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Super Bowl Syndrome

Last updated Oct 17, 2003.

Optimization doesn't stop at the things visitors see on a site. It plays a role behind the scenes where the technology is invisible, when effective, to visitors.

Super Bowl Sunday, unofficially known as Super Advertising Day, has companies paying mega-bucks for 30-second commercials during the Super Bowl when TV viewing is high. Participating companies often list their Web address during the advertisement, leading to a surge in Web site traffic. Even the National Football League experiences a spike in hits on its Web site as high as 761 percent from the day before the game. That is not a misprint; seven hundred sixty-one percent, which roughly equals 904,000 unique visitors.

AT&T set itself apart from its advertising competitors when it introduced mlife.com during the 2002 Super Bowl. Not because of the advertisement, but because the site was so overwhelmed with 681,000 visitors that many couldn't access the site. Does that make it a success? What are the chances the visitors would try again the next day after returning to Monday's workday?

With 86.8 million people tuning into the football game, shouldn't companies advertising during the game be prepared for the weight placed on its servers? Capturing just 0.05 percent of the audience equals 434,000 people. mLife went into the game knowing the potential number of viewers and could have estimated the traffic that could hit their site.

mLife is an example of not being prepared for server overload. However, a site's performance is dependent on its hardware and server capabilities. Regularly adding updated content via discussion groups, articles, comments, knowledgebases, files, and much more can impact performance. That's where planning for post-launch and maintenance during the requirements phase is valuable. Reviewing the purpose of the site and how it'll be used gives hints as to what consistently increases its storage size and bandwidth on a daily basis, and helps plan for special events such as advertising and conferences.