DEV Community

Cover image for Best Practices for all developers
Samuel Egbajie
Samuel Egbajie

Posted on

Best Practices for all developers

Best practices in programming are recommended guidelines and techniques that help developers write high-quality, maintainable, and efficient code. They serve as a collective wisdom of the programming community and cover various aspects of programming, providing guidance on code organisation, naming conventions, error handling, security, testing, and more. By following best practices, developers can produce better software, reduce the likelihood of bugs, and enhance collaboration and code maintainability.

Here are some best practices for writing clean code that you can follow as a developer :

1. Use descriptive names for variables, functions, and classes to make the code more readable and understandable:

Using descriptive names for variables, functions, and classes is an essential practice in software development. It greatly improves the readability and understandability of code, making it easier for both the original developer and others who may need to read or maintain the code in the future.

When choosing names for variables, it's crucial to select names that accurately convey the purpose or meaning of the data they represent. For example, instead of using generic names like "a," "x," or "temp," opt for more descriptive names like "customerName," "totalSales," or "numberOfItems." This helps to provide clear context and makes it easier for others to understand the intention behind the variable.

Similarly, when naming functions, it's important to choose names that accurately describe their purpose or behaviour. A function name should be a verb or a verb phrase that clearly conveys what the function does. For instance, instead of naming a function "calculate," consider using a name like "calculateTotalPrice" or "generateReport." This allows other developers to easily grasp the function's purpose and helps avoid confusion.

When it comes to classes, they should typically be named using nouns or noun phrases that represent the objects or concepts they model. Classes should have names that describe what they are, rather than what they do. For example, if you have a class that represents a car, naming it "Car" would be appropriate. It's worth noting that class names are often written in title case (e.g., "Car" instead of "car") to distinguish them from variables and functions.

In addition to choosing descriptive names, it's also important to maintain consistency throughout the codebase. By following consistent naming conventions, such as using camel case (e.g., "customerName") or underscores (e.g., "total_sales") for variables and functions, you create a uniform style that enhances readability.

Overall, using descriptive names for variables, functions, and classes significantly improves the understandability of code. It helps developers quickly grasp the purpose and functionality of different elements, promotes maintainability, and facilitates collaboration among team members.

2. Keep functions and classes small and focused on a single task. This helps in easier maintenance, testing and reuse:

Keeping functions and classes small and focused on a single task is a fundamental principle in software development. This practice, often referred to as the Single Responsibility Principle (SRP), contributes to code maintainability, testability, and reusability.

When functions or methods are small and focused, they become more readable and easier to understand. Developers can quickly comprehend the purpose and behaviour of a function when it is concise and addresses a single concern. This promotes code comprehension, reduces cognitive load, and enables efficient maintenance. If a function or method starts to become too long or complex, it's a signal that it may be responsible for multiple tasks and should be refactored into smaller, more focused functions.

Small and focused functions also facilitate testing. When a function has a single responsibility, it becomes simpler to write targeted unit tests that cover its specific behaviour. Isolating the functionality within a small function allows for better test coverage and easier identification of potential issues or bugs. Additionally, if a function needs to be modified or fixed, having smaller units of code reduces the likelihood of introducing unintended side effects, making debugging and troubleshooting more manageable.

The same principles apply to classes. A well-designed class should have a clear and specific purpose, representing a single concept or entity within the system. By adhering to this principle, classes become more modular and reusable. They can be easily composed and combined with other classes to create complex systems. Smaller classes with focused responsibilities are also less prone to bloating with unnecessary functionality and dependencies, leading to cleaner and more maintainable codebases.

Furthermore, adhering to the principle of small and focused functions and classes promotes code reuse. When code is modular and focused, it can be easily extracted and reused in different parts of the system or in other projects. Developers can identify and extract common functionalities into reusable components, libraries, or modules. This reduces code duplication, enforces consistency, and accelerates development by leveraging existing tested and proven solutions.

In summary, keeping functions and classes small and focused on a single task enhances code maintainability, testability, and reusability. It improves code readability, simplifies testing efforts, reduces bugs and side effects, and enables the creation of modular and reusable components. By embracing the Single Responsibility Principle, developers can create more maintainable and flexible codebases that are easier to understand, extend, and collaborate on.

