Leveraging Binary Anvil’s Health Assessment to Chart Your Path

April 15, 2015

At Binary Anvil, we work with a number of companies who have a Magento site that was originally built internally or by a third party. More often than not, companies such as this seek our services because they have found that making the most basic of changes on their existing site takes too much time for the unpredictable results they produce. Our initial discussions with firms such as this highlight frustrations, uncertainty as to options, and fear of having to start over from scratch. They are searching for an honest, impartial, and practical assessment of where they are. In addition, they want to know what they can do to move toward a solution, but they don’t know what they don’t know. Enter the Binary Anvil Health Assessment and Audit. It’s the perfect remedy for companies who are sick of their current state of e-commerce development.

For the Binary Anvil Health Assessment and Audit to be successful, we need input from the client throughout the process. We begin with outlining how the application and site are set up, making note of what has been done well and what is at risk, as well as what can be focused on now and in the future. The results are objective and meaningful, and the client is left with a set of concrete facts that can be used to make the next set of decisions, whether they involve Binary Anvil or not.

Health Assessment Overview

Typically, existing sites we review have already been launched and are in production. We are occasionally asked to evaluate a project that is in progress or has been stalled (usually after the stalled project has already missed a number of deadlines and has gone well over budget for the original scope). In these cases, having a predefined methodology and process in place allows us to focus our efforts, get to the heart of issues raised, and avoid getting lost in the maze. The methodology makes the process fruitful. The following six key steps are crucial to success when evaluating an existing site.

1. Understanding Critical Objectives and Issues

We begin by interviewing one or more key business stakeholders to identify crucial trouble spots from the start and to familiarize ourselves with what matters most in the months ahead. Assessments such as these can be very large and exhaustive at times, but having a sense of what is most important allows us to provide focus in the most valuable areas. This step is not used for functional requirements gathering or discovery. It is strictly used to get a solid understanding of a client’s as-is landscape.

2. Site Design and Branding

This is not just an assessment of site aesthetics, though we will provide recommendations on how to elevate and increase brand value. During this step, we primarily focus on usability elements:

  • How well defined is the taxonomy?
  • Is the navigation structure optimal for both existing and future customers and markets?
  • Does the site support content structure (outside of the product catalog) or does it need to be expanded in a meaningful way to create credibility and educate customers on uniqueness?
  • What are the typical Marketing initiatives and how effective have they been?
  • What alternatives should be considered?
  • How impactful is the mobile and social media strategy?

3. Cut and Layout Effectiveness

In this step, we look beyond branding and design to question how effectively the design has been implemented. Are there elements that were improperly developed, making maintenance more difficult or expanding key native Magento features harder to implement? Have significant Magento features or tool sets been overlooked? Were CSS files properly created and is caching optimally employed? Are images sized appropriately to scale between mobile and desktop?

4. Code Quality

The quality of the code is a big—and highly charged—topic for many companies. When Binary Anvil addresses code quality, we do our best to focus on the big picture and not get caught up in semantics. During this step, we do not spend a lot of time assessing the consistency of naming conventions and other small elements. While they are important for development efficiency, they don’t tend to capture the main issues. Instead, we look to see if the site is upgrade safe. We search for blocks of highly inefficient or illogical development. We check Magento’s object model to ensure it is properly extended for customizations and to see if the previous developer(s) deviated from Magento’s recommended architecture. If the client identified areas as being fundamentally flawed or broken, we look for the root cause and outline the best approach to resolve the problem.

5. Base Site Configuration and Extensions in Use

At this point in the game, we assess the Magento version and version number the client currently has in place. We document which extensions are installed (and their version number) when possible, if they are in use. For extensions that are installed but not in use, we verify whether they are used obscurely or are candidates for removal.

We will evaluate basic performance metrics from multiple geographic locations and, with client input, we will determine if there are key infrastructure or application deficiencies that should be addressed to improve performance or stability. We will also make recommendations on upgrade options that should be considered and how the existing code base and installed extensions will impact them.

5. Security and PCI Compliance

A full audit and scan of the existing site is a critical component of our assessment. Binary Anvil will perform a site scan for security and PCI compliance using industry standard tools, and we will provide a written assessment of each issue we identify.

What Comes Next

After completing the steps mentioned above, Binary Anvil takes two weeks (sometimes three, for larger sites) to consolidate the findings into a document set. We will then walk the client through each section and share our recommendations for pressing items and issues to be addressed in the future. In addition, we will provide an estimated effort for the work involved.

By the time the Binary Anvil Health Assessment and Audit is complete, the client will be fully educated on their existing site and will have a viable set of options that can be used as a roadmap for moving forward.