How to deal with Magento technology debt
Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that technical debt is a common occurrence in software development. The key is to recognize and effectively manage it in a proactive manner. While Magento is not immune to acquiring technological debt, its open-source nature facilitates code maintenance and ensures high-quality standards when cooperating with knowledgeable developers.
What is technical debt and how do you manage it?
Technical debt is defined as the cumulative consequences of taking shortcuts or compromising processes of software development. This happens if developers choose an efficient solution to fulfill urgent demands without sacrificing long-term value.
Technical Debt can be likened to financial debt – it resembles accumulated credit card debt, where the larger the repaid amount, the less time is required to settle that outstanding balance.
Common Examples of Technical Debt in eCommerce
Technical debt can be acquired by short-term considerations if a short-term and seemingly budget-friendly solution takes more time or money in order to provide better performance.
Certainly, here are some specific examples of technology debt that can accumulate in a Magento e-commerce project:
- Outdated Magento Version: Running an older version of Magento without regular updates can lead to technology debt. This may result in security vulnerabilities, lack of new features, and difficulty in finding support and extensions compatible with the outdated version. Delaying updates may lead to the need for a complete migration instead of simple adjustments.
- Custom Code Without Documentation: Implementing custom code or extensions without documenting them properly can create technology debt. Future developers may find it challenging to understand and maintain the code.
- Inefficient Code: Writing inefficient code that doesn’t follow Magento best practices can result in slower website performance, longer page load times, and increased server resource consumption. For example when the menu is written in HTML instead of being developed in proper Magento code.
- Heavy Reliance on Third-Party Extensions: Over-reliance on third-party extensions without considering their quality, compatibility, and long-term support can lead to conflicts, performance bottlenecks, and security vulnerabilities.
- Inefficient Database Queries: Poorly optimized database queries can slow down the performance of the website, particularly during high-traffic periods.
- Non-Responsive Design: Failing to implement responsive design can result in a poor user experience on mobile devices, leading to lost sales and frustrated customers.
- Inadequate Security Measures: Neglecting to implement necessary security measures such as regular security audits, patching, and monitoring can leave the store vulnerable to attacks and data breaches.
- Obsolete Payment Methods: Not keeping up with the latest payment technologies and failing to support popular payment methods can deter customers and impact sales.
- Inadequate Backup and Disaster Recovery Plans: Lack of proper backup and disaster recovery strategies can lead to data loss and extended downtime in case of unexpected events.
What factors cause tech debt buildup?
The amount of technology debt in different businesses can differ greatly. Keep in mind that technical debt doesn’t mean everything bad.
Just as a company can take on some debt for the growth of its operations, there is a reason to take out some debt to grow or expand its business. E-commerce companies need to better understand how technical debt accumulates.
- Technical debt is always present, emerging as a natural consequence of software development.
- As software complexity increases, it often uncovers the interconnectedness of changes.
- Technology debt arises when technology advances and the technology stack you use is outdated.
What is technical debt in the context of eCommerce?
Several underlying complications are present in older technology, which can be implemented more costly. Trying to “reactivate” the old solutions can lead to bugs and bottlenecks. There will be instances in which projects will exceed budgets and won’t arrive on time.
Sometimes a more efficient solution is to upgrade the eCommerce Platform and decrease the technology debt arising in time of using outdated technology. It is a matter of calculation.
The technical debt can affect your eCommerce in the following areas:
- Diminished website performance negatively impacts SEO and user experience.
- Escalated maintenance costs have a direct influence on return on investment (ROI).
- Heightened risk of security vulnerabilities.
- Challenges in implementing new features or integrations result in technical complexity.
- Increased demands for customer support as developers focus on bug fixes rather than new feature development.
- Excessive costs associated with code changes lead to a longer time to market for new features.
- A high number of software errors necessitates an increase in the development budget.
These are all indicators that should be analyzed constantly to evaluate the situation and make the right decisions.
How to calculate the technology debt?
Technology debt can be calculated by estimating the cost of fixing issues, downtime caused by bugs, and time spent on maintenance. It is also important to consider additional data such as the efficiency gains that would come from a new platform or technology, versus the amount of money saved with an old system.
- Technical debt is quantified in time, representing the effort required to rectify mistakes.
Additionally, it’s important to factor in the effect that technical debt has on customer experience. Poor customer experience can lead to a decrease in sales and lead to more time spent on support issues.
What is the best way to pay back tech debt?
The key here is to take small steps toward paying off the tech debt. This means that you should prioritize tasks, such as upgrading versions of frameworks or libraries, replacing deprecated SDKs (Software Development Kits), or refactoring code. It can also mean opting for modern technologies like microservices and serverless solutions.
