New projects often start with a highly organized and clean code. As the project progresses, things change, and hacks are often used to handle business logic changes. If you notice your project is starting to do this, there are a couple of ways to increase your code quality and move in the right direction.
Firstly, implementing a thorough and effective code review will ensure that all new code entering the project increases the code quality. Following established design patterns will help make your software more flexible and improve the quality of your code. Finally, writing lots of tests surrounding your code will ensure it works as intended and easy to refactor.
Effective Code Review
One of the most effective ways to immediately improve code quality is by implementing thorough code reviews. This is often overlooked, but having one or two extra pairs of eyes look at a piece of code can often find ways to improve it. Code review should also force code to be written in smaller chunks which will lead to fewer errors.
Just implementing code review isn’t enough, though. Three things should be emphasized for each code review:
- Review code in small chunks. If it’s a 1000 line pull request, maybe it should be broken up into smaller pieces!
- Ask questions. It’s okay to ask questions about the code when you review it!
- Don’t rush. If you just quickly skim a pull request, you will likely miss things. Be sure to have uninterrupted time to review code.
Use Established Design Patterns
“Design Pattern” gets thrown around a lot. At a basic level tt means a general repeatable solution to a common problem in software development. Following design patterns can help solve technical problems in a standard way, making your software more flexible and clear.
The specific design patterns that should be used aren’t universal and depend on your languages and programming methodologies. A standard set of beneficial design patterns are the SOLID principles. These will make your code much cleaner and easier to understand. Click here to learn more about them.
Test, Test, Test
One thing most projects with poor code quality have in common is a lack of automated tests. The reason missing tests often go hand in hand with poor code quality is that tests require taking a step back and defining the pieces of your software and verifying it works as indended. It also requires you to slow down and think about what and how you are testing. You have to read your code to make sure you’re testing the right pieces the right way. Just the act of slowing down will bring many benefits but adding tests will harden your code and make modifying or refactoring it in the future easy because you’ll have the confidence that it does work, and it has tests to back it up if you break anything by accident.
If your project doesn’t have tests or have inadequate test coverage, there is a great way to get the ball rolling. Sit down and writing tests for the most business-critical pieces of the code. Test all the critical classes, functions, etc. After this is done, which might take a while to do properly, the core functionality of your application should be tested, and from there, you can slowly start testing the other less critical parts of the code.
Writing lots of code at a high quality is not easy. It takes a concerted effort along with support and buy-in from the entire team. With team buy-in and following the principles above, you can start to increase the quality of your code and move towards a more clean and organized codebase.