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What Is Bad Code, Why It Is Dangerous, and How to Write Good Code

Programming code quality

Though operational, software code can be quite poor in quality according to several criteria. It is like a problem car — it seems to be going forward but constantly requires maintenance and may just refuse to start at any moment.

Bad code is like bad novel. It is chaotic, has an obscure structure, and it is generally difficult to get an immediate idea of what the author wanted to say.

The Main Signs of Bad Code

If we try to deduce the signs of low-quality code, the list will be as follows:

  • it is difficult to make sense of it;
  • it has unnecessary iterations and complexities;
  • the function name is unclear to show the task it solves;
  • if complemented with something, code can become inoperable.

Consequently, the working software does not necessarily mean it is based on good software code. Code smells are not the problem but its symptoms.

When code smell

How Bad Code Threatens Your Project

Bad code may seem not a big deal when you look at it superficially. After all, the operational software is all that matters. However, bad code actually generates lots of problems, especially when it comes to a long-term perspective. Here are the reasons:

  • making changes to low-quality software code requires a lot of time (and money)
  • the cost will only increase over time
  • it is difficult or impossible to add new functionalities;
  • your code is unpredictable — you may never know what and when will stop working;
  • the need to work with such a project negatively affects developers’ motivation.

As a result, the development speed decreases, deadlines are extended, and any subsequent change becomes more costly. If all this is critical for the product’s target audience or owner, bad code can scrap the project.

How Bad Code Threatens Your Project

Why Do We Need Good Code?

Although it is the compiler that executes any computer program, software code is written by people and for people — it is for a reason that high-level programming languages ​​have human-friendly syntax and commands.

This approach to development places serious requirements on code quality, on its readability and comprehensibility in particular.

The guiding principle has it that good code is easy to read. It is the most important thing. If a new person reads some code and comprehends well what it is about, that is good code.

Differences between good and bad code

Clear code advantages are obvious. It allows:

  • any employee to comprehend an unfamiliar project;
  • team members to communicate with each other efficiently;
  • developers to make small alterations with no problem;
  • rebuilding a project relatively quickly to meet customer’s new requirements;
  • introducing new technologies safely to make sure everything will keep working.

All it takes is to look at good code to know its basic operation principles. In other words, if only an advanced or genius developer can get an idea of what you have written, you can hardly call such code good. If any junior can easily comprehend code, it is truly excellent.

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9 Principles of Writing Good Code: Best Practices for Developers

Now, when you are already aware of what good code is, you have to make out how to write it. Here are several principles to follow to get the desired result:

  • Follow coding standards. One of the simplest and most important principles is about agreeing with your teammates in advance on how to systemize your code and how to act in certain situations. Then, code, written by different coders, will be visually similar, and you will have no problem working with someone else’s code or the other way round. Besides, each programming language has its own coding standards.
  • Refactor your code. This process is about restructuring software code without changing its behavior. First, you are engaged in a creative process: you code to make the software work. Then, you do the “tidying up,” make your code neat, and bring it to the desired form. Read more about code refactoring in programming in this article.
  • Perform a code review. This process allows developers to check each other’s code and provide feedback. This approach helps coders avoid foolish mistakes and ill-conceived alterations. Besides (and this is also important), team members have an idea of what other developers are doing, and that allows them to avoid function duplications.

Perform a Code Review

  • Do not expand your code if it is unnecessary. If your code consists of many lines, it does not mean it is good. The goal of writing a software program is to solve a certain problem, not generate as much text as possible. The fewer lines of code you write to solve a specific problem, the easier it is to work with.
  • Comment on your software code. This rule is especially important for beginner developers or when you write some high-volume software, which you will have to work with in the future over and over again. Once you leave your code without a single comment, you risk misunderstanding it after a while.
  • Never neglect the logging. This approach will always help in coding and supporting a software product because it will take you a lot less time to find and fix errors. With a log file, you will significantly reduce the time for searching problem code blocks.
  • Ensure easy unit test coverage and debugging. Unit test coverage is the process of testing software units. Using unit tests, you can verify what subsequent changes to your code will result in. Developing a software product, an engineer should consider testing from the very beginning of coding.
  • Keep consistent. Do similar things in the same way. If you develop a method similar in functionality to an existing one, consider using a similar name, a similar order of parameters, and a similar body structure.
  • Make the process of further modifications simpler. The better you optimize the structure, the easier it is to modify code, add new properties, improve performance, and change its architecture.

There are other ways to improve your code (for instance, pair programming). However, when writing code, you can achieve the best results by combining several practices.

To recap

As you can see, there are several principles, following which developers can make sure that their software code meets the definition of “good.” Moreover, the more complex and large-scale the project is, the more relevant code quality is, as testing and fixing errors can be quite costly.

The developers adhering to the best practices, keeping in mind standards, conducting regular testing, and taking feedback from their colleagues into account can rest assured they will deliver the best results.

If you want to complete an IT project with high-quality code within the agreed deadlines and budget, we are ready to help you in this endeavor. Contact us, and let us discuss the details.

Lvivity Team

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