Finally, it’s important to allocate resources and budget for ongoing maintenance. This includes development time for bug fixing, feature improvements, as well as refactoring of code. Regularly scheduled maintenance should be put in place to ensure that the technical debt does not accumulate again. Doing this can help to keep customer experience high and help maintain a healthy sales stream.
Making sure that everyone in the organization is aware of the importance of technical debt prevention can be a great start. Regularly reviewing legacy code, setting up automated tests, and investing in continuous integration are all effective ways to reduce tech debt as well.
Overall, technical debt is unavoidable and can be managed by taking proactive steps to prevent it and/or pay it off. By calculating the cost of tech debt, planning ahead, and investing in technology solutions, businesses can reduce Magento’s technology debt altogether.
With a careful approach and proactive management strategies, your team will be able to leverage new technologies while staying on budget.
How can we prevent tech debt?
SaaS solutions typically have the lowest amount of technical debt, as a dedicated team of developers continuously enhances the code. This means that users of the software can focus solely on their tasks without having to worry about any development-related issues.
However, SaaS solutions may not provide extensive customization options. Conversely, custom software, tailored to meet specific needs, could be limited by resource constraints, leading to the accumulation of technical debt. Acknowledging and accepting this reality becomes crucial.
To avoid the technology debt from growing excessively, it is crucial to be vigilant and manage it effectively. This involves recognizing when and where adjustments are necessary to align with the business objectives.
Fixing instead of developing new features
As a merchant operating on Magento, it is crucial for you to comprehend the significance of mitigating technology debt. Doing so is imperative to maintain the seamless and secure functioning of your online store. Achieving this should be one of your primary objectives.
The technical debt problem arising can be explained as a boiler that needs repair. This boiler produces steam but it’s not reliable. It breaks down every now and then and your team is forced to repair it instead of creating new features.
It is worth pointing out how this debt adds up over time, hindering progress on other projects. It is more likely to make the decision if one can understand the consequences of avoiding debt repayment.
Therefore, it’s important to emphasize how managing technical debt is an essential part of developing software in a responsible way.
Tight Budget and Time Pressure
Without sufficient budgets and timely demands, eCommerce can accumulate technical debts. Teams often face constraints in terms of time and resources, leading to rushed projects and urgent deadlines.
Maintaining technical awareness is key when addressing technical debt, even if its impact may not be immediately visible in the store frontend, for instance. It is crucial to recognize that its value lies in reducing time spent on resolving bugs and bottlenecks, thus providing more freedom to focus on developing new features.
Which options reduce the technical debt on the Magento project?
Technology debt is a concept that describes the cost of fixing problems caused by overdue updates or software development shortcuts. In some cases, technology debt can even be incurred by having too much old code that needs to be maintained.
Fortunately, Magento technology debt can be avoided by proactively working to pay it off. This includes:
- conducting regular code reviews,
- monitoring your service for any irregularities,
- conducting regular security audits,
- ensuring that all software updates are being implemented in a timely manner,
- strive to reduce the amount of legacy code within your systems while increasing the focus on modern code.
In order to keep Magento technology debt to a minimum, you should also ensure that you are using the right development methodology for your store. This includes the following best practices such as:
- using Version Control Systems (VCS),
- engaging in Test Driven Development (TDD)
- review whether any third-party add-ons you are using are compatible with the latest Magento release and regularly check for any security vulnerabilities.
Finally, it’s important to keep your development team informed about changes to the core codebase so they can ensure their customizations remain up-to-date.
They should also be aware of any new features that may be added in upcoming releases and incorporate them as needed. This will help ensure your store remains secure and performant, while also keeping Magento technology debt at a minimum.
Examples of Technical debt payoffs from Panda Group practice
In addition to updates and regular code reviews, we provide unwavering focus and a comprehensive examination of the technology stack to pinpoint areas for improvement.
Technical debt under control
With our long-term clients, we can guarantee code quality and manage code changes according to coding standards. It is possible to plan debt-decreasing when working on regular projects as a part of a regular process.
In this case, we usually address technical debt payoff during the development process of ongoing eCommerce projects. We consider business needs and decide together with the client if we implement quick and easy solutions or pay more attention to achieve several goals at the same time like process improvement and lower debt speeds development.
An outstanding illustration of this strategy is the PDF invoice generator, which vastly improves the flawed PDF generation process in the default method of Magento. This enhancement provides a faster and simpler process for Magento eCommerce merchants, significantly streamlining their operations.
To learn more about this case, please read here Magento PDF Genertator case study.
Test-driven development regressive and unity tests
Testing new features is crucial. It is common to conduct automated or manual tests for both new features and code changes. The key factors to consider are test coverage and frequency. However, when it comes to post-development testing (i.e., regression tests), which often involve multiple people, detecting failures accurately can be quite challenging.
