High Traffic Online Publishing

For mens network Complex.com, scaling and optimizing to handle peak daily traffic of over 2.5M pageviews of more than 70,000 pages was critical.

By Ryan Thrash
November 8, 2011
High Traffic Online Publishing

Dealing with Massive Traffic at a Popular Online Publisher

Complex.com is the online network for 20-something men. Originally launched as a men's lifestyle magazine in 2002, the complex.com website has served almost 400-million page views. It certainly qualifies as a high traffic site. With a team of 35 editors creating content around the clock and over 70,000 pages, being on the right platform makes all the difference.

Complex.com home page

The Challenge

Originally built in WordPress, complex.com rapidly ran into a wall as its publishing volume, contributors and popularity increased. They needed a solution to scale page views and publishing workflow. Several key challenges factored into the solution:

  • 100-million page views monthly and heading towards 150-million,
  • Higher sustained and peak traffic, is expected in the future,
  • The ability to change existing or to create new content types would be of considerable benefit, and
  • Having editors focused on content creation—and not the publishing tool—is of utmost importance.

Complex.com needed intuitive, custom editors for certain types of content, a secure platform due to the exposure of the site, and custom interfaces for editing content specific to their website.

The MODX Solution

The flexibility of MODX's caching architecture paid notable dividends for Complex.com. MODX was able to work with the team at Complex to create a solution that scaled across the existing nine front-end web servers to deal with traffic loads. To achieve this, a custom plugin was created that registered caching events to the native MODX message queue, to which all front-end servers subscribed.

"The ability to add servers and tweak the caching in MODX really impressed us," said Aleksey Baksheyev, Director of Technology, Complex Media, Inc. "It is straightforward to add instances to cope with our traffic that is double from last year and shows no signs of slowing down." Complex developed an entirely new caching system stored cached versions of all pages with Zend Framework. On top of that Complex also creates static HTML pages for the most popular and trending stories.

For custom content types, Complex was able to streamline data entry and ensure that the editorial standards would be met by creating a custom article management UI. "We now have a fully custom content management solution that meets our needs today … we also get the benefits of having a large and thriving Open Source community, and all the benefits that brings," relayed Aleksey. "We are pleased with MODX as a platform, and do not think we could achieve the same results on any other CMS—the only other way would be to create a completely custom solution."

Complex.com website traffic

Complex.com Solution Highlights

  • Multiple front-end webservers
  • Static assets served from CDN
  • Master-slave database back end
  • Custom MODX cache and cache synchronization plugin for all front-end web server instances
  • Dedicated Manager instance/controller
  • More than 1000 new resources added weekly
  • More than 70,000 existing resources