is one of many terms that are used to refer to unnecessarily long or convoluted computer program code. Code bloat is universally considered by web development experts to be a bad thing in the context of technical SEOuser experience (UX), and site resource allocation.

Websites with overly-complex HTML, CSS, and JS code are usually harder to maintain, slower to run, and more prone to crashing. They also tend to result in a subpar UX that can turn off visitors, preventing repeat visits and conversions. Also, bad UX gives off signals which may degrade a site’s visibility on search engines like Google, further reducing value for the site owner.

Importantly, even if it doesn’t perceptibly reduce site performance, code bloat also makes it more difficult to turn over web properties to different web development teams. If the original web developer leaves the organization, succeeding developers may struggle to understand how the site’s code relates to the site’s functions, making maintenance and improvements more difficult.

Why Does Code Bloat Happen?

To understand how to prevent code bloat, it helps to know why it happens. Code bloat commonly happens for several reasons:

  • Web Developers Have Different Styles and Skill Levels. As with users of human languages, different computer language users may have different preferences and levels of mastery, resulting in some taking more lines of code to describe actions than others.
  • Some Situations Induce Unavoidable Code Bloat. Sometimes, code bloat is considered a feature rather than a defect. Some web developers may be tasked with creating code that is meant to be maintained by other parties. In these cases, the project manager may prefer 100 lines of code that be immediately understood by outsiders over 10 lines that only the original developer understands.
  • Poor Project Management. Other times, code bloat is an unintended result of poor management practices, where there is excessive siloing of responsibilities or when stakeholders insist on adding features without removing others. Project managers who are unable to properly QA the work output of web developers may also encourage sloppy coding practices. Lastly, businesses that try to save money by hiring less experienced developers may also encourage code bloat in their own properties.
  • Language Limitations. Code bloat could also be caused by the limitations of the specific language used to write the code. As with human languages, some computer languages are simply better at describing certain concepts with fewer lines of code. This is not a huge issue in front-end web development where HTML, CSS, and JavaScript tend to dominate but can be a serious problem in back-end web and app development where several more languages could be used.
  • Not Using Automation Tools Properly. Automation tools have been a huge blessing to web developers, as they enable the quick writing of multiple lines of highly-complex code. However, these are notorious for inserting unnecessary code, and using these tools irresponsibly can quickly lead to serious code bloat. This is an especially common problem for websites, as website builders with templates and automation features are now widely used in their development, often by individuals with a weak background in SEO or web development best practices.

How You Can Avoid Code Bloat

As mentioned earlier, bloated code can have several consequences for your website, hampering its performance, search engine visibility, as well as its potential to engage, retain, and convert visitors. As such, cleaning up code is part of the recommendations we make for technical SEO.

Of course, it’s best if you can avoid code bloat, to begin with. Here are some ideas that may make it easier to avoid overly-long or needlessly complex code on your website.

1) Avoid Relying On Off-The-Shelf Website Builders

Website builders are great for quickly putting out websites at a minimal cost. Unfortunately, they do have several disadvantages, including unavoidable code bloat. Generally speaking, businesses that want the cleanest code and the best SEO potential possible should opt for a custom-built website.

The reality, however, is that building custom websites is not always a realistic option for many businesses. If you have to use an off-the-shelf website builder and templates, make sure to get guidance from experienced web developers who are familiar with the tool’s quirks.

2) KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid)

The KISS principle can be applied in a wide range of professional situations but it is especially useful for avoiding code bloat. Code should be written as simply as possible, or even not written at all if other options such as user training are more practical. Keeping code simple also helps ensure that it will be easy for future web developers to maintain.

3) DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself)

If a piece of code keeps repeating itself throughout, following DRY would mean that you have to find a less-redundant way to describe the same function, which necessarily cuts down on the amount of code used. Apart from saving resources and providing a snappier feel for websites, consistently following DRY improves site maintainability and can make it easier for other developers to work on.

