What is a website code audit? Why does it matter?
When considering working with a new agency to make some changes to your website, one crucial step is to perform a website code audit.
Even though your website may be functioning well, your new developer needs to understand and be aware of what is happening behind the scenes.
Taking a quick look under the hood
Imagine you are taking your car to a new mechanic. If the same person or repair shop has worked on your car for years, then the new mechanic needs to do an assessment of what is happening.
As the owner, you want to be able to give the mechanic as much information as possible, such as mileage, maintenance logs, service dates, etc. And of course, the mechanic will also take a look ‘under the hood’ to see any problems for themselves.
What do developers look at during a code audit?
Every website (and computer) needs to be instructed what to do, and it processes one instruction at a time. Even though it does this extremely quickly (and sometimes in parallel), it is still done in a sequence. Developers create these sequenced instructions for websites in the form of code.
However, programming languages and protocols are constantly changing. Platforms and frameworks continue to evolve. Security needs for websites change over the years. The most popular languages today may not always be relevant within a few years.
Every website is defined by each developer’s preferences, and that influences the way the code is written. Developers will often refactor (rewrite) or add new code to the website. If over time, different people or different companies work on the same website, things can get a little complicated.
Can’t new code just be built on top of existing code?
Think about building an extension to a home – you can’t just build on another room without understanding the initial foundations. The code in a website is very similar.
Adding something new to the website requires an understanding of the coding so far. If it’s a functioning well, then it can continue to be used. If not, it may need to rewritten and reorganized.
What happens during a website code audit?
When your website starts to act slow, or you can’t use the website in the way that you ideally want to, your new developer always starts with an ‘onboarding code audit.’
This is where we look under the hood and see what has been done in the past, and whether it is usable. Without getting too technical, here are some of the basics we review as part of a code audit.
Making sure that the server environment matches the needs of your website, and can be scaled for your audience, and the goals you have. Sometimes this will require a server upgrade or a server migration to a different hosting company. This helps to ensure you are using up to date servers, that have the latest security patches applied.
Checking the installed core framework against a clean copy of that same core version. This helps us determine if any code modifications exist and if any updates are available that haven’t been installed.
Ensure the theme is setup correctly, so you can continually make updates and extend the theme’s functionality. When themes aren’t set up correctly, this can anchor your site to the initial version, which can cause you to miss security updates and new functionality.
Compile a list of installed extensions and check for any for updates and conflicts. We can also verify extensions (especially those that are custom built) are following best practices.
Check appropriate log files and compile a list of any recurring errors and their source.
These are the basics of a website code audit, and once we have reviewed all of these elements, it becomes much easier to determine what is needed to improve your website. It can also make us aware of any issues upfront so we are able to quote them accurately. This will potentially save you time and money over the long term. If you are considering a website upgrade or overhaul, a code audit can be a wise first step.