Side wave Side Wave Pink

UX and web hosting: are servers the forgotten user experience component?

Opinion and industry comment, Product and service information

UX and web hosting: are servers the forgotten user experience component?

24th July 2015

User experience (UX) is the discipline of studying a person's behaviour, attitudes and emotions towards a product or service, and of creating the product or service in such a way that the behaviour, attitude and emotion shown towards it is overwhelmingly positive.

In internet terms, UX tends to focus on the role that design and development can play in making websites more user-friendly. But underpinning both web design and web development is web hosting - the platform upon which everything else is built.

As such, hosting is a key and often overlooked component of the UX mix. If you get the hosting wrong, all of the other UX work you do on a website is rendered pretty much redundant.

In this article, we will explore how the hosting decisions you make can have a huge impact on UX and we will detail some of the sensible hosting options for particular scenarios in which you might find yourself when seeking out user-friendly server arrangements.

UX considerations of web hosting

There are lots of things a company or a UX practitioner working on its behalf can do to improve the user-friendliness of their website via the hosting. Let's take a look at some of them:

Geographic location of servers

The location of servers can have a major impact on its performance. The closer a user is to the server location, the quicker the website will perform in their experience. Therefore, basing your servers in the location or multiple markets where your website is most popular will improve user experience.

Choosing the right type of hosting

Another factor that will affect user experience on a website is the type of hosting that has been chosen. Not all websites are created equal, nor are all hosting package. A site that gets sudden surges of traffic, like a popular blog, might need private cloud hosting plus a content delivery network (CDN) so that it scales quickly in order to meet the sudden demand.

By contrast, a retail site will need big database resources to cope with what is likely to be lower concurrent but more resource-intensive traffic. With users enlarging photos, checking sizes, colour options and availability, the database would probably need a dedicated bare metal server, with the other components of the site hosted on a private cloud.

Collaboration between host and developer

 Web host and web developer need to liaise with each other to ensure that everything about the coding and server setup is working in perfect harmony to maximise site performance.

In particular, they need to put their heads together to ensure that everything above-the-fold of the website is loading at lightning fast speed.

Using web acceleration and other tools

There are now a lot of tools and techniques available to improve a site's performance via web hosting. These include accelerator tools, caches, lateral scaling and load balancing. Read more about those things here.

Telling your host about marketing activities

Bringing your hosting company into the loop with regard to marketing activities and seasonal spikes allows them to prepare for and respond to any surges in traffic. This encourages them to optimise to ensure a good user experience for customers. It also takes away the opportunity for excuses after the event if UX wasn't up to scratch.

Consider the impact of software and applications on resources

With technologies evolving so rapidly, it's normal to tack new plugins, apps or software onto an existing website. Just as with marketing activities, bring your hosting company into the discussions about this because if the new software has an impact on resources this might affect server performance, which, in turn, will impact user experience. 

Test regularly 

Regular testing, measurement and adjusting of hosting settings - in the same way that many companies already do for design and development - will help to ensure a website remains fit for purpose and tailored towards the best possible user experience.