At Assemble, we approach projects holistically. Instead of finding a new plugin to fix the obvious problem, we took a look under the hood to see why things weren’t working. We discovered that it wasn’t one error or a single bad decision that led to the problems our client was experiencing, but rather two years of tiny decisions that added up to a sizable amount of tech debt.
When it comes to addressing tech debt it can feel overwhelming. That’s why we take the time to do an Assemble Website Audit, uncovering what’s working and what’s not. From there, we create an Everyday Retail Blueprint. The blueprint outlines a way forward that prioritizes solutions based on their impact and the customer’s goals and budget. This plan helps us know what to fix today while creating a scalable solution for tomorrow.
We discovered a lot of the libraries were outdated. Additionally, many of the plugins and services had been installed by third-party developers and not documented. The results were things like extra pixels, which were actually failing and contributing to the site’s slow speed.
In the developer world, there’s something called documentation. This is a standard practice where developers document changes they’ve made in the code. This allows anyone to come in and immediately know the current state, what’s been added, and why. When developers fail to do this, it results in a lot of heavy lifting and sifting through code to find broken elements. So, be very careful who you allow to work on your Shopify code and insist that they document their work. This will save you time in the long run.
We also found an immediate fix was to remove an anti-flicker library they’d installed for A/B testing. This tool slows a page’s load time by an order of magnitude of 4secs down to 900 milliseconds. If you’re using this library, stop! It does a lot more harm than good.
One of the biggest contributors to slow site speed is loading images, and while many people compress their images it’s actually important to also resize your images for the web. Think of it like this: if you take a dump truck and fill it with coffee, it will be full and weigh three tons. But when you remove the coffee, the dump trunk will still weigh three tons. You actually need to shrink the dump trunk. When you take the time to not only compress but also resize photos, this has a huge positive impact on Lighthouse scores.
Some things take a lot of effort and don’t produce great results. And honestly, it’s just not worth doing them. For example, there's a deprecated command in Shopify. The fix is high-effort. But fixing it doesn’t change anything, so while it does contribute to tech debt, the cost of the debt is very low. Sometimes it’s okay to just let it be, but those sorts of decisions should be made by your technical advisor.
These initial improvements we made for our client improved their Lighthouse score from an average of 18 to 44. These “quick fixes” allowed us to triage the site. From there, we could return to the Everyday Retail Blueprint and decide our next steps together.
If you're concerned about your Google Lighthouse score, but don't know where to start we're here to help. You can sign up for your own Everyday Retail Bluprint, and get a custom technical assessment that provides a prioritized plan to repair and improve your Google Lighthouse score.