8 Reasons Why Your Frontend Maintenance Costs So Much (UPDATED)

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Jakub Niechciał

May 6, 2017 • 7 min read
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Irrespective of how much experience you have with software development, you are probably aware that creating an app costs time and money. Not so many people, though, realise that maintenance and further development after an app is deployed can sometimes be quite expensive too. It is not uncommon to see a gradual decrease in performance of your development team over time, especially after they meet the first or second deadline.

If you have no technical background, then probably you will always be surprised that changing the position of an element or adding a new modal can take so much time. Especially, when it took only a moment a few months ago! Have you ever wondered what makes it so hard? We’ve put together the most popular reasons for the dropping productivity and increasing costs of frontend maintenance.

No Responsive Web Design or Mobile-first Approach

Even if it is rare today, there are still a lot of apps that don’t employ Responsive Web Design at all. When it comes to mobile, introducing good mobile designs after a page has shipped can take much more time than you think. It will definitely be more than if you’d focused on mobile from the very start. Developers will be limited by the backlog caused by the months of work without RWD. This can often mean a lot of refactoring and retouching of the parts of the app that were not planned to change.

A mobile first approach is perfect for structuring the CSS in your web app. If all the work is focused around mobile-first, it’s much easier to introduce tweaks and make sense of code that you have not seen for months.

No Structured JavaScript

There are a number of ways to structure your JavaScript project, but keeping it consistent is the most important thing. A well-defined project structure allows developers to understand what’s going on in the project at the first glance, without hours of searching for a particular file. If your project uses one of the popular libraries or frameworks like React or Vue keep things clean is easier, but still, as a project grows, it can become more and more chaotic. Consider defining a style guide for the project structure as a reference for the dev team, or applying some additional system, like for example Atomic design.

Poor Quality Code

If you take a look at code, you won’t be able to estimate quickly how good the project is. But you can immediately see if there is any consistency over the repository. Are all the files structured identically? Are the indents consistent? What about semicolons? I know it might sound silly for a non-technical person, but the quality of your code is a very good indicator of the project’s status. If it’s in bad shape, the developers have most likely cut corners and didn’t focus on delivering the best possible quality. This means that there probably are a lot of bugs, even if haven’t found them yet.

An easy way to improve a code quality is to use tools like linters that automatically check your code and compare it against a defined style guide, enforcing good patterns and consistent formatting. A popular choice for JavaScript and JSX is ESLint, TSLint for TypeScript, and SCSSLint for SCSS stylesheets.

Outdated Third Party Packages

Chances are that your project uses third party packages or open source libraries. These external resources are developed at a rapid rate, so regular updates are essential to avoid issues and vulnerabilities related to project dependencies. Newer versions often contain performance improvements, security enhancements, bug fixes, resolved compatibility issues etc. Moreover, frequently reviewing what packages you are using may help you find a better alternative.

No Tests

Automatic tests are the essential ingredient of refactoring and maintenance. Any change you introduce can break something in your app, and automatic tests will let your developers stay on top of it and focus on improving and adding features instead of being constantly afraid that they break something. Fewer bugs, fewer crashes and better code quality are the benefits of automatic testing that will substantially decrease maintenance costs.

No Automated Build Process and Deployment

This is also a common sign of poor quality. The build and deployment are the last steps before your app goes live. If they are not prepared in a proper, error-proof way, it might be expensive to avoid bugs and stay confident in the future.

Lack of an automated build and deployment pipeline highly slows down development workflow and decreases team efficiency. Consider an implementation of continuous integration that includes running automated tests for every new commit. This solution allows you to spot potential bugs and make developers correct them right away, instead of spending much more time on the same errors found couple of weeks later. Continuous deployment makes sure that the main branch of your project is tested and always up and running at the production or staging environment.

Lack of Constant Maintenance

In each application, defects after the first launch are inevitable. As it was written above, automatic tests should catch most code errors and bugs, however there is still the possibility of finding some logic mistakes after the application is released. That is why in good web development companies QA testing, user testing, constant monitoring, and defect maintenance are crucial to decreasing the number of potential flaws to a minimum. Also, correcting defects at the moment they surface takes way less time and effort than maintaining a stack of issues accumulated over time.

No Readme

Readme is one of the key files on your project – you will need every time a new developer joins the team. Don’t underestimate the power of the good old readme. A readme makes clear what the requirements for the app are, how to use it, build it and eventually deploy it. If you don’t keep it updated from the very beginning, it can make your dev team spend hours on tackling problems somebody already solved earlier.


There are a few of reasons why the maintenance of your app might be expensive, and you can actually prevent most of them from happening. Very often, it’s a matter of implementing efficient processes from the very beginning.

The next thing is to make sure your team delivers only top-quality code, regardless of how much time is left until the deadline. The sooner you implement the solutions listed above, the more troubles and stress you and your team can avoid. This may take some time and resources in the development process, but the work definitely pays off as the project grows. Obviously, we could name a host of other reasons, but having the above bases covered will help you solve the majority of issues.

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Jakub Niechciał

Jakub has obtained a Master’s degree at Poznań University of Technology in Control Engineering and...
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