Coding best practices are vital for helping the teams create good quality code. We will discuss best practices to raise the quality of the code.
In the Agile development world of today, customer expectations and demands continue rising. They are demanding more features, faster and cheaper. Budgets always seem to be shrinking. This creates a situation where developers are facing demanding situations. So, they must ponder overbuilding the systems much more efficiently in a standardized way improving efficiency.
Set yourself up for success with these coding best practices. Once you implement them, they’ll save you and your team time, resources, and headaches. Here are fifteen of the best coding practices that you can start utilizing today for your team and yourself.
The objective of this blog post is to look at what code quality is, what are the best practices, examine how we implement them and reap the benefits in terms of reliability, security, and maintainability, etc. Let’s cover these areas sequentially.
What is Code Quality?
Code quality is a set of attributes and requirements, standardized and prioritized by the organization. Here are the main attributes that can be used to determine it:
- Should work consistently without frequent crashes.
- Should follow consistent code style and naming conventions applicable to the language. Easy to read and oversee for anyone who isn’t the developer of the code. If it’s easy to understand, it’s much easier to maintain and extend the code. Not just computers, but also humans need to understand it.
- A high-quality code isn’t overly complicated. Anyone working with the code must understand the whole context of the code if they want to make any changes.
- The best thing is when the code is self-explaining, but it’s always recommended to add comments to the code to explain its role and functions. It makes it much easier for anyone who didn’t take part in writing the code to understand and maintain it.
- The fewer bugs the code has the higher its quality. Thorough testing filters out critical bugs ensuring that the software works the way it’s intended.
- Code must be extendible so that it doesn’t need to be discarded in a few weeks as new requirements emerge.
- High-quality code doesn’t use unnecessary resources to perform the desired action.
- Should prevent coding vulnerabilities like SQL injection.
Lower Technical Debt:
- Having low technical debt allows teams to move fast and develop new functionality without being slowed down by low quality and non-maintainable code.
A quality code does not necessarily meet all the above-mentioned attributes, but the more it meets, the higher the software quality. Based on the project requirements, some of the above attributes may not be required. These requirements are more like a priority list that depends on the characteristics of your project. It is challenging to produce high-quality code when working against schedules that are tight. However, in the long-term teams would find it easy to maintain it.
How to enforce code quality?
The very first thing for ensuring the code quality is following standard, well-documented coding guidelines. This is called the StyleBook or the Style Guide. We can have a style book at the company level or at a project level. Ideally, a company-level stylebook is preferred so that developers moving from one project to another are familiar with the standards and no knowledge transfer is required.
The second thing we need is to ensure is that all code changes pass this style book. This may be achieved through a manual or automated method.
Automated code quality check: Lint or Linter is a code analysis tool that is installed in the IDE, reads the stylebook, and checks the code against the stylebook rules. There are many linters available on market for different programming languages and IDEs. In the DevOps pipeline, we can inject the linter to analyze the code and submit the findings so that developer can see the recommendations and ensure the code is compliant with the stylebook. Some linters even check the code as soon as it is typed and give suggestions immediately.
ESLint is one such code analyzer, and the following screenshot is an example of ESLint’s suggestions:
Manual code quality check: Though we have automated code quality checks using linters, linters cannot check each aspect of code quality. Code reviews are the manual way of checking if code changes are following standards and are good to be submitted. Almost all version control systems support code review processes and help in enforcing rules across the project.
There are probably endless coding guidelines, but per our experience, we suggest implementing the following key ones. These work irrespective of the chosen technology and computing language.
Code repetition must be avoided
Even a single line of business logic written in multiple places, is a bad practice. Wrap it inside a function and call the function from wherever its needs to be. The obvious benefit is, that this code behaves consistently across the project, and any future changes to the business logic can be implemented through a quick change in the function. This makes the code more robust.
The code should be readable.
Ideally, the code shouldn’t need a comment to explain itself but should be self-explanatory. To achieve this, we must insist on a good naming convention, keep code simple, make meaningful folder structures, and ensure segregation of responsibilities.
Do not reinvent the wheel.
Any new requirement or functionality must be sub-divided into its generic components. Most generic components have probably already been coded. Identify the right third-party library or framework, check the licensing details and if appropriate, use the library. Minimizing the amount of new code to be written reduces errors and improves maintainability.
Commenting and maintaining
documentation are vital elements of any project. These tasks must be monitored and ensured.
Completely avoid hard coding.Only constants may be hardcoded. That’s it.
Adhere to the stylebook and set code review rules.
A second eye on any code ensures that coding guidelines have not been missed. This also helps drive other best practices such as code simplicity & readability and helps avoid code bugs in the early stages.
DevOps role in Code Quality
Even with code reviews and manual testing, it is possible that code quality will deteriorate over time. While manual code reviews are essential & have benefits, we must always leverage automated code quality checks and ensure that the code meets the quality criteria. This is where DevOps steps into the picture.
DevOps is a framework that builds the code and deploys the build to different prod/non-prod environments. The DevOps pipeline also provides flexibility to configure other checks & tools that meet the needs of the project. The creation of parallel testing environment(s) enables the success of CI/CD. Some examples of benefits are:
- Configure a linter in the pipeline that can address style book violations.
- Configure the pipeline to execute & confirm “pass” status during unit testing.
- Configure the pipeline to run QA automation and identify feature gaps.
- Configure performance testing tools to ensure that code changes do not impact performance.
At Encora, we follow a mature policy of adhering to these and other good coding practices to ensure the best results for our clients. These practices are the core of good software development, as they provide higher-quality products that are easier to maintain & upgrade.
Our own experience drives us to be fanatic followers of good coding practices: we’ve seen their transformative power for software development. And that’s why, though we appreciate a good bad coding joke or story, we always treat good coding practices seriously.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember why one got into coding in the first place: hopefully, because one enjoys it on some level. As a Developer, you spend many hours writing code, so try to have fun. Work on initiatives that excite you and your life becomes a song. You are part of a passionate team and when you work together, everyone benefits.
Coding best practices are not only about writing readable code, being consistent, and saving everything to version control. They’re also about collaboration and enjoying the process of what you’re doing.
Let's work together!