Best Coding Practices: Boost Quality and Maintainability

Best Coding Practices consist of a set of informal rules that the software development community has learned in time which could help boost the quality of the program. A lot of the computer code remains useful for far longer than the original authors imagined, some even up to forty years or more. That is why; any rules must facilitate initial development and subsequent enhancement and maintenance by people aside from the original authors.

Good coding practices are not the same as good programming practices, they are about how to write code that is easy to understand and maintain in the future. A program can be written perfectly with no bugs but its maintenance becomes hellish nightmare if it has not taken into account for ease of maintenance.

At a first glance, it might seem to be a trivial task to write a program. It requires some level of concentration and a computer but what is important is the insight in which you are writing that code for future maintenance. You cannot predict in advance how much time you will take in maintaining that software in future but there are certain coding practices which can help you reduce the future pain.

Here are some of the Best Coding Practices that have been put together by many software engineers over years. Some may sound difficult to follow but they will help you in long run both in short term and long term development. They are not strict rules, just guidelines that can help you think beyond what you are writing at present.

1) Use descriptive names for everything

You should always use good quality naming convention. Naming convention allows you to understand what is that variable or function about just by looking at the name without opening it. It makes your code self-descriptive, which allows you to maintain it easily later.

2) Follow standard style guide

Follow any standard code style guide for the language you are using. This will reduce a lot of bugs and make your code well readable by other programmers. Standard style guide for most of the programming languages can be found online, a few prominent ones are:

3) Use comments sparingly

Comments in code should not repeat what is already obvious from the code. If you are using any function say strcpy for string copy, you need not write its description every time in short comments.

Coding style is frequently changing with language itself, so use it wisely.

4) Keep functions small and tidy

Every programming language has a limitation on the maximum number of lines that can be contained within any one function. Keeping each function short helps you to understand the logic of that function very easily. It also limits the side-effects outside the main flow of logic, which decreases the risk of introducing new bugs during upgradations or maintenance.

5) Provide sufficient comments inside functions

Few software engineers believe that code within a program is self-explanatory, but still it requires many lines of comments. To understand any computer program fully, one needs to know the context of that program. Comments inside functions should not be just about how it works but also mention its purpose and what exactly is the logic behind each function.

6) Don't comment un-executable code

Comments should just mention what is not obvious in the code and you should avoid putting comments inside un-executable statements. By un-executable, I mean statements that just throw compilers error or do nothing else.

7) Write one feature per class

This is about writing classes which are responsible for handling single functionality. This will make your program modular and each class will be responsible for single functionality. This makes your program easy to understand, maintain, debug and test.

8) Avoid assumptions about data type

Few programming languages provide the great amount of freedom about how you define variables. It is always better to define variable with its most restrictive data type which helps compiler during compilation process. An example is in C language, if you are defining a variable to be unsigned long integer but keep assigning small integers, the compiler has no way to know during compilation and we will get an error at runtime.

9) Use comments for complex logic

Many software engineers tend to avoid writing comments while writing code because they think it makes the code more un-readable. But if your code is long, it always helps to add comments at places where the logic becomes difficult for other programmers to follow.

10) Standardize on coding conventions

These are the Best Coding Practices that will boost up your productivity when you are writing code in any programming language because they have been collected over years by many software developers from different programming backgrounds. These practices are neither language-specific nor person-specific, so it is always advisable to use these rather than developing your own set of coding conventions.

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