3. Use comments to explain complex logic, assumptions, and the intent of the code:

Using comments in code is a good practice to enhance its clarity and maintainability. Comments should be used to explain complex logic, assumptions, and the intent of the code. They provide additional context for readers, including other developers or future maintainers, to understand the code's purpose and functionality.

When writing comments, it's important to be concise and focus on relevant information. Comments should highlight any intricate or non-obvious sections of the code, describe the reasoning behind specific decisions or algorithms, and clarify any assumptions made during the implementation.

By using comments effectively, you can improve code comprehension, facilitate collaboration among team members, and make it easier to debug and maintain the codebase in the future. Remember to keep comments up to date as the code evolves, ensuring that they accurately reflect the current state of the code.

4. Write self-documenting code, using code constructs and design patterns that convey intent and functionality without the need for comments:

Writing self-documenting code is an important practice that aims to make the code itself expressive and understandable without relying heavily on comments. By using clear code constructs, consistent naming conventions, and design patterns, developers can create code that conveys its intent and functionality effectively.

One way to achieve self-documenting code is by using meaningful and descriptive names for variables, functions, and classes. Well-chosen names can provide immediate context and understanding of their purpose, eliminating the need for excessive comments. By using names that accurately reflect the role and behaviour of each element, developers can create code that is self-explanatory and reduces ambiguity.

In addition to naming, using consistent code structures and idiomatic patterns also contributes to self-documenting code. Following established conventions and best practices for a particular programming language or framework helps developers quickly grasp the code's structure and flow. When code follows a predictable pattern, it becomes easier to understand and maintain, without relying heavily on comments.

Furthermore, adopting design patterns and architectural principles can enhance the clarity and readability of code. Design patterns, such as the Singleton, Observer, or Strategy patterns, encapsulate common problem-solving approaches in a recognisable and reusable manner. When used appropriately, design patterns can communicate the intent and functionality of code segments, making it easier for other developers familiar with the patterns to understand and work with the codebase.

Writing code that is self-documenting doesn't mean avoiding comments altogether, as there may still be cases where additional explanations or context are necessary. However, the goal is to minimise the reliance on comments for understanding the code's behaviour. Comments should primarily be used for providing insights into complex or non-obvious parts of the code, rather than explaining every line or duplicating information that is already apparent from the code itself.

By prioritising self-documenting code practices, developers can create codebases that are more maintainable, readable, and less error-prone. Self-documenting code reduces the cognitive load required to understand and work with the code, promotes consistency, and improves collaboration among team members. It also allows developers to focus on the actual code logic rather than spending excessive time deciphering unclear or poorly documented code.

5. Use consistent indentation and formatting to make the code easy to read and navigate:

Consistent indentation and formatting are essential aspects of writing readable code. They contribute to the overall structure and visual clarity of the code, making it easier for developers to read, understand, and navigate through the codebase.

Indentation is the practice of aligning code blocks within each other to represent their hierarchical relationships. It helps in visually indicating the scope and nesting of code, such as loops, conditionals, or function definitions. By consistently applying indentation, developers can quickly identify the logical structure of the code and understand how different blocks of code relate to each other.

A common convention for indentation is to use a consistent number of spaces or tabs for each level of indentation. Popular standards, such as the 2-space, 4-space, or tab-based indentation, help maintain a consistent visual structure throughout the codebase. Consistency in indentation style is crucial to avoid confusion and ensure that developers can easily follow the code's flow.

Formatting encompasses a broader range of practices, including line breaks, spacing, and alignment of code elements. Consistent formatting rules make the code more readable and help establish a standard style across the codebase. For example, consistent placement of braces ({}) for code blocks, aligning assignments or function parameters, and using consistent line lengths all contribute to the readability and navigability of the code.

Following a specific code style guide, such as the popular PEP 8 for Python or the Google Java Style Guide, can provide guidelines on consistent indentation and formatting practices. These style guides help maintain a unified codebase and ensure that all developers working on the project follow the same conventions. Automated code formatters, such as Black for Python or Prettier for JavaScript, can also be used to enforce consistent formatting automatically.

