A common theme we see when providing technological consulting services at Stauffer is that many potential clients have trouble keeping pace with the sometimes overwhelming, but beneficial, march of technological progress. Instead of taking a holistic approach to addressing these updates, organizations take other, cheaper options that work as a band-aid to the problem but do not actually address the real problem. In the industry we call this ”technical debt.”
These accumulated shortcuts, workarounds, or suboptimal solutions made during the development process results in trade-offs between short-term benefits and long-term maintainability and scalability. “Technical debt” is an analogy we use to describe the consequences of choosing an easy or expedient solution over a better, more comprehensive one that might upfront take more time, effort, and budget to implement. In the short view these small adaptations and tweaks seem like a good fit, but over time they create a logistical mess that can cost you a fortune.
In the context of web design, technical debt can occur when developers use quick fixes or outdated coding practices to meet project deadlines or to address immediate issues. While these shortcuts might work initially, they can lead to challenges in the future, hindering the website’s performance, security, or the ability to adapt to future changes.
We see this all the time here at Stauffer during technical audits. Every organization has their own level of technical debt to a certain degree with their own nuances, but there are a few critical bits of technical debt that we find to be almost universal to almost every client. Is it time for your organization to hire an agency (like Stauffer) to run a technical audit of your website? If you think that you might be exposed to one, or all, of these examples of technical debt, it may be time to give us a call to develop a remediation plan that works within your budget and product roadmap:
USING OUTDATED FRAMEWORKS OR LIBRARIES
Using older or unsupported technologies may lead to compatibility issues and hinder the website’s ability to leverage modern web development advancements, like apps and very helpful third-party tools. It also leaves clients found wanting as they stay current with their computers and web browsers. If you do not stay at pace with the updates of the rest of the online landscape, your site will degrade to the point that it starts to become less usable on the front and back end which ultimately undermines your brand’s message ,increases bounce rates, and results in fewer conversions.
As you neglect your website’s maintenance, you also leave the door open for hackers and other nefarious actors to come in and have their way with your private data and public image. In both cases potentially putting you in a serious financial and PR predicament. Not only are you staring down the barrel of legal fees from data breaches, but you will also lose some of your hard-earned trust and reputation.
NOT OPTIMIZING FOR DIFFERENT DEVICES
Failing to design responsive web pages that adapt to various screen sizes and devices can result in a poor user experience for mobile users. Phones, tablets and screens change sizes, and as they do your website should be taking some accounts of it. This seems like a small thing, but when it comes to UX/UI you should always be open step ahead as to cater to the needs of your client.
Making seamless transitions into the new ways your users take in content is one of those things the client only notices when it isn’t happening – and that’s literally not a good look for your brand.
IGNORING SEO BEST PRACTICES AND WASTING AD DOLLARS WITH BAD UX/UI
Search engines not only look at keywords and contextual metadata of a website to rank their listings, they also look at the health and recency of a site. If your site loads slow or has all sorts of security issues due to letting updates lapse, search engines will find it against their own best interests to give you a good ranking. Money spent on technical debt will increase visibility in search engines, potentially impacting inbound site traffic and user acquisition.
If your organization is spending a lot of money on CPC ads that are getting clicks, but not giving you the conversions you were expecting, your site UX/UI could be optimized to better cater to how your audience needs to take in your message. Styles and browsing habits change over time, taking assessment of your site metrics is paramount to better understanding how to adapt and stay competitive in the online marketplace against other brands.
LACK OF DOCUMENTATION
Quick fixes and shortcuts can be made in haste, leading to developers to overlook making documentation about the changes that were made. Over time, these small pieces of code can be lost in the shuffle, leading to performance slowdowns and lend themselves to complications down the road that can be difficult to identify months, or even years later. Inadequate or outdated documentation can make it difficult for other developers to understand and maintain the codebase, leading to increased maintenance invoices and potential errors.
ACCUMULATION OF UNUSED CODE
Not cleaning up unused or redundant code can lead to increased load times and complexity, affecting website performance. While this unused code may go unseen on what appears on the page, search engines can still identify it and downgrade your site within search listings. This clunky method of site upkeep can also take a lot of time to weed through and lead to pricey repairs down the line. Not checking in on how to better maintain, edit, and curate your code to keep in-line with modern development languages and methodologies is a common problem that needs to be addressed frequently so your site can stay at peak-performance.
Addressing technical debt is crucial to maintaining a healthy and sustainable web design. Web developers and designers should periodically conduct code reviews, refactor outdated or problematic code, and prioritize addressing technical debt as part of ongoing maintenance efforts. By doing so, websites can remain resilient, adaptable, and optimized for both users and future changes.
Do any of these problems sound familiar? Maybe it’s time for your organization to perform a technical audit on your online system.