Why code quality matters
Over the years at Freshleaf we’ve spent a bit of time thinking about what makes us successful. What’s important to us. And one thing that’s consistently top of the list – no matter who you ask at Freshleaf – is quality.
But unlike with cars and watches, quality is a factor that can be hard to perceive in websites. With consumer goods, most of us have got a pretty good eye for things that have been well made. Quality workmanship and quality materials are there to see.
With websites, it’s different. Almost anyone can build you a website. With platforms like WordPress, and a wealth of professionally-designed templates to choose from, it can look pretty slick. If it looks great, it's tough to see what difference quality of build will make.
So what is ‘quality’ and why does it matter?
Good quality websites will outperform poor quality ones. They are less error prone, they’re faster, and they’re more likely to rank well for search. All of which means that a high-quality website is better for your business than a “budget” one. It will provide a better experience for your visitors, which (via the halo effect) will give them a warm, fuzzy feeling about your business.
It will also be faster. And you might not think that’s a big deal now that no-one is on dial-up any more…. but you’d be wrong. We’re even less willing to wait for a site to load now than we’ve ever been. Plus, there’s mobile users to consider - often on slow connections. Plus, Google cares about speed (a lot), so site speed directly affects your search rankings. Good, well optimised code = fast site. Poorly implemented, bloated WordPress template = high bounce rate and little or no presence on Google.
We’ve all seen the news stories about high profile data leaks. Only a month or two ago, Equifax leaked the personal data of almost half the US population, along with credit card numbers of some 200,000 people. Around the same time BUPA suffered a data breach affecting 500,000 of its customers. And of course, we all tut, and say “How terrible! How could they allow this to happen?”, and then go about our business.
But if your website collects any kind of personal data – even if it's only email addresses - then you are the guardian of that data, in the eyes of the law. In the UK, current data protection legislation requires that “appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data”.
And there are penalties if you get it wrong, regardless of whether you’re a multi-national or an SME. Recently the Information Commissioners Office fined Berkshire-based Boomerang Video a whopping £60,000. Why? For a breach of data protection law after Boomerang suffered a cyber-attack back in 2014. The company is not a high-profile multi-million-pound organisation, yet it became a target for hackers. And having a poor-quality website didn’t just cost them in reputation, it cost them hard cash.
Like everything else in life, with websites you get what you pay for. But the consequences of not investing in your web presence can be higher than just a few less visits. Data protection is going to get more aggressive when the new General Data Protection Legislation (GDPR) comes into force next year - so code quality is not something to be ignored.