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10 Essential Practices For Writing Clean and Maintainable Code.

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Praise Iwuh

August 27, 2023

 

In today's world, coding is essential for problem-solving, innovation, and efficiency. In software development, coding entails more than just having computers understand our commands; it also entails laying a clear, flexible, and effective foundation.

 You might be surprised that the most challenging part of software development isn't writing code; it's making sure your code is readable, easy to understand and modify, and as bug-free as possible, particularly when working within a team.

 If you are looking to improve your coding habits or learn some of the best practices for software development, then this article is for you. In this article, we'll be exploring a few general principles that can help you write cleaner and more maintainable code.

 

What is clean code?   

Clean code is a reader-focused style of development that's easy to write, read and maintain. Clean code simply describes code that is easy to read, understand, maintain, and modify. This, in practice, doesn't necessarily mean that the code is flawless but that it is well-structured and presented in a way that makes it easy for the original developer and any future collaborators to work around and make corrections. Clean code is about recognizing that your audience is not just your computer but actual humans as well! Thus, writing clean and maintainable code requires an understanding of code as a form of communication and takes into cognisance the collaborative nature of software development. Summarily, it improves the improves the quality of software being developed.

 

Why it is important to write clean and maintainable code  

Code is an extremely valuable asset in software development. Code not only directs how an application will behave but also how it will perform and evolve. Thus, keeping it clean and maintainable is essential to prevent it from becoming a liability. When code is poorly structured, it can be difficult to understand, leading to mistakes and bugs that can incur technical, financial, and even legal costs that could have been easily avoided. On the other hand, when code is properly written, it can :


Reduce maintenance time and costs  

Tangled code is hard to maintain, non-reusable, malfunctional, and ultimately requires tons of money to fix. Your ability to maintain a steady cash flow, ensure an excellent user experience and retain talent are all put at risk by messy code.

When code is well organized, it makes it easier to quickly locate and fix issues without inadvertently affecting the system. Furthermore, when code is easy to read and follow, multiple developers can effectively work on it and reduce the time it takes to address bugs or implement new features. Thus it runs faster, uses fewer resources, and requires less maintenance.

 

Ensure seamless operations   

Effective collaboration is crucial to the software development process. Clean and maintainable code enhances seamless operations by improving readability and reducing errors. Clear code is easier to understand and modify, leading to faster bug fixes and feature additions. Clean code ensures a more efficient and reliable development process, contributing to smoother operations.

 

Ensure Scalability   

Clean and well-documented code increases the lifespan of your program. For a product to scale, its team usually needs also to scale. To help facilitate both of these, the product's code base and supporting documentation must be strong and comprehensive enough to allow other developers to join the product team and build on the existing base. This is better achieved if there's a clear and concise foundation of code to work with.

 

Increase software lifespan   

Writing clean code improves maintainability, readability, flexibility, faster debugging, greater collaboration, increased documentation, enhanced performance, adaptability to new technologies, and bug risk reduction, all without the risk of disruption and downtimes, which can be costly. Ensuring that your code is clean can help ensure the long-term viability of your software by making it easier to evolve, maintain, and provide value to users over time.

 

Reduce risks during runtime   

Clean and maintainable code is often modular and follows the Single Responsibility Principle. This means that when runtime errors occur, you are able to pinpoint the specific module or component responsible, making troubleshooting faster and reducing the impact of errors. Clean code is also less likely to have vulnerabilities that malicious actors can exploit. By observing secure coding practices, you can mitigate security risks and ensure compliance with industry standards.

   

Best Practices for writing clean and maintainable code   

Now that we have ascertained that clean and maintainable code benefits all parties involved, you may be wondering, how exactly do I write code that is efficient, functional, and easy for all to understand? Well, here are ten practices we think you should imbibe —

 

1. Avoid duplicating code: When writing code for large software projects, it can be tempting to implement the same functionality in multiple locations. Well, don't! This only makes your codebase harder to debug and update. Instead of writing the same code multiple times, write it once and then import it when you need its functionality. This is the DRY principle.

 

2. Simple is better than complex: It goes without saying that the more complicated your code is, the harder it will be for someone in the future (maybe you) to refactor it. It would be best if you didn't use nested loops when a simple vector would do the trick. Writing code that is "creative" and "maximally efficient" is usually the wrong way to go if it means sacrificing simplicity and readability.

 

3. Break up large chunks of code into smaller ones: As a general rule of thumb, no single source file should have more than a thousand lines of code. You should aim to modularize your code as much as possible so that it is easier to manage. Split that mega-function into two or three sub functions. Create helper classes instead of one giant mess. It helps make your code more comprehensible, and it's easier to spot bugs when they inevitably arise.

 

4. Comment only where necessary: Contrary to popular belief, a dozen comments in one class declaration isn't a sign of an experienced developer. You should reserve your comments for places where they are necessary. Furthermore, if you find yourself writing several multi-line comments in a single file, it's a good indicator that you need to break up your code into smaller, more manageable chunks.

 

5. Use consistent formatting: Switching between multiple naming conventions within the same codebase makes reading and debugging hard for other developers. It doesn't matter whether you prefer camelCase or underscores, tabs, or spaces—just choose one style and stick with it throughout the project. Enforce coherent naming styles and developer conventions within your team; this will make onboarding new developers much simpler.

 

6. Be concise: Every function, class, and file in your project should do one thing only. This makes it easier to track down bugs and errors. It also makes adding and removing features easier as your project grows. However, it's important to strike a balance between conciseness and clarity. Code that's too terse might be hard to comprehend, so it's essential to maintain meaningful variable and function names and provide comments when necessary.

 

7. Use your language's standard library: You shouldn't reinvent the wheel when someone else has already done it—probably better than you could have. Instead, use third-party libraries and functions where appropriate, especially those bundled with your project's programming language. This requires some familiarity with the standard library but pays dividends in the long run.

 

8. Follow a development plan: One surefire way to write messy code is to write code without a plan. Having a development schedule complete with tasks, goals, and deadlines helps you keep focus on the most important features and eliminate unnecessary fluff from your code. Having clear objectives helps you manage your time and gives you the much-needed clarity you need while writing code.

 

9. Regularly Refactor: Refactoring involves restructuring existing code without changing its external performance. Refactoring regularly improves code flexibility, facilitates maintenance and repairs, and improves testing while ensuring your code quality is continuously maintained throughout the development cycle. Ultimately, refactoring helps ensure the adaptability of your code and prevents the accumulation of technical debt.

 

10. Run Unit tests and code reviews: Write unit tests to ensure the correctness of your code and catch bugs early. Well-tested code is easier to maintain and refactor, particularly if appropriately documented. Holding code reviews with other collaborators at each stage of testing can help you identify potential issues you may have missed so that you can address them instantaneously.


Read How to Improve Custom Application Development

 

Conclusion 

Finally, adhering to these essential practices for writing clean and maintainable code is not just a matter of preference but a strategic investment in software projects' long-term success and sustainability. By employing meaningful names, consistent formatting, modular structure, thorough testing, and embracing a culture of continuous improvement, developers can streamline collaboration, reduce technical debt, and pave the way for smoother maintenance and future expansion. These practices, while simple in concept, have the potential to significantly enhance code quality and developer productivity, ultimately leading to more reliable and adaptable software systems.

 

 

 

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