Author: Gilad David Maayan
Code quality is a set of practices and standards that can help you achieve structural and functional software quality. You can use code quality metrics, tools, and practices to standardize collaboration attributes and maintain high product quality through continuous testing.
Code quality can also help promote the use of best practices through regularly updated documentation, as well as help you enforce standard refactoring practices. Read on to learn nine methods of implementing and improving code quality practices and processes.
1. Implement Coding Standards
It’s easy to write bad, poorly organized code without realizing it, especially if you’re new to coding. In comparison, writing good code requires skill, experience, and an understanding of coding standards. These standards include things like naming conventions, formatting, and comments.
There are a number of well-established standards you can follow, depending on the language or languages you’re using, such as W3C. Although standards may take a while to learn and build into a habit, the time is well spent. Coding standards help you ensure that your code is clear to you and anyone else who may work on it.
2. Use Code Documenters to Increase Efficiency
When working on large or collaborative projects, you can likely benefit from a code documentation tool. These tools can catalog your functions, classes, or namespaces a searchable document.
Developers and eventually users can then use this document to understand how your code works and ensure that components are used consistently. A popular example of a code documenter you can use is Javadoc.
3. Use Comments for Clarification
Comments are meant to help you quickly understand what purpose blocks of code serve. These insights are useful when you need to return to projects at a later date and for helping others understand your code. Comments shouldn’t duplicate what can be easily read from the code but should summarize code or provide the logic behind code implementation.
To ensure that comments remain useful, make sure to update comments whenever you change a code block. If you don’t, you will only confuse yourself and others.
4. Refactor Your Code
Refactoring your code helps you ensure that your programs are efficient. It can reduce the size of your codebase and the risk of including bugs, like logical flaws. You should refactor your code daily. This can include program architecture, functions, and dependencies. Doing so can make future alterations easier and faster.
To make refactoring easier, try to build modular code from the start. Additionally, when your code is broken down into basic functions, it can help you eliminate duplication and speed development.
5. Avoid Using Global Code
Global variables and loops can create a variety of conflicts and errors and are best avoided. Whenever possible, try to ensure that your methods are contained within class definitions. It is also important to make sure that your function and class definitions are stored in the correct namespaces.
6. Adopt Pair Programming
Pair programming is when two developers share a workspace and work on code collaboratively. One developer writes the code and the other follows along, asking questions for clarification or making suggestions as needed. This process promotes knowledge sharing and can improve communication.
Pair programming is a useful technique for difficult problems and is implemented by many development teams. It can be particularly helpful for improving the skills of new developers.
7. Implement Code Reviews
Code review involves having multiple other developers review code to confirm that it is logical and efficient. Ideally, code review is performed frequently on small blocks of code and feedback is provided quickly. For code reviews to work successfully, you need to clearly define the purpose of the code you are submitting for review. You also need to specify what changes you have made to the codebase since the last review.
8. Check Code Quality
After your code went through a round of peer review, it’s also important to run it through tools that check the quality of the code. Here are two tools you can use:
- Static Application Security Testing (SAST) — inspects static source code and then provides security reports on any discovered weakness. You can use SAST to identify errors in non-compiled code
- Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) — runs the code and then checks it during runtime, for the purpose of locating errors that might turn into vulnerabilities. DAST can look for issues in query strings, scripts usage, authentication, and more.
9. Perform Unit Tests
Unit tests are a process commonly used in test-driven development. These tests evaluate the smallest testable units of code to ensure each unit is working as expected. Unit tests can help you identify logical or algorithmic flaws that might otherwise be missed.
Unit tests can also help you ensure that you are writing testable code. Testable code breaks features down into basic functions, making flaws easier to identify and fix. Although you can write unit tests after code is written, it can be helpful to write tests before. Doing so helps clarify the goals of a function and can help ensure efficiency.
10. Adopt Continuous Integration
Continuous integration (CI) is a practice in which code is integrated into the code base several times a day. It requires the use of a version control protocol such as Git or Subversion. When code is submitted for integration via a pull request, it is first checked for quality and compatibility. This is done using automated build and testing tools. If code fails during these processes, it is sent back to the developer to be fixed.
The small changes and quick turnaround time in CI make it easier for developers to correct mistakes and avoid code conflicts. Since your codebase is updated frequently, it is easier to ensure that any code you write is compatible and not redundant.
Code quality is a crucial part of the development cycle, especially for DevOps and DevSecOps teams that prioritize fast development and cybersecurity. By integrating quality throughout the development cycle, you can ensure your code is not only secure, but also meets high quality standards. That doesn’t mean you have to compromise the development pace. You can use automation tooling to drive efficiency into the process, thus achieving all of your goals.
Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Imperva, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership.