One of the factors that separate a good coder from a bad coder is the ability to write a clean code. A clean code means that it is readable, maintainable, supported through thorough documentation and scalable.
Let’s delve a bit more into this topic.
A readable code is just that – readable. This means that a person with basic knowledge in coding or software development in general can skim through the code and understand what it’s trying to do. Some good ways to ensure code readability are:
- Formatting – the code should be formatted in a way that allows a person to understand each line of the code in bite sized forms. Just like reading a book long sentences will leave the reader confused. This is the same when coding. If it is too long it becomes convoluted so you need to reread the line. IDE plugins like Prettier can help with this.
- Comments – blocks of code that are performing complex functions or taking assumptions into account might lead other coders to not be aware and should be documented with comments within the code itself. Code that is basic does not need to be commented but it is considered good practice to write comments in the form of pseudo-code before writing the code itself.
- Clear naming convention – ensure that the name of your methods, variables and other definitions are descriptive and easy to understand. This will make it easier for other people to interact with your code and even the author because your code will read like English. Programmers are usually in a rush to pick any variable name that comes in mind in order to move on quickly.
- Consistency – to build on the previous point, the whole naming method has to be consistent. Not only should formatting be consistent in accordance to latest standards but prefixes and suffixes should also follow convention.
A highly readable code is in line with best practices of the industry. However, in larger products, programs or apps, things are more likely to become complicated. In order to manage massive projects with moving parts, it is important to create supporting documents.
- API Documents – when building services, it is normal to assume that there are different aspects of the product interacting with them and other software engineers need to know how to interact with the services you have built without disturbing the code. This is where API documentation is useful. They document parameters the API call expects, keys, tokens and other forms of authentication information it will need and what the output should look like.
- Data Structure – data structure diagram or entity-relation diagram is essential when you’re building the architecture of the product and ensuring that resources are optimized from the resource standpoint. Being able to look back at tables, documents and their relationship can give you a bird’s eye view of the project and is crucial to ensure that the system is well built.
- Flow diagram – flow diagrams come in handy when there are complex algorithms that need to be built where several branches need to be split logically. For instance, you’re building a notification system. There are many things to consider when building a notification system such as does the user have the do-not-disturb mode on, did the user mute the channel etc. It is important that all scenarios are considered and coders should be able to understand the path the algorithm can take to achieve its final goal.
Why does it all matter?
One of the biggest advantages of having a clean well-documented code is that it gives coders the ability to maintain the code over a long period of time. Imagine building a product today and it needs to be supported for the next 10 years. The number of people that will work on the code will come and go and many of them will work with the code with little or no knowledge of the work completed.
We should always write code and support it with concise documentation so that the code can be read and understood by other coders down the road.
If your product has a 10-year shelf-life it should be scalable in order to be successful. For a product to scale, the team or coder that wrote it needs to scale as well. In order for a product to be scalable the product’s code base and documentation needs to be strong in order for new coders and engineers to join the team and continue to build on the foundation previously laid before. They can only do this if they are able to understand what’s going on. A clean, readable and well documented code will enable new coders and engineers to do this.
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