Tom Raffield: Grand Designs

Tom Raffield: Grand Designs Website Traffic Management

We were really excited to hear that our long-standing client, Tom Raffield, was to appear on Grand Designs on Wednesday 5 October 2016 building his dream timber-clad home. With an estimated 2.6 million (1) people tuning in to watch the show, we had to ensure his website could handle the unknown and significantly high traffic expected.

Tom Raffield Home Page

“Knowing that Dewsign had rigorously prepared our website for the impact of appearing on Channel 4’s Grand Designs was a weight off our minds - and of huge benefit to our business. Implementing a number of digital strategies and having rigorously tested our website in the run up to the programme meant website users and potential customers had a seamless experience of our brand.”

— Tom Raffield

Tom and his wife, Danielle, run a wood steam-bending business in Cornwall, crafting a range of contemporary furniture and lighting using traditional techniques. When we built his website back in 2012, it had everything a small business would require; an ecommerce platform, user-friendly backend and slick consumer experience. However, we had to review its performance and provide a cost effective solution that ensured the website could withstand the spike in traffic and maximise the potential to generate extra sales and business leads.

Despite having extensive experience with industry conversion rates, it was difficult to predict the impact Grand Designs would have on Tom’s website and we had to prepare for all eventualities. We created a mirror site on a dedicated server, which was load-tested with over 1 million visitors/150 concurrent users per second to determine the capabilities.

It became quickly apparent that the current hosting environment was not designed for such an unprecedented spike in traffic. We selected a cloud-based Content Delivery Network (CDN), which would not only drive traffic away from the current server but also act as a Load Balancer, Web Optimisation and Security Layer with extensive analytics so we could see how it was all performing. By implementing the service and some additional server side caching technologies, we configured and load tested an environment that could deal with uncharacteristic levels of traffic with no disruption to the existing platform.

Active Users

Active Users

With Tom’s robust new hosting infrastructure ready to go, our team eagerly watched the show whilst being on hand to monitor the site in real time. In comparison to his normal traffic levels the results were incredible, with over 5,200 active users during the peak of the performance, 100 users per second and an on-going 2,000+ active users for the majority of the evening.

When analysing the impact of the show, we compared seven days of site data with the previous week (2) to find a 2,061% rise in active users (image 1) and a session duration increase from 3m 11s to 4m 33s (image 2).

Although Tom’s Grand Designs episode was predominantly about his steam-bent wooden house, it is clear that the show generated a significant interest in him and his business too. He had a 7,900% weekly increase in people signing up to his newsletter after the show, indicating that people wanted to remain involved in his story and find out more about his products.

Website page views were up by 3,432% and from the all important commercial perspective, his direct online sales revenue increased by a remarkable 711%.

Session Duration

Session Duration

Interestingly, 57% of people accessed the site with their mobile device and 32% with their tablet, leaving only 11% to use their desktop. This confirms the growing trend for people to browse websites on mobiles and tablets whilst watching TV programmes.

It has been a pleasure working with Tom and his team over the years. Combining his extraordinary craftsmanship with our forward thinking technology driven solutions, we have successfully helped him take his business to the next level. Thanks to the success of the Grand Designs show and the website’s robust performance, Tom and his team are extremely busy.

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