If you have a website, a custom database or any other technology investment, you may encounter technical debt. Here’s what you need to know:
What is technical debt?
Technical debt is a term used in tech to describe the cost of doing something easy over what is arguably better because it would take longer. In the technical world there are “best practices” much like there are building codes in construction. Choosing to ignore those best practices can be equated to doing a remodel on a house you want to sell because it’s not up to code. If you take a shortcut now, expect to pay for it in the future.
How do you avoid technical debt?
Your development partner is your greatest resource when avoiding technical debt. When your developer says the words “we can do it this way but…” what they are trying to say is “this will only work in this specific circumstances and if anything changes we will have to fix it.” The three most valuable words you can ask your developer about a decision are, “Is it scalable?”. If the answer is no, you know that it’s a short-term solution that may accrue technical debt.
When is technical debt the right decision?
There are perfectly valid reasons to take on technical debt. Launching by a specific deadline, proving a concept, or one off projects that aren’t expected to have a long shelf life. You can always launch a fix in an update and it’s fiscally responsible to prove a concept is profitable before investing months into product development, and a short shelf life means it doesn’t have to work forever.
These are all examples of valid scenarios where taking on the technical debt might make sense. So long as you understand why you’re doing it and at some point in time you will have to pay to fix it. Make no mistake, you will have to pay to fix it. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next month, maybe not even next year but some day…
How do you know if you’re in technical debt?
Some technologies will inherently bring about technical debt – websites get outdated, cool new tools end up breaking and markets change. The goal is to minimize the debt by constantly making sure your technologies can scale and be enhanced or built upon.
If you have a website and are trying to figure out if it’s costing you – in terms of technical debt- we’d ask:
Is your website built on an outdated, or highly specialized platform?
Does it work the way you need it to?
Can you update it easily?
Is it mobile responsive?
Are there critical issues that are hurting your search engine optimization?
Does your sites performance affect the user’s experience?
If you aren’t satisfied with the answers to these questions (or don’t have an answer to them), maybe it’s time for a website evaluation. We can help with that.