Consistent indentation and formatting not only improve code readability but also have practical benefits. They make it easier to spot syntax errors, detect missing or mismatched parentheses or braces, and quickly identify code sections that might need modification or review. They also facilitate collaboration by enabling multiple developers to work on the codebase seamlessly and understand each other's contributions.

In summary, consistent indentation and formatting play a crucial role in making code easy to read and navigate. By following established conventions and using automated tools, developers can ensure a unified code style, improve code readability, and enhance collaboration. Consistent code formatting helps reduce cognitive load, promotes code maintenance, and contributes to the overall readability and understandability of the codebase.

6. Avoid duplication of code by extracting common functionality into reusable functions or classes:

Avoiding duplication of code is a fundamental principle in software development that promotes code maintainability, readability, and efficiency. Duplicated code not only increases the risk of introducing errors but also makes the codebase more difficult to understand and maintain. By extracting common functionality into reusable functions or classes, developers can eliminate duplication and create a more modular and maintainable codebase.

One approach to eliminating duplication is to identify recurring patterns or logic across different sections of code. If similar or identical code blocks exist in multiple places, it's a strong indication that the functionality can be extracted into a reusable function or method. By encapsulating this common functionality in a single place, developers can ensure consistency, reduce the risk of introducing bugs, and simplify future modifications or updates.

Reusable functions or methods provide several benefits. They promote code reusability, as the same piece of code can be invoked from multiple places, avoiding the need to rewrite the same logic multiple times. This reduces redundancy and improves code efficiency. Moreover, when a bug is discovered or a change is required, updating a single function or method is much simpler and less error-prone than modifying multiple duplicated sections of code.

In addition to functions, classes can also be used to encapsulate common functionality into reusable components. Classes allow for more complex behavior and state management, making them suitable for organizing related functions and data. By designing classes that encapsulate specific functionalities or concepts, developers can create reusable components that can be easily instantiated and used throughout the codebase.

When extracting common functionality, it's important to design the extracted code to be flexible and adaptable to different contexts. This is achieved by defining clear input parameters and return values that cater to a range of use cases. By providing appropriate abstractions and interfaces, the extracted code can be easily integrated into various parts of the system without introducing unnecessary dependencies or tight coupling.

Furthermore, code duplication can also be minimized by utilizing libraries or frameworks that provide reusable components or modules. These external resources offer pre-built functionalities for common tasks, allowing developers to leverage existing solutions rather than reinventing the wheel. By utilizing well-tested and widely-used libraries, developers can reduce development time, enhance code quality, and benefit from community support and updates.

In summary, avoiding duplication of code is crucial for creating maintainable, readable, and efficient codebases. By extracting common functionality into reusable functions, methods, or classes, developers can eliminate redundancy, promote code reusability, and simplify maintenance and updates. Encapsulating common logic in reusable components improves code organisation, reduces the risk of errors, and enables developers to build upon existing solutions.

7. Follow the SOLID principles of object-oriented design to write code that is easy to modify and maintain:

Following the SOLID principles of object-oriented design is a valuable guideline for writing code that is modular, flexible, and maintainable. These principles, which include Single Responsibility Principle (SRP), Open/Closed Principle (OCP), Liskov Substitution Principle (LSP), Interface Segregation Principle (ISP), and Dependency Inversion Principle (DIP), provide a foundation for designing object-oriented systems that are easier to modify, extend, and test.

The Single Responsibility Principle (SRP) states that a class should have a single responsibility or reason to change. By adhering to this principle, each class focuses on a specific task or functionality, making it easier to understand, modify, and test. A class with a single responsibility is less likely to have multiple reasons to change, reducing the impact of modifications and making the codebase more maintainable.

The Open/Closed Principle (OCP) emphasises that classes should be open for extension but closed for modification. This means that code should be designed in a way that new functionality can be added by extending existing classes or implementing new ones, rather than modifying the existing code. By adhering to the OCP, code becomes more resilient to changes and less prone to introducing bugs in existing functionality.

The Liskov Substitution Principle (LSP) emphasises that objects of a superclass should be replaceable with objects of its subclasses without affecting the correctness of the program. In other words, subclasses should be able to be used interchangeably with their superclass without breaking the code's behaviour. By following the LSP, code becomes more modular, allowing for better code reuse and easier maintenance.

