Building complicated, dynamic content in Drupal is easy, but it can come at a price. A lot of the stuff that makes a site engaging can spell ‘performance nightmare’ under heavy load, thrashing the database to perform complex queries and expensive calculations every time a user looks at a node or loads a particular page.
One solution is to turn on page caching on Drupal’s performance options administration page. That speeds things up for anonymous users by caching the output of each page, greatly reducing the number of DB queries needed when they hit the site. That doesn’t help with logged in users, however: because page level caching is an all-or-nothing affair, it only works for the standardized, always-the-same view that anonymous users see when they arrive.
Eventually there comes a time when you have to dig in to your code, identify the database access hot spots, and add caching yourself. Fortunately, Drupal’s built-in caching APIs and some simple guidelines can make that task easy.