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E-commerce website performance - a case study

There is currently quite a lot of information on the internet about website performance in terms of page load speed. Unfortunately what most of it comes down to is what it known as "Monkey patching" or otherwise hacking on top of out dated technology to achieve a performance gain.

Some developers however choose to do things differently, this post will focus on some technology and patterns used to gain a good balance between website performance, usability and scalability.

Creating a fast platform has to start in the right place and fortunately for us we had a purpose built modular CMS or Content Management System built from the ground up to facilitate a fast website in a widely used production environment. One of the core principals of the CMS was to never compromise on performance, a principal which was later relaxed for module development due to the core system using so few resources. This allowed us to create truly expressive, dynamic modules to enhance the capabilities of the system, one of which is the E-commerce module which we will be discussing in brief in this article.

Built over the course of 12 months between 2015 and 2016 the module encapsulates and otherwise tries to invalidate common annoyances in the e-commerce software sector. The two main gripes at most of the available e-commerce software were website load time and website scalability that is the number of concurrent users or transactions the website could tolerate before melting down without costing obscene sums of money for hardware.

We set out to tackle these gripes without adding lots of extra caching layers, caching proxies or otherwise advanced and often complicated configuration to the core system or its modules. We wanted an amazing out of the box experience with minimal configuration that would allow us to concentrate on creating outstanding user experiences and not have to worry to much about the effects on the system. We also wanted an amazing search experience, as, in our opinion, what was currently on offer was sub standard and could easily be improved upon.

Search

Having been and avid Lucene advocating company for many years through various job boards, recruitment websites, CRM systems, Directories and Property portals we knew that we wanted to utilise the technology again. At the time and on several other projects nodex was invested heavily in Elasticsearch, it was powering a few of our API's for searching and geo location lookups and was processing approximately 8 million requests per day on average with very little in the way of resource utilisation, this meant for us that we knew the system could handle almost infinite horizontal scalability.

For obvious reasons search is read heavy and thus it should be optimised for the read path, meaning that one write (a product update for example) may be read hundreds of thousands of times in search results before it is updated or removed, this allows Elasticsearch to make efficient use of its internal caching and keeps search times very low indeed, mostly under 10ms from application to server and back.

Facets / Filters.

Another great piece of technology that Elasticsearch (Lucene in general) afforded us was facets or filters. Facets are the little filter menus you often see say for example on Amazon or Ebay on the left of the screen and they give you product counts for varying different criteria, perhaps pricing blocks or categories or colours. Although other e-commerce software offered these filters, they were seldom any good and often either very expensive to create (in terms of resources) or they were inaccurate or quite often didn't include the actual product count so they weren't in fact all that useful. Elasticserach however is very fast at creating these filters for display to the end user, furthermore filtering with these buckets is extremely fast due to the way we handled the searching internally, this gave us a win in the performance box and a win in the user experience box a win win if you will!!

Putting it all together

So you're probably asking yourself why does all this matter, it matters in a number of ways, here are a few to mull over:

  1. End user experience first and foremost a website should deliver the very best experience it can if it wishes to retain a user base this is a no brainer!
  2. Faster IO means better scalability it stands to reason that if you can process a request faster then you can process more requests per second.
  3. Google / other search engines give a ranking boost to faster websites once again this is a no brainer and a widely accepted fact that faster website rank higher in the SERPS and we know that higher rankings mean more traffic which in turn gives greater opportunity for sale.
  4. Beating your competitors this touches on the first point a little but simply ask yourself, if you have two websites and one gives you a faster and less bandwidth intense experience then which one would you return to?

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What clients & recruiters say about us

Exceptional service!! Nodex have been great throughout. The website and Recruitment CRM is absolutely amazing and has really helped us with the day to day running of clients and candidates. We would highly recommend Nodex to any recruitment agency looking for a website and/or CRM. 10 out of 10 (From Trust Pilot)
Global Vet Recruitment
Cannot rate the guys at Nodex enough, brilliant service from start to finish. Following the initial call with Andrew we knew the guys would look after after us and we weren’t wrong. Through every step of the process we received brilliant customer service and nothing was too much bother for them. If Heineken did web design then it would be by these guys! Already onto our next website with them. (From Trustpilot)
Big Ant Group
Not only was the service exemplary, the quality of my website and CRM is outstanding. Brilliant value for money. The team at Nodex have given my business their undivided attention and care during this process. I wanted a site that was easy to use and looked slick; Nodex have delivered tremendously. The Nodex CRM is easy to use, affective and concise. I am very pleased. I would recommend Nodex in a heartbeat. Fantastic work guys, thank you very much. (From Trustpilot)
Dara Recruitment
Guys at Nodex are very knowledgeable, friendly and provide outstanding service. I was looking for a company to revamp our existing website, the team went through our old website and highlighted the issues that we needed to fix. They have done an excellent job in putting our new website. Would definitely recommend them to anyone looking to build a website. (From trust pilot)
Mera Peak Recruitment
When seeking a web designer for our new recruitment business, I initially approached a number of web design companies. Once I spoke to the team at Nodex, I knew straight away that they were the most knowledge company in their field. The service offered by the team at Nodex has been exceptional. They were on hand to offer advice, make adjustments and were very supportive from start to finish. I would recommend Nodex without any hesitation. Thank you!
Antella Recruitment
We recently migrated to the Nodex CRM, taking up the opportunity to move to a nodex website as part of a fully integrated solution. Well...WE'RE DELIGHTED WE DID! Really pleased with the user experience, it has improved work efficiency no end, and the team love it. Extremely responsive support on any queries we raised. (Via trustpilot)
Orchard Recruitment
A fantastic fast and easy service to use, along with a very supportive team at Nodex. Its helped spend less time on admin and more on selling. This CRM makes the workflow smarter. I would recommend it to anyone.
Global Pets Recruitment
I had a great experience working with Nodex, they were extremely helpful from start to finish, always on hand to answer any queries or concerns. They know what they are talking about and offered some excellent advice in ways to maximise the fullest potential of my business website. The whole process was extremely efficient and the team went above and beyond in achieving my company vision. (From Trust Pilot)
Hero recruitment
Andrew and the Nodex team have been superb from the moment I asked for a demonstration on their CRM and i knew they would be the right business for me from them. Really easy to speak to, helpful and will go out of their way to provide first class customer service. Andrew has gone way beyond what I would normally expect and has helped me with tech issues outside of the actual Nodex products. Their CRM offers real value, easy to use and allows you to do far more than other options on the market and for a lower price! The connection with my company's website is also brilliant. I look forward to continuing to work with Nodex for the long term! (From Trust pilot)
Treasury search
Andrew, Alex and their team are highly knowledgeable and fully understand the needs of a recruitment business, which shows in the recruitment software they have developed. The CRM platform is very user friendly, has all the functionality that you would expect to see (if you don’t, they will design this for you) and is regularly updated. The set up / changeover process is swift and straight forward and the team are always there to support when needed.

I will be recommending Nodex to my network for anyone that is looking for a Recruitment Website or CRM.

(From Trust pilot)
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