We all know that software products require code to make the magic happen. But what people often forget is that the code is a product of its own. It constantly needs to be interpreted, changed, updated, added to, and sometimes even cut out and marketed for its stand-alone value.
This is great philosophy, but this article is about practicality. How do you achieve high-quality code based on these standards? Here are 4 key steps:
It is critical for code quality that standards and uniformity are maintained. Start with widely-accepted language standards. Discuss best practices for how to write human readable (or self-documenting) code, and create a guide with your team.
This is all about ensuring the clarity of your code for new or outside developers. Your team should know where, when, and how to comment. In general, it is best to comment if, and only if, it provides real value.
Make sure there are clear expectations for sharing work. This will reduce chances of duplicating efforts. It also creates a space where code reviews (either as a team or peer-to-peer) are much easier to do, lifting the skillset and the code quality of the entire team.
There need to be well-defined, purposeful tests written at every layer of the code, especially unit testing and integration testing. Consider switching to test driven development to hardwire this best practice into your processes. And as much as possible, get these automated.
As a product manager in my heart, I argue this is the most important test. Yes, the product manager should only be asking for impactful software to be built. However, if the end product of the code doesn’t meet the needs of the user, it just isn’t worth worrying about code quality.
These reviews should cover the code as a forum to learn as a group what to model their code after and what practices to avoid. They should also cover the style guide and the sprints as a way to constantly iterate the processes that are supporting writing high-quality code.
Set up a buddy system with similar level engineers or mentorships with senior and lower level engineers. Using both of these systems will keep attention focused on code quality, lift the overall skills of your developers, and lift the overall code quality of your team.
Refactoring can be difficult to perform regularly, but what it the point of studying code quality without implementing it? The best way to refactor code is to do it constantly and little-by-little. For a more in-depth look at refactoring check out Code Refactoring Best Practices: When (and When Not) to Do It.
Not all code will score 100% across all the metrics of code quality. Make sure you communicate with your team on every project to ensure everyone knows the priorities and expectations around code quality.
Like it or not, the people we build software for do not know how software works. Make efforts to educate outside of the software group about the risks of bad code. Drive the company culture to one that values the time, process, and benefits of maintaining high quality code.
No matter how many good ideas and processes you have in place, if individual contributors don’t buy in, none of it matters. Make sure you are building a culture that rewards success and follow best practices of team leadership that keeps teams driving toward common goals.
The best way to achieve impactful, clear, efficient, well-tested, and extensible code is to: