Some little art project websites deliberately avoid indexing their page, so it’s well-hidden from traffic. Web development classes, modern art classes, and all sorts of other classes will ask students to make something online. They don’t necessarily want those websites getting shared outside of the class. Keeping a page un-indexed makes it much harder to stumble upon, but it’s not a perfect cure – people with the direct link can still post it elsewhere. If they retain it after they leave the class, and remember how cool it was, and then it ends up on Reddit… suddenly it’s a curse, especially if identifying information like names are left on-site.
Websites made as a joke in the first place can turn into a curse too! Youtuber Drew Gooden’s “Hot Dog” website was made as part of an advertising campaign for Wix, but it’s unclear if he actually wants to maintain it. It’s still in his ownership today. This is a unique problem to have! It may cause him more issues to close the site, now that it’s address has been immortalized in videos. Besides, they’ve come to expect the website to function, they’ve bookmarked it, and they’re demanding that their entertainer dance.
Real Retail Hours
Tiny DIY shopping websites sometimes get cratered by that same ‘hug of death’, especially if they accidentally go ‘viral’. Look at TikTok advertisers for example: anyone can post, and because of the app’s algorithm, it’s possible for a creator with no followers to suddenly end up with 100,000+ views on a particularly entertaining video. No ad dollars were spent, the creator was just super funny that day and it spread. This is great! Until their traffic jumps from an expected 500/day to 20,000/day, because their product has gotten much more reach than they could have prepared for. Sellouts are inevitable, frustrated users are also inevitable.
In fact, a broken or slow website will even push away people who did get to make a purchase. Unpleasant shopping experiences steer consumers away from online retailers at a horrifying rate! The same goes for lag – mobile users are unwilling to wait for an item they don’t really want, or don’t really need from that specific store. I could get a hat anywhere, for instance – why should I wait five seconds to get through to a store on mobile when I could go ding a different store? Obviously it’s not that simple, but big websites have resources that little ones don’t, and the especially wishy-washy buyers will be put off by the difference in experiences.
There are ways to handle this, but unfortunately many businesses don’t have the chance to prepare.
And then there are websites that are really hoping for growth, and it suddenly happens. It’s rare to have a site blow up overnight – most repeat visits are the result of hard work and consistent effort to capture the visitor’s attention. Unfortunately, in this era of social media, it’s very easy to accidentally blow a website out of the water. Yay, Growth! Turns into Oh No, They Aren’t Stopping. The server for the website crashes, and a lot of potential viewers are shut out from it. If the website’s lucky, the interested folks will bookmark the page and come back, so they’ve got a better distribution the second time around.
Some websites go offline a few hours after Reddit’s discovered them, to recover. The ‘hug of death’ is a well-known phenomenon – nobody’s DDoSing the website on purpose!
Single-person websites are often hoping to not be discovered by somewhere huge. Think about it: if they haven’t paid for advertising, if they don’t get revenue from hosting ads, if they don’t sell anything on their site, then they don’t make money from page views. They’re probably not looking for a giant spike in page views out of nowhere, with some exceptions like ‘public service’ projects made by civilians, or ARGs.
Tiny websites and tiny forums alike struggle to handle being “discovered” on websites like Reddit, Digg, or Youtube. Famously, a Buffy the Vampire superfan’s website (which I’m deliberately not linking here) was crashed by new visitors after forums made it a spectacle. Sure, the superfan posted a lot – as is their right. The information they posted helped other fans find information about meetups and appearances by the actors. The flood of people showing up on other social media to comment on and harass the single poster was unfortunate, and it could have been avoided if people hadn’t dogpiled. Even deeper, maybe people wouldn’t have dogpiled if the website hadn’t shown up on blogs. The sole commentator, maintainer, and moderator made the website private after people showed up to screw around.
Similarly, small sites get flooded when a big site ‘discovers’ them, and then suffer from community collapse and site breakdown. A forum with 200 or so regular posters isn’t going to be able to moderate new conversations from other, bigger sites – and even worse, newcomers who might have been interested in the topic get the idea that the website’s a total dumpster fire when it’s just understaffed. These sites want traffic, yeah, but they want the right kind of traffic. Well-intentioned traffic. On-topic traffic. If a community behaves itself, there’s no reason to have a team of 20 moderators. People showing up to flame the forum are going to stretch resources thin.
Don’t go spread news about some wacky website on big forums without knowing the site first. The consequences may be greater than you could imagine!