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Website Code Reviews Reveal Hidden Problems

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Periodic website code reviews are a healthy step toward maintaining quality control over the product. It also may help search engine rankings.

Websites are far more complicated these days than they were 10 or 15 years ago. For sites that display advertising, the code is much more sophisticated because advertisers want to target their ads and track their results.

All of the code that displays content and advertising often ads up to a massive amount of words, images, scripts, add-ons, extensions, etc. Together, they can slow page performance even in these times of high bandwidth browsing.

When a visitor may spend only a few seconds on a page before leaving, is it any wonder that search engines favor fast-loading sites?

Content management systems and ecommerce applications require more security and simply do more than ever before. Publishers want more plugins or custom coding to fulfill special needs. New toys tempt publishers to integrate them into their sites that already have plenty of toys to entice and keep visitors.

Putting all of these advances together means the code that displays website pages has become complex and sophisticated. But all of that code may not all be necessary.

Benefits of a Code Audit

Several potential problems are worth investigating:

  1. A plugin that is out of date or no longer used.
  2. HTML flaws implemented by an inexperienced coder.
  3. Design updates that require more tweaking.

A code audit once a year or even every six months may reveal javascripts or other coding that simply isn’t useful anymore.

The scripts may have gone onto pages for the sake of an initiative that didn’t work well. The HTML or other coding that displayed the service may have been removed from the page.

But that doesn’t mean the publisher or staff reviewed the code for the entire page. Some applications require multiple scripts that may not appear in the same location.

The entire code behind some public content pages is often literally dozens of pages long because of the amount of words, HTML and scripts that display it. Scripts can appear in multiple locations ranging from the top to the bottom of the page. Code editors simply might overlook them when they are removing something else.

Sometimes a new service stays on the page even though it doesn’t perform well. Site managers forget about it because they have moved on to other initiatives and priorities.

Code Reviews Are Performance Reviews

So a code review also is a performance review. A page performance product from GTmetrix or Pingdom among others will reveal how quickly a page loads. They also can pinpoint bottlenecks in performance.

Other options are HTML validators, CSS validators and other online tools. But keep in mind that their recommendations are not always ideal or worth the time to fix. Some “errors” are not that big of a deal and won’t impact site performance.

The W3C validator is one of the most prominent validators for HTML. The organization also offers a well-known CSS validator.

Ultimately, every piece of code on a page has to live up to a standard. Is that bottleneck really worth it? Does it provide enough benefit to justify its existence? Does it call a large external javascript that drags down page performance but helps the site in other ways? Does it add value in the form of visitor engagement, ecommerce or advertising revenue?

Website code audits need to take place only now and then. But they do need to take place for the benefit of site performance and visitor experience.

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