Guest Column | December 27, 2018

5 Reasons Your Magento Store Couldn't Handle The Black Friday Rush

By Robert Hogeboom, Sofomo

Walmart & Sam's Club eCommerce Site Upgrades

For online retailers, Black Friday can be the best day of the year — or the worst.

Black Friday 2018 once again surpassed last year’s e-commerce sales. But all the traffic can spell the end for many online retailers’ Black Friday dreams when their stores can’t handle the surge of visitors. Slow page load times and site crashes hinder many online stores’ sales and leave retailers seeing Black Friday as a missed opportunity instead of a day to celebrate.

Many of the retailers who experienced speed and performance problems use Magento, one of the world’s most popular e-commerce platforms. The problem isn’t the technology: Magento is a highly scalable platform used by some of the most trafficked e-commerce sites in the world. The problem is how the technology has been implemented.

You can only take advantage of Magento’s combination of power and flexibility if you follow best development practices to implement your Magento store. Here are the top five causes of poor Magento store performance and how to avoid them.

  1. An Outdated PHP Version

One of the most common causes for slow Magento store performance is also one of the easiest to overlook: an outdated version of PHP.

Without getting too far into the technical weeds, PHP is the language Magento’s back-end is written in. Older versions of PHP consume significantly more computing resources than newer versions of PHP — the culprit for slow page load times. Magento stores still running on PHP version 5 are up to twice as slow as stores that are on the latest PHP 7 version.

While upgrading your PHP requires only a simple installation, the tricky part is ensuring that the new PHP version is compatible with your store’s custom modules, third-party modules, and libraries. A successful PHP upgrade needs compatibility testing of all system components, including checkout pages, the catalog, transactional emails, cron jobs and more.

  1. Ineffective Caching

Caching is one of the most effective ways to improve your Magento store’s performance. Put simply, caching makes it possible to instantly display page data to customers without spending unnecessary time querying the database to fetch the data.

While Magento includes some caching out-of-the-box, it has significant limitations. To improve your caching use Redis, an extremely fast tool for storing cache and visitor sessions. Redis should be combined with Varnish, a web app accelerator that provides additional caching capabilities. Together, these technologies will deliver powerful caching capabilities that improve store loading time.

  1. Insufficient Hosting Setup

The previous two sources of slow Magento store speed are related to Magento configuration. But configuration improvements can only get you so far if your hosting isn’t set up to meet your traffic needs. The unfortunate truth is, many Magento stores don’t have the necessary hosting setup to handle the memory and ram that is consumed during peak usage times such as Black Friday.

Hosting is a comprehensive subject. But here are the three most important hosting practices to follow…

  • Auto-scaling will automatically increase your server resources to accommodate high traffic spikes and cost-effectively decrease resources during low traffic periods.
  • Properly configured monitoring of all hosting services will alert you to potential store crashes before they happen.
  • A content delivery network (CDN) will deliver your store pages from servers that are in close geographic proximity to your customers, resulting in faster page loading.
  1. Poor Front-End Implementation

Many of the errors we’ve discussed so far will cause your whole store to slow down or crash. But if just certain store pages are slow to load, the cause is typically poor front-end layer page coding (in JavaScript and CSS).

Audit your slow-loading pages for the number of requests for each page and the amount of downloadable content on those pages (a combination of JavaScript, CSS, and images). Typically, there shouldn’t be more than 250-page load requests and as few as possible megabytes of downloadable data. Anything more will slow the page load time.

There are a number of front-end coding implementation issues that could be to blame for your performance problems. Examples include code duplication, not using bootstrap or any other modern CSS framework, or unoptimized JavaScript, images, and CSS. Each of these problems can be resolved with some basic refactoring.

  1. Magento’s Default Search Functionality

Your online store’s search function is crucial to help customers find the items they need and convert. The better the search experience, the more sales you see.

Magento does include default store search functionality. But for stores with a sizable product catalog, the default search will be too slow.

This problem is easy to solve: Simply implement an external search engine tool such as Elastic Search, Solr and Sphinx.

Your greatest strength also can be your greatest weakness. This is true with Magento. Magento’s power as a robust e-commerce platform can become your Achilles’ heel if not implemented correctly — particularly on high shopping traffic days such as Black Friday.

Protect your business against these five common causes of Magento store failures to make sure you never lose a sale or leave a customer frustrated by a slow experience.

About The Author

Robert Hogeboom is Managing Director at Sofomo (, exceptional software development teams for growth companies in Silicon Valley and across the world. Working with leading eCommerce companies in the U.S. and Europe.