The DRY principle is more than avoiding duplication. It also aims to have all parts of a system referencing authoritative, unambiguous truths. Thus, by following the more advanced concepts underpinning DRY, web developers can build and maintain more efficient, robust, and future-ready websites.

4) YAGNI (You Aren’t Gonna Need It)

The YAGNI principle is another approach to coding where web developers purposefully avoid adding any functions or features unless necessary. The idea behind YAGNI is that creating code for expected future situations is rarely a good thing because of the potential for added complications the code can create. Web development projects that follow this approach will only code for current or very near-future needs, ignoring unproven hypothetical needs altogether.

5) Prevent Feature Creep

Related to YAGNI, web development project managers should do their best to avoid being pressured into adding last-minute features, particularly in the later part of the development process. This is because the more features and elements a website has, the more code is needed and the bigger the risk of errors, slowdowns, and UX issues.

Avoiding feature creep is easier said than done, especially in environments where there are multiple high-level decision-makers. However, focusing on the needs of the website users and the client’s specific business goals can help project managers and web development teams better prioritize features for the website, avoiding code bloat and creating a better-curated experience for visitors.

6) Standardize and Document Your Processes

Having standardized coding processes makes it simpler for different web developers to understand the reasoning behind other developers’ code. It also creates an opportunity to codify KISS, DRY, YAGNI, and other helpful principles into everyday coding, thus avoiding the creation of overlong or needlessly complex code. Most importantly, standardization also provides a basis for future code audits, as web developers have an idea of what “good code” looks like for the organization.

Organizations that have the resources to standardize and document their coding processes should do so at the earliest opportunity. This is because the bigger a business and its website get, the more difficult it will be to audit and fix code bloat and other wed development issues.

7) Refactor Your Code Periodically

Refactoring is the process of changing code without altering its effect, usually to shorten it and simplify the logic. Periodic refactoring is a key method for reducing code bloat and helping keep site performance at its best. Apart from its UX and technical SEO benefits, periodic refactoring can also uncover potential vulnerabilities and bugs that were missed in earlier rounds of development.

8) Minify Your Code Consistently

A vector of a woman pointing to a laptop with codes

Minification is the process of removing extraneous characters and spaces from computer code, thus reducing the amount of resources the code needs to run and improving its technical SEO. This process can be done manually or with readily-available automation tools. Minification is particularly relevant for HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, the three major languages used for building websites.

9) Take Advantage of Advanced Functions

Web developers should try their best to maintain a mastery of useful computer languages, particularly with regard to their advanced functions. These can often provide a way to eliminate repetition or provide a more elegant and efficient way of describing a function. As such, while it’s great to have a decent grasp of several computing languages, it’s often just as valuable to be intimately familiar with just a few key ones.

10) Consider a Modular Approach to Coding

Modular programming is an approach where specific parts of the code (modules) can continue to function even when other parts are removed. This approach offers multiple benefits for web development, including scalability, ease of maintenance, and the option to focus on just certain parts of the website code rather than everything as a whole.

While modular coding may not necessarily decrease the amount of website code you need to deal with, it can dramatically reduce the effort involved in fixing site issues, including code bloat.

Final Thoughts

Maintaining clean, easy-to-understand code is not only good for improving a website’s technical SEO characteristics but it’s also key to ensuring a good UX for visitors.

By avoiding code bloat, web developers can significantly improve a site’s performance and increase its potential for increasing leads and conversions. Additionally, these improvements in performance may help increase the rate of return for other digital marketing activities that involve the business’s website.

Best practices for avoiding code bloat also benefit site owners in other ways. It can help encourage regular maintenance, which reduces bugs and vulnerabilities while increasing overall service levels. Critically, it can also ensure a smoother handover of online properties to different web developers, avoiding potentially disastrous continuity issues.

Given all the benefits of removing code bloat, web developers and site owners should stop thinking about code audits and maintenance as projects to avoid. Rather, they should reframe them as the serious income-generating activities that they are.

Is your website slowing down and struggling to earn conversions? Contact SearchWorks.PH to learn more about our web development, web design, and technical SEO services.