Code Audits: Why You Need Them and How They Benefit Businesses Long-Term
When it comes to websites, the codebase has often been touched by many hands over many years, whether internally or by another agency. That’s why when clients want to engage us on a project, we recommend starting with a code audit. This is to ensure that we — both C2 and the client — understand what’s going on in the codebase and how we can ensure it is maintainable and sustainable moving forward.
As your website grows with different features and functionality, so does your codebase. And we want to be sure we know what’s there and how it’s structured before we perform any enhancements or simply even add a single line of new code.
What is a code audit?
A code audit is a straightforward analysis of your website or application’s source code including the front- and back-end code, in addition to the site architecture. The intent is to discover opportunities for improvement and assess the current risks and sustainability of the current solution. Regular code audits ensure your codebase is mature and solid, revealing any root issues or errors, quickly.
This kind of engagement lets both teams familiarize themselves with the structure and overall functionality of your code. The goal is to gain an understanding of the code and catch any glaringly obvious bugs, inconsistencies, and potential causes of security breaches or violations of programming conventions. We also check to see if it’s optimal for SEO, page speed performance, accessibility (we can exclusively audit for this as well), along with other usability and best practice guidelines.
Then, we review and compile the audit into a document listing all of the discovered issues and suggested fixes from high-, medium-, and low-risk along with best practices for moving forward. This is a great way for client teams to see how well their software is equipped to support and scale business needs long-term.
When to conduct a code audit
As a best practice, we recommend a code audit every 6–12 months. Think of it as spring cleaning. You need to review what you have regularly to understand what’s good, no longer needed, or could be repurposed for better use.
There are several other signs that may lead you to want to conduct a code audit:
- You may have an old, outdated or obsolete product: your code maybe hasn’t been updated, aside from bug fixes, in some time. Even bug fixes may be hacky, creating issues in code readability and repeatability.
- You’ve noticed performance and efficiency issues: Your code isn’t compiling right or pages aren’t loading as quickly as they should. Integrations work slowly, as does content.
- Are transitioning code management-whether internally or to a third party: With a new set of hands and eyes, it’s important there’s consistency in the way the code for your digital product is developed. It also helps to make sure everyone is on the same page in expectations for how code should be written and how files are structured.
Pro tip: Conducting regular code audits
Code audits can seem daunting since projects can have thousands of lines of code. To avoid being overwhelmed, it’s a good idea to perform code audits or reviews regularly. In fact, a study found that every hour spent on code inspections avoided an average of 33 hours of maintenance! Code audits are a great opportunity to:
- Ensure stability and maintainability of your codebase
- Look for performance and security issues, like application backdoors and malicious code
- Allow an opportunity to document system processes, procedures, and best practices
- Prevent against technical debt — the implied cost of reworking a solution caused by choosing an easier or workaround implementation of a solution
Code audits help you find any issues or potential threats as soon as possible, making the fixes easier and cheaper to manage in the future.
Advice for a successful code audit
Code audits are a great way to determine if it makes more sense to clean up what’s there or to start with something new. By auditing the front-end, back-end, and infrastructure code, you can determine how well you will be able to implement system upgrades, add features, and improve the security of your codebase. Consider hiring a third party to perform your code audit, since your developers may be too close to observe existing issues objectively. It’s also a great way to fact-check the audit work your team has already done.
Code audits can be an intensive process, depending on the size of your project, but save time and headaches in the future, allowing teams to focus on refactoring clunky code for better use and adding new features and functionality to your project instead of trying to patch up code for bug issues.
A secure, clean codebase provides a solid foundation for the growth of any business. If you’re finding your codebase to be a challenge or pain point as you scale your web presence, get in touch with us here.
Jon Price is the Technology Lead for The C2 Group.