When it comes to covering both legacy code and new features with automated tests, breaking them down into smaller parts, also known as unity tests, can greatly enhance the development process. This approach allows for the separation of different areas, enabling thorough testing and thereby increasing the overall security of the development process.
Regressive and unity tests
Unity testing plays a pivotal role in legacy code work. While system-level regression tests are valuable, the significance of small, localized tests cannot be overstated. They provide timely feedback during development and enable safer refactoring. Embrace their power for a smoother development journey.
Magento Code refactoring
When maintaining and developing existing e-commerce projects that have been operational for several years with other Magento Agencies, we may not always have control over the code quality. However, it is important to collaborate with the client to determine the necessary modifications to the existing code and the implementation of new features. Together, we can strike a balance between making necessary amendments and introducing innovative functionalities.
Sometimes it is good to spend some more time on a feature to make necessary corrections to reduce technical debt, which will be helpful in the future.
Consider an example where a menu redesign is coupled with code refactoring, resulting in a reduction of 1000 code lines to just 200. By taking into account the elimination of excessive code throughout, significant payoffs in terms of technical debt can be achieved.
Code reviewing and refactoring are crucial aspects of the development process, ensuring constant quality control. These practices aim to enhance the code’s clarity, legibility, and ease of use, while also ensuring comprehensive test coverage. Whenever changes are made, thorough checks are performed to prevent any regressions.
SaaS solutions for Open-Source eCommerce businesses
It is indeed possible to enhance the open-source technology stack by integrating a SaaS solution, which can help minimize technology debt, as mentioned earlier.
This is just one of the available solutions, and the choice ultimately depends on the options at hand and the business decisions to be made.
Our approach is to openly communicate these options to our clients, equipping them with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions about the next steps to take.
One of the potential risks in this scenario is a lack of initial understanding of the code quality. Without access to the SaaS composer, it becomes challenging to assess the code’s structure and appearance.
However, we analyze each individual situation in-depth to gather as much information as possible. Here is an example of such an analysis of No-Code CMS solutions for Magento platform we did for one of our clients.
eCommerce Migrating or updating
Another scenario arises when we prioritize paying off technical debt to facilitate the scalability of a business. When embarking on an e-commerce venture, it is crucial to have a comprehensive plan that considers short-term and long-term perspectives, encompassing a strategic outlook spanning 2, 3, or even 5 years. This approach ensures that technical debt is minimized, allowing for smoother operations and sustainable growth.
Proper planning allows for the prevention of accumulated technical debt when the business grows. When the upgrade is not enough, you might need to consider a better solution which is a migration. When Magento 1 is not supported as much as Magento 2, operating on Magento 1 may no longer be reasonable.
Migration enables the resolution of technical debts on a large scale, as it impacts all aspects of the eCommerce store. This holistic approach ensures comprehensive improvement and enhances the overall performance and functionality of the store eliminating the higher and higher risk of malfunction and security issues involved in outdated software.
Here is a success story of one of our clients who expanded from one to 6 markets and its – Magento 1 to Magento 2 migration case study – a tutaj nie masz hiperłącza 😉
Headless is not an easy solution raising the complexity of an old and a new project in a similar way. In some cases, it is justified and necessary, especially when your store needs to be customized.
Headless eCommerce means separating the front and back end. Enabling to develop specific areas without direct impact on the whole platform. Headless solutions enhance technical improvements and development processes and allow for a decrease in technical debt bad consequences and influence on the development process.
For further insights into Magento headless solutions, visit our blog where we explore the advantages and disadvantages of this approach to the headless technology stack.
Apps and microservices for Magento
The eCommerce technology stack is often composed of additional applications and microservices. The idea is to address an individual issue and deliver the platform with an easy solution.
It is important to understand how an app or microservice aligns with the entire stack both now and in the future. Anticipating future requirements and features is crucial. Initially, application and microservice development may seem straightforward, but complexity tends to emerge over time.
With careful planning and prediction, it is possible to create superior solutions with limited resources and avoid the costly repercussions of technical debt.
By following the best practices outlined above, you can avoid costly Magento technology debt in the future and keep your store running smoothly and securely.
As your store grows, it’s important to stay ahead of any new trends or changes in order to keep your Magento store up-to-date and running optimally.
With careful planning and proactive management, you can ensure that Magento technology debt does not become a burden on your store.
In addition to avoiding costly tech debt, it’s important to plan ahead for the future of your business.
Consider investing in tools such as monitoring software or performance-based hosting plans to ensure that your store remains secure and reliable.
This will give you the peace of mind of knowing that you’re doing everything possible to maintain an efficient and successful Magento store.
By keeping an eye on your tech debt and planning ahead, you can ensure a successful Magento experience with minimal disruption caused by technology debt.
If a reliable Technology Partner is a good solution in your case let’s talk and check what we can do for you.