5 min. read
Categories: Business Technical
Preventing technical debt in Sylius – Best practices

The constantly evolving landscape of software development and continuous technological advancements create an environment where change is the only constant. The introduction of cutting-edge technologies and updates not only opens up new possibilities and areas for enhancement but also necessitates numerous adjustments within and outside the code to enhance older solutions and ensure compatibility with new ones. This leads to what is known as technical debt.

In today’s blog, we will delve deeper into the concept of technical debt in Sylius, a metaphor that highlights the inevitable compromises and shortcuts made during software development. These can accumulate over time, affecting a system’s efficiency, maintainability, and scalability. Using Sylius as an example, we will examine the causes, associated risks, and strategies for effectively managing technical debt.

What is a technical debt?

Technical debt encompasses the accumulation of defects and bugs in source code, often stemming from a trade-off between code quality and functionality when there is a pressing need to deliver a product or feature on schedule. However, technical debt can also arise even when everything is executed correctly, but only becomes apparent after many years rather than just a few months of using the software. This may occur due to factors such as evolving user requirements or the introduction of new technologies that make existing solutions outdated or inefficient. Over time, even well-designed systems may fall short of current standards or expectations, necessitating updates or refactoring. Furthermore, code that was initially optimal may degrade in effectiveness due to changes in the surrounding ecosystem, including updates to associated software, operating systems, or hardware. Consequently, maintaining and upgrading software to keep pace with these changes can contribute to the accumulation of technical debt, even if there were no initial defects or quality compromises.

What causes technical debt in Sylius?

Now that we understand technical debt let’s explore its causes more closely. The first major contributor is inadequate planning in eCommerce projects. When developing an eCommerce site, every detail matters and must be communicated effectively. Poor communication, often exacerbated by time pressures, results in imprecise requirements, disorganized coding, frail architecture, and insufficiently developed features.

Furthermore, neglecting essential early-stage tasks like unit testing, integration testing, and functional testing complicates the detection of errors when they are most easily corrected. When it comes to mistakes, technical debt frequently stems from overlooking minor issues that gradually worsen over time. Eventually, these small issues escalate into significant problems that degrade website performance and disrupt integrations and new features.

Technical debt also arises from manual processes in implementation, testing, and code deployment that lack automation support. Automation tools, unlike the human eye, are more efficient in identifying coding errors. Lastly, it is the lack of regular software updates that causes technical debt and security vulnerabilities.

The complexity of the software increases the likelihood that one change will impact another. A lack of control over technological debt, ignorance of its existence, and no strategy for mitigation lead to escalating issues.

Risks related to technical debt

Having just discussed the issue of infrequent software updates, let’s examine the risks associated with this practice. Systems that are not regularly updated are left vulnerable to potential hacking attacks because they remain unaware of new online threats and lack the tools needed to prevent such attacks. This vulnerability allows malicious actors to exploit security loopholes to access business and customer data. Furthermore, systems that go without updates fail to develop properly, causing the software differences to widen progressively.

In addition, technical debt can greatly reduce the performance of an eCommerce store, negatively affecting the customer experience. The speed and performance of a website are crucial for many online shoppers. Digital.com reports that 19% of online shoppers will leave a website if it loads in more than 2-3 seconds, and this figure rises to 25% if the loading time reaches 4-6 seconds.

Maintaining and expanding an online store built on outdated code becomes increasingly difficult and time-intensive, which can lead to escalated costs.

Taking this into consideration, the following section will outline best practices for developing and maintaining eCommerce stores using Sylius to help minimize technical debt.

How to minimalize technical debt in Sylius?

In the context of operating an eCommerce store on Sylius, technical debt may arise if the site was developed five or even ten years earlier without adhering to Symfony’s best practices, such as the SOLID principles, and was built using substandard code, often as a result of time constraints. Additionally, technical debt can occur when the framework is not properly maintained or updated. These oversights can lead to degraded performance, a poor user experience/interface, and various coding errors.

So, how do we minimize technical debt and not fear its consequences?

As the Uncle Rob (Robert Cecil Martin) stated:

 “Not only does a good architecture meet the needs of its users, developers, and owners at a given point in time, but it also meets them over time.”

Taking this into consideration, let’s take a look at good eCommerce development practices in Sylius.

Effective eCommerce practices in Sylius

  • Conducting a comprehensive requirements analysis at the beginning of the project
  • Writing code that adheres to best practices and appropriate design patterns
  • Implementing automated tests to detect errors from the outset
  • Utilizing well-prepared documentation
  • Monitoring performance and the nature of data being transferred
  • Regularly updating framework technologies such as Sylius, Symfony, PHP, etc.
  • Instead of modifying Sylius code, focus on extending it to customize and add new functionalities

A solid architecture and well-planned solutions will greatly reduce technological debt. Additionally, maintaining up-to-date software offers users new opportunities to enhance their eCommerce store and introduce exciting new functionalities.

What to do to eliminate technical debt?  

Let’s assume that the eCommerce architecture is already burdened with technical debt. What to do in such a situation? There are two options available:

Brownfield software development

Brownfield software development focuses on updating or extending current software systems, often requiring dealing with outdated code, compatibility challenges, and existing architectural constraints. This approach demands careful planning, where developers analyze the existing code base and strategize necessary repairs. By reviewing the code and identifying areas for refactoring, the quality of an eCommerce website can be enhanced, resolving underlying issues. Keep in mind that further online store development is possible only when the technical debt is “paid”. Otherwise, it’s like building the next floors of a skyscraper when the foundations are damaged, and the whole building can collapse. 

This method is not a piece of cake but might be a more cost-effective option than constructing a new eCommerce website from scratch. However, the outcome is uncertain, as revitalizing old solutions might expose numerous bugs and inefficiencies.

Greenfield software development

Greenfield software development, in turn, involves creating a new system that is not limited by any pre-existing code or infrastructure. This approach offers more freedom in design and technology choices but usually requires more resources. It is crucial to learn from past errors and challenges of the previous platform to implement solutions that prevent similar issues in the future, considering both technical and business viewpoints. Also, creating a new eCommerce store will necessitate creating the documentation and the migration of data.

Deciding whether to work on an existing website or develop a new one depends on several variables, such as the extent of technical debt, budget constraints, time availability, and specific needs. Each factor must be thoroughly examined to make the best decision possible.


Technical debt should be considered in any eCommerce project, though it often poses a minimal issue for many companies if consistently monitored. Regular store maintenance, such as updates, is far simpler than addressing accumulated technical debt over time.

Actively managing technical debt can greatly improve both the scalability and performance of an eCommerce platform, maintaining its adaptability and responsiveness to shifts in market trends and consumer preferences.

Technical debt is inevitable; however, the extent of its impact and the problems it may introduce are determined by the online business’s management strategies. It is always better to allocate additional resources towards building a robust store designed to last many years rather than opting for a quicker and less expensive solution that might cause issues after a few months.

Originally published at https://bitbag.io on February 22, 2024

Patryk Baczewski
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