pay for when it comes to Magento web hosting
Yes, this seems like it might be a self-serving “secret” for us to share. But that doesn’t change the truth of the statement. This point is something of a corollary to #4 above. Many companies are hungry for a slice of the Magento web hosting pie. But Magento is a challenging application to host properly, due to the heavy demands it places on server and network infrastructure. Leading hosting providers like ZeroLag have invested considerable resources to develop the expertise and capabilities to build consistently fast and reliable Magento web hosting solutions. When considering prospective Magento web hosting providers, look beyond price and ask questions about their track record with the platform, whether they are a Magento hosting partner, and details about what other Magento sites they host.