The ever-changing nature of software development and ongoing technological progress results in an environment where the only constant is change. Cutting-edge technological advancements and updates open new possibilities and room for improvement; however, this results in many changes in and outside the code to prepare older solutions to work better and be compatible with new ones. This, in turn, creates the phenomenon known as technical debt.  

In today’s blog, we will take a closer look at the concept of technical debt in Sylius, a metaphor reflecting the inevitable compromises and shortcuts taken during software development, which can accumulate over time and impact a system’s efficiency, maintainability, and scalability. We will explore its causes, risks related to it, and strategies for managing it effectively based on the example of the Sylius eCommerce platform.

Quick Jump

What is a technical debt?

Technical debt refers to the collection of defects and bugs in the source code. They are often a result of a compromise between code quality and functionality when a product or functionality must be implemented on time. However, technical debt also occurs when everything is done right, but it is visible after long years and not a few months of using the software. The reason for that can be, for example, the evolution of user requirements or the emergence of new technologies that make existing solutions outdated or less efficient. Over time, even well-designed systems may no longer align with current standards or expectations, leading to the need for updates or refactoring. Additionally, code that was once optimal may become less effective due to changes in the surrounding ecosystem, such as updates in related software, operating systems, or hardware. As a result, maintaining and upgrading software to keep pace with these changes can contribute to the accumulation of technical debt, even in the absence of initial flaws or compromises in code quality.

What causes technical debt in Sylius?

As we now know what a technical debt is, let’s dig deeper into the things that cause it. Firstly,  it is the lack of proper eCommerce project planning. While preparing for developing an eCommerce website, each detail is important and should be clearly communicated. The lack of communication (often combined with time pressure) leads to imprecise requirements, chaotic code, weak architecture, and underdeveloped functionalities.

What’s more, the lack of performing crucial tasks at the early stages of the project, such as unit testing, integration testing, and functional testing, makes it hard to detect errors when they can be eliminated easily. Speaking of errors, technical debt often results from ignoring the minor problems that get bigger and bigger over time. Then, such minor problems become major ones that impact the performance of the website and interfere with integrations and new functionalities.

Additionally, technical debt can be caused by manual implementations, testing, and code delivery without any support of automation tools. Unlike the human eye, such tools can detect errors in the code easily. Lastly, it is the lack of regular software updates that causes technical debt and security vulnerabilities.

The more complicated the software, the bigger the chance that one change may affect the other. No control over the technological debt, unawareness of its existence, and lack of plans and actions to minimize it leads to increasing problems.

As we just mentioned the lack of regular software updates, let’s start with risks related to that issue. This approach leaves the systems unprepared for potential hacking attacks as our system is “uninformed” about new online dangers and lacks tools to prevent the attack. Due to that, someone can leverage security gaps in the system to steal business and customer data. Moreover, systems without updates cannot be properly developed, and the differences in software get bigger and bigger.

Apart from that, a technical debt can significantly reduce the eCommerce store’s performance, which negatively impacts customer experience. Website’s performance and loading speed are essential factors for many online customers. According to,  19% of online shoppers will abandon a page if it takes more than 2-3 seconds to load, and this percentage increases to 25% if the page doesn’t load within 4-6 seconds.

When an online store is based on outdated code, maintaining and extending it becomes harder and more time-consuming, ultimately leading to increased costs.

The next section describes how to develop and maintain eCommerce stores best to minimize technical debt in Sylius.

How to minimalize technical debt in Sylius?

In the context of running an eCommerce store on Sylius, technical debt can occur when the website was created five or even ten years ago without following Symfony best practices (e.g., SOLID principles) and by using low-quality code (often due to the time restraints). What’s more, it can occur when the framework is not properly maintained and updated. This results in poor performance, weak UX/UI, errors in the code, etc.

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.

Good eCommerce practices in Sylius

  • A thorough analysis of the requirements at the start of the project  
  • Creating code according to good practices and using appropriate design patterns
  • Automatic tests, which will help detect errors right from the start
  • Utilizing well-prepared documentation
  • Monitoring the performance and types of data transferred  
  • Regular updates of framework technology: Sylius, Symfony, PHP, etc.
  • Instead of changing the code in Sylius, do your best to extend it while customizing and adding new functionalities 

Good architecture and implementing well-planned solutions will minimize the technological debt significantly. Also, keeping the software up to date gives users new possibilities to develop an eCommerce store and provide new exciting functionalities.

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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 involves modifying or expanding existing software systems. It often requires dealing with legacy code, compatibility issues, and pre-existing architecture, which may be challenging and restrictive.

This must be a carefully planned process where developers must analyze the code base and plan further actions to “repair” it. By reviewing the code and deciding what areas need refactoring, an eCommerce website’s quality can be improved, and issues can be eliminated. 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 process is not a piece of cake but can be a cheaper alternative for building a new eCommerce website from scratch. However, success is not guaranteed, as if you try to „reanimate” old solutions, it may turn out that many bugs and bottlenecks appear.

Greenfield software development

Greenfield software development refers to creating a system from scratch without any constraints from existing code or infrastructure. This approach offers more freedom in design and technology choices but usually requires more resources. Here, the vital aspect is to analyze the mistakes and problems related to the previous platform to implement the solutions that would prevent them in the future, both from the technical and business perspective. Also, the new eCommerce store would require building the documentation and data migration.

The choice between working on an existing website or building a new one depends on many factors, for instance, the amount of technical debt and issues present, the available budget, available time, and unique requirements. Each aspect should be carefully analyzed in order to make an informed decision.

Wrapping up

Technical debt is an aspect that should be taken into consideration in any eCommerce project. Nonetheless, it is usually not a big issue for most companies when it is monitored. It is much easier to take care of the store regularly (e.g., by updating it) than to then try to remove the technological debt that has accumulated over the years.

Proactively managing technical debt can significantly enhance the scalability and performance of an eCommerce platform and ensure that the systems remain adaptable and responsive to changing market trends and consumer demands.

Technical debt is unavoidable; nonetheless, it’s up to the online business how big it will become and what problems it will cause. Keep in mind that it is always better to devote more resources to creating a solid store that will serve many years than one that can go live faster and cheaper but will cause problems after a few months.

If you are looking for a Sylius eCommerce agency, contact us. We help you implement your online store.