How to reduce website costs by simplifying your code

Developing websites is expensive. But many projects with custom code are overcomplicated and outdated, making changes much more costly for businesses. Here's how we fix that.

Dan Spratling sitting in a bar window with a drink, smiling

Dan Spratling

How to reduce website costs by simplifying code


Feb 9, 2024

Last Edited

Feb 9, 2024

Read Time

3 mins


User Experience

This week, I’m going to talk about how to find and eliminate those pesky costs that come with running a custom-built website.

Whether you’re a large-scale business, a tiny startup or a solo developer, you’ll almost certainly have noticed the frustration of software that is difficult to update.

In fact, it might have gotten so bad that you’ve had to abandon projects in the past and start again

Most people don’t know how to build software in a way that’s maintainable. So, as demands change and new features are required, they add more maintenance, making the problem worse.

It’s not that hard to build better software

There’s just a few key things you need to do

  • Build isolated components

  • Keep it simple

  • Reduce mental overhead

  • Test everything

So let’s start helping you turn your software from a nightmare to maintain to the most profitable part of your business.

Build isolated components

This is probably the biggest issue I see with most businesses which is why I’ve put it first.

When building a website, it’s essential to think about it in smaller pieces.

Here’s how the homepage of the Skyward site is broken down

[Image of component structure]

As you can see, you start to get many components repeated even within the same page. And when you start thinking about multiple pages, almost all of your code can (and should) be reused.

Even things which might not immediately feel like reusable components, like tables of data, can still be broken down into components which work with different types of data being passed in.

By doing this

  • You build up an expectation for your systems

  • You make it easier to reuse elements on the page

  • Components are no longer tied to a specific set of data

  • Expanding a component’s functionality applies everywhere it’s used

  • And your components are easier to read and understand because they’re isolated

This doesn’t just apply to development, but also design.

Work with your design team to create components in your design files.

Your design and development teams should be thinking about component functionality the same way.

So start building a design system that works from conception through to build.

(If you need help, I'm always happy to assist).

Keep it simple

One of the biggest problems I see developers of every level make is overcomplicating code.

Your code should be simple. You should be able to read it from top to bottom and understand what it’s doing.

If you can’t, it’s not simple, and that’s a problem.

Let’s take a scenario that I run into often.

I’m trying to make a code change (it doesn’t matter what). The code I’m changing calls a function, and I’m not sure what it does, so I go to the function declaration.

This function is not commented and calls 5 more functions. I’m also not clear what these do.

Half an hour of this, I forgot what the initial function I needed to change was.

So, we can try a few things to make it easier to read through and understand code.

  • Names should be understandable calculatePriceWithDiscount()

  • Code should separated when it’s repeated so it can easily be reused

  • Consistent systems should exist between design & development

  • Code comments should be used regularly, but kept short

  • Test code to make sure changes don’t break anything

  • Decisions should be documented

  • And delete unused code!

There are a lot more nuanced things that you could do to make code easier to change. If you need help with specifics, let me know.

And if you’re one of the geniuses who can read any code, remember to leave comments for us, mere mortals.

Reduce mental overhead

Tailwind is a really hot topic in the web development community.

Some people love it. Others hate it.

I love it, and one of the reasons for that is that it makes it 10x easier to think about your styles because it keeps them all with your component code.

Tailwind’s decision to keep your styles directly associated with your components forces you to write better, more isolated code. You no longer have to find your CSS file and remember what .nav-header-button-dropdown is targeting.

I can now look at a single component file and visualise exactly how that would look in the browser.

It’s little tricks like this that simplify your project.

Tailwind isn’t the only way to do this, but it’s a great example.

Other means you could reduce thinking in projects are:

  • Shrinking components and functions as far as possible

  • Correctly naming files and functions

  • Commenting any code that isn’t immediately obvious

  • Documenting seldom used processes (like project initialisation)

  • Documenting reasons decisions were made

Test everything

Now, when I say you need to test things, you might think, “Ugh, but I don’t have the time to test stuff manually”.

But I’m not suggesting you should manually test things.

In fact, I think you should do less manual testing

Manual testing is inefficient, and it’s very easy to miss things

Instead, you should automate your testing.

But how do you do that?

I use a three-pronged approach to my testing strategy that works well for my client projects (and projects for my business too).

  1. Unit tests
    These test that code does what it’s supposed to do if a = 2 and b = 3 then a + b should equal 5

  2. Visual tests
    These make sure that things look how they’re supposed to, and warn you if they change

  3. End-to-end tests
    These guarantee that users experience the site the same way every time, even across different pages

By adding these tests as we go, we make it quicker and easier to test things in the future, as every test added now will automatically run every time we change.

And if we make a change that causes a problem, we catch it before it goes live (and affects our users!).

That saves a ton of time instead of manually finding and checking for issues.

And doing this upfront helps ensure that our components are isolated and reusable. That helps to ensure that the code is maintainable.

When you're ready, there are 4 ways I can help you:

1. SkywardUI (coming soon) - Speed up your development with a fully customisable UI library. Start with a strong foundation and adapt it to your needs without reinventing the wheel.

2. CTO Support - Learn where your software is holding you back and how to improve it. Get expert support from Dan to help you save money, work more efficiently and release faster

3. Hire Skyward - Bring your project ideas to life. Hire the Skyward team to drive forward the user experience of your websites & applications, and futureproof your software

4. Refer and earn - Know someone who we could help? Introduce them to us and earn 10% of the project value* once we start working together
(*up to $10,000)