It’s an unfortunately common scenario – you reach out to your website partner for what you assume will be a simple feature change or upgrade. They respond that it’s not that easy – your site has too much technical debt. Messy code has accumulated over time and it needs to be cleaned up before any new work can begin. Suddenly your small request is a large (and expensive) project. Tech debt is common for websites, but it’s both fixable and preventable.
Never even heard of tech debt? Today is your lucky day, friend. We’re going to teach you:
- What is website tech debt?
- What things are considered tech debt?
- How to detect and prevent website tech debt
What is website tech debt?
Technical debt is the consequence of website development decisions that result in prioritizing quick fixes over the most well-designed code. If you’ve had a website for some time, chances are you’ve done this – made coding or design decisions that you know will need to be addressed and updated in the future in order to achieve functionality you wanted or needed in the moment. Or various agencies, managers, and developers made quick changes and updates without taking time to clean out old information, code or custom fields.
Each short-term fix to get a project done quickly results in a long-term project deficit, or technical debt. You could compare this to financial debt, and how short-term money borrowing leads to accrued financial debt.
Tech debt can make your site run slow, make it difficult to manage, and highly increase the likelihood of site bugs.
What things are considered tech debt?
Tech debt can mean different things to different people. Here is how we define it:
- Code that is no longer used but still stored on your web server.
Old, unused code not only uses up space, but can make working with multiple or future web development partners difficult. When working on your site, a developer will have to spend a lot of time figuring out what is used and what can be ignored. Unused code can be especially problematic when you have an urgent bug that needs to be addressed.
- Plugins that are no longer used but still installed.
Unused plugins are a problem for the same reasons as unused code. In addition, old plugins can pose a security risk if they are no longer maintained. Learn more about why you should wrangle your plugins.
- Database information or media assets that are no longer needed.
If your website has been revised multiple times, chances are high that there is a lot of data bloat. Data overload is an issue mainly because database files can get very large and, as a result, cause your site to load slowly and make backups take forever.
How to detect and prevent website tech debt
There comes a time in any website’s life that it’s best to just start over. We can help you know when it’s time to overhaul your website. If that time isn’t today, follow the tips below to avoid adding to the tech debt dent. Prevention is key!
- Do a regular audit of all the different settings and edit screens in your content management system (CMS). Are they all still in use? This can provide clues that your site has tech debt.
- Check for old content you no longer need live, especially unlinked, one-off pages like a landing page you used for a one-time event.
- Ask a developer to do an audit of your site's code and database and remove anything that's no longer in use.
- Uninstall and delete any plugins you are no longer using. This is the easiest, quickest thing you can do to ensure site reliability. Just remember to do this in a safe environment!
- Check your disk space usage and bandwidth usage through your web host. If you suspect it's higher than it should be, or if you aren't sure, ask a developer.
- Invest the time (and budget!) to follow best practices: review code, test regularly, document completed work. Resist the urge to take short cuts or rush projects. Doing it right the first time will pay off in the long run.
Preventing tech debt is one of the biggest reasons to build a custom website with a knowledgeable website partner. If you're already in a situation with lots of tech debt, contact us for help. We’re in this together.