What is a Front-End Code Audit and Why Do You Need One?
Code audits are quality assurance procedures used to determine whether the source code on a website or application is secure, following best practices, and satisfying business needs.
There are three different types of code audits: front-end code audits, back-end audits, and infrastructure reviews. Front-end code audits focus on analyzing the code pertaining to the client-facing side of a website or application.
Back-end audits address the servers and databases. Infrastructure reviews are global surveys of your system. Asides from evaluating the client and server sides, they often include hardware inspections.
At Torii Studio, we focus our code audits on the client side of systems. This means that — aside from evaluating functional elements of your system such as the quality of documentation or design patterns — we will also examine crucial client-side features such as the quality and accessibility of your user experience.
Why should you perform a Front-End code audit?
Beyond serving as the starting point for any upgrades and major changes, regular code audits are crucial to system maintenance. Performing regular front-end code audits can help ensure your system’s:
- Security. Regular front-end code audits can help you to identify bugs and vulnerabilities before they escalate into bigger and more expensive issues.
- Performance. Asides from uncovering bugs, a code audit can help you ensure that your system is working as intended and expose any issues that could compromise performance in the future.
- Best practices. A code audit can help verify whether your codebase meets your organization’s standards and adheres to best practices in terms of documentation and code quality and consistency.
- User experience and accessibility. Front-end code audits provide you a snapshot of the quality of your client-side experience through information such as accessibility scores and website speed rankings.
When should you perform a Front-End code audit?
At Torii Studio, we use front-end code audits as the first step in assessing our clients’ needs and developing a roadmap for optimizing their systems and processes. We recommend that you conduct a front-end code audit in the following instances:
- Before making any major changes to your system. In this case, the benefit of performing a front-end code audit is twofold. First, it can help you assess whether your system can scale up and handle the increased workload that comes with an expansion in its current state. In situations where increased capacity is needed, a code audit can help you flag which changes need to happen to make your code more scalable.
- When your system is not performing up to standard. If your system is slow or not performing up to standard, a code audit can diagnose the root causes and help you develop a roadmap for solutions.
- You are struggling to ship new features. System bugs and poor practices can hinder your team’s ability to develop and implement new features. A code audit that corrects inconsistencies and makes your codebase easier to work with can expedite your development cycle and help your team build and ship new features with fewer problems.
What’s included in a Front-End code audit?
Front-end code audit checklists can vary depending on who’s performing the audit and what they seek to evaluate. Torii Studio’s custom 11-point framework is based on open-sourced processes developed by modern web companies like Google and Airbnb to assess the state of critical components on a system’s client side. Here’s what we evaluate:
1. Project structure
A cohesive codebase is essential for developer collaboration. Ideally all contributors should follow the same organizational structure and code should be consistent from one file to another. While there is not one specific way to structure a project, your codebase’s structure should comply with guidelines issued by the technologies you’re using.
The quality of your automated tools will greatly impact your development team’s ability to deliver high-quality code — as well as identify bugs, poor development practices, and accessibility issues. Some of the tools we’ll examine include code quality analyzers, dependency checkers, and code formatters.
3. Design patterns & SOLID principles
Design patterns provide software developers with shortcuts to solutions for common problems during the development process. Codebases are easier to understand, scale, and maintain when design patterns are implemented following SOLID principles. More importantly, applying SOLID principles to your codebase will make it easier to test and, therefore, more robust.
A suite of automated testing tools that covers your entire system is essential for developers to catch and fix errors quickly. They help your team produce better quality documentation and understand how your system will react to events such as updates or new features. Ideally, your tools should combine unit tests, integration tests, and end-to-end tests (E2E).
5. Developer documentation
Up-to-date documentation is essential for effective software management and developer communication. Beyond providing teams with a record of your system’s history and solutions to past problems, it helps ensure that efforts remain aligned with your requirements and goals. When evaluating the quality of your documentation, our team will analyze its level of depth and detail and whether it’s up-to-date.
Version control systems (or source control systems) help developers track and manage changes in your codebase. Keeping a record of all the modifications done to a system minimizes disruptions, supports teamwork and agile processes, and can often provide quick fixes for developer errors.
7. Case style, naming conventions and code style
A codebase that uses consistent naming conventions, code style, and case style will be much easier for developers to understand and work with. When evaluating these elements, our team will check whether all files use the same format for naming conventions and if your code style adheres to industry standards.
8. Performance and accessibility
Accessibility and performance are crucial elements of your system’s user experience. Poor development practices such as unused code, large files, and render-blocking resources can severely impact website speed, load times, and overall client experience. Some of the elements we look at when assessing your system’s performance and accessibility level are server response times and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 compliance.
Employing software security best practices on your system’s client side is just as important as on the server side. When evaluating the security level of your front-end code, we’ll assess how security analyzer software and vulnerability checks are integrated into workflows and how sensitive information is stored within your system.
10. Code quality and best practices
Ensuring best practices requires using the right combination of frameworks and technologies.
We’ll check whether elements such as code linters and automated tests have been correctly integrated into your system to ensure that new code is consistent and complies with your organization’s conventions.
11. Roadmap and maintainability
The last step of our front-end code audit looks into your system’s future. We’ll survey your libraries and frameworks to find those who may be close to becoming deprecated and losing support and compatibility with your system. Once we do that, we’ll identify how much of a liability the deprecated library or framework is to your system, when you should make changes, and how big those changes need to be.
What happens after a code audit?
Once the audit is completed, you’ll receive a report outlining the auditor’s findings and listing recommendations for improvements.
In our case, clients will receive a brief report listing the 11 elements we evaluated and how they scored separately. We’ll award each category a score between 0 to 3 and then generate a global score rated using a RAG scale (Red/Amber/Green) to give you a clearer picture of the state of your codebase and how much work needs to be done.
Lastly, we’ll present the report to you and your team. We’ll go over our findings and recommendations with your developers, explain all of our recommendations, and answer all their questions. This last part is crucial because it will educate your team on what they need to improve and which best practices they can apply to build a more robust system and optimize their workflows.
Our clients have found this extremely helpful because it brings a critical eye into their processes and provides them with clear next steps for improvement.
We really valued the report and presentation. The educational part was especially helpful for our team.
— Ezequiel Cura, VP of Engineering at Capchase
How can a code audit benefit your business?
A functional and secure codebase is crucial for smooth operations, customer satisfaction, and business success. If your system needs an update or you’re planning to add new features, our team can help you assess the state of your codebase and provide expert advice on how to move forward.
To learn more about how a code audit can help optimize your system and speed up your development cycle, contact our Studio here.