Seven tips — how to make sure your website can handle a crisis

In a crisis, you must look at your website from both a UX design and communication perspective, but also from an operational security perspective.

It is essential that your visitors find the right information quickly and that it's easy to understand. But it is just as crucial that your site meets the unexpected and sudden system requirements that may arise.

Rebel and Bird’s Creative Director Mikael Jansson and Tech Director Voja Tadic give you seven tips on what you need to know to secure your website in a crisis.

When people wants answers

In times of crisis, the need for information increases; therefore, it's crucial to have easily accessible and fact-based information that is updated continuously. With good User Experience design, you can ensure that visitors find the right information quickly without overshadowing the business’s other communication needs. It’s about making the visitors feel safe and informing them about what your business is doing to handle the crisis. Visitors that feel safe and calm are more likely to use your organization’s services, even in times of crisis. 

A small message on the start page isn’t enough

Much of your traffic will probably come from Google searches (as it usually does anyway). That means the user will likely land on other pages than the home page. Therefore, it is wise to inform about the situation on all pages. You can do this through similar solutions you use today to tell about GDPR and cookies. Keep in mind that this message should not be perceived as a warning or alarmist; the message should rather be informative and calming. Visitors should pay attention to what you have to say, but it should not be at the expense of your other content. Keep the news short. Then direct the user to a page where you collect all of your crisis updates.

Update frequently

Informed visitors are more patient. For example, people are much more willing to accept a delayed train when they feel informed about the situation, but if it says 5 minutes on the sign for 30 minutes they quickly lose their patience.

Outdated information can do more harm than good. Be sure to keep your information flow up to date. A good strategy is to have fixed times for updates and tell this to your visitors. Keep your schedule, even if there is not much new to say. If that’s the case say that and let them know when the next update will be. Of course, you can deviate from the schedule if something new comes up. 

SEO is essential

In crises, it is of the utmost importance that you ensure good technical SEO — do not compromise on the hygiene of search engine optimization. During the crisis, it is likely that you will receive visitors who fall outside your regular target group. Think about how you want to capture these people. They may be future customers.

Avoid competing with the authorities

In times of crisis, the information of the authorities must reach the public. Remember not to rewrite or repeat the information contained in official channels, as this increases the risk of errors and misunderstandings. Instead, refer to the official channels and focus on what your organization is doing to deal with the crisis.

Reliability — can your website withstand a crisis? 

From a technical perspective, your website must be built to manage an increased number of visitors. As the traffic increases, the site needs to be able to deliver the information without the server crashing. 

One way to ensure that the site can handle this is to have it in the cloud. Then you can scale up your solution smoothly if needed. Another part of the solution is to use a Content Delivery Network (CDN). The CDN lies between the visitor and the site’s server and stores previous answers to questions already asked. This way, the CDN can respond directly to the visitor without the server needing to help. It will be faster for the visitor, less pressure on your website, and a lower cost for you. You can also have the visitor’s browser do some processing of data, such as filtering, to ease the pressure on the server.

A crisis can also have you do unpredictable things. For example, the EU asked Netflix to lower the quality of its video streams so that the bandwidth in the region could cope easier with the increased load when more people are asked to work from home.

Technical cost savings 

When an unexpected situation arises, the system receives other requirements.

Usually, we look at how many visitors a website can handle (this would be a pleasant problem. To scale up the system because of more visitors can lead to more revenue). But in a crisis, new demands can be made for cost savings. “How much can we scale down our system with retained functionality?” Anything you can save can be important in a crisis.

Originally posted in Swedish at Byråvärlden.