The Interface Segregation Principle (ISP) suggests that clients should not be forced to depend on interfaces they do not use. Instead of having monolithic interfaces, the ISP promotes the creation of smaller and more focused interfaces tailored to specific clients' needs. This principle helps avoid bloated interfaces and minimises the impact of changes, allowing for more flexible and maintainable code.

The Dependency Inversion Principle (DIP) states that high-level modules/classes should not depend on low-level modules/classes directly, but both should depend on abstractions. This principle encourages loose coupling and promotes the use of abstractions (interfaces or abstract classes) to decouple components and facilitate easier modifications or substitutions. By following the DIP, code becomes more flexible, extensible, and testable.

By applying the SOLID principles, developers can design code that is more modular, flexible, and maintainable. The principles promote separation of concerns, encapsulation, loose coupling, and code reuse. By adhering to these principles, developers can create systems that are easier to modify, extend, and test, reducing the likelihood of introducing bugs or breaking existing functionality during code changes. Additionally, the SOLID principles facilitate collaboration and improve code readability by promoting clear separation of responsibilities and well-defined interfaces.

8. Write unit tests to ensure that the code is working as expected, and to catch any regressions that may be introduced during future development:

Writing unit tests is an essential practice in software development that promotes code quality, reliability, and maintainability. Unit tests are small, focused tests that verify the correctness of individual units of code, such as functions, methods, or classes.

Unit tests provide several benefits. First and foremost, they serve as a safety net, ensuring that the code behaves as expected and preventing regressions. By writing tests that cover different scenarios and edge cases, developers can identify and fix issues early in the development process, reducing the chances of introducing bugs or breaking existing functionality in the future.

Unit tests also act as documentation for the code. By reading the tests, developers can understand the expected behavior of the code without having to go through its implementation details. Tests describe the usage and behavior of functions or classes, making it easier for developers to understand how to interact with the code and what output to expect.

Additionally, writing unit tests encourages the creation of modular and loosely coupled code. In order to write effective tests, it's necessary to isolate the unit under test from its dependencies. This often involves using techniques such as mocking or stubbing to simulate external dependencies. By decoupling the unit from its dependencies, code becomes more modular, easier to test, and less prone to unintended side effects.

Unit tests also facilitate code refactoring and evolution. When refactoring code, having a suite of tests gives developers confidence that the behavior of the code remains intact. Tests act as a safety net, ensuring that modifications or optimizations do not introduce regressions. This allows developers to make changes with greater agility and minimizes the fear of breaking existing functionality.

In addition, unit tests promote good development practices such as separation of concerns and adherence to SOLID principles. By designing code that is testable, developers are encouraged to write modular, loosely coupled, and single-responsibility code. This results in code that is more maintainable and easier to understand.

There are various testing frameworks and tools available for writing unit tests in different programming languages. These frameworks provide assertions, mocking capabilities, and test runners that automate the execution of tests and provide clear feedback on their success or failure. Examples of popular unit testing frameworks include Jest for Javascript, JUnit for Java, pytest for Python, and NUnit for .NET.

In summary, writing unit tests is crucial for ensuring the quality and reliability of code. Tests act as a safety net, catching regressions and verifying the correctness of code. They also serve as documentation and promote good development practices. By investing in writing comprehensive unit tests, developers can have greater confidence in the codebase, facilitate code refactoring, and create maintainable and reliable software.

9. Use version control to keep track of changes to the codebase and to collaborate with other developers:

Using version control is a fundamental practice in software development that offers numerous benefits, including better collaboration, code traceability, and the ability to revert changes if needed. Version control systems (VCS) provide a structured and organized way to manage codebase changes over time, making it easier for developers to work together effectively and track the evolution of the code.

Version control allows developers to keep track of every change made to the codebase. It provides a history of modifications, allowing developers to review, compare, and understand how the code has evolved over time. With version control, it's possible to see who made a specific change, why it was made, and when it was made. This level of visibility helps in troubleshooting issues, understanding the context of code changes, and providing a reliable audit trail.

Collaboration is greatly facilitated by version control systems. Multiple developers can work on the same codebase concurrently without conflicts, as the VCS manages merging changes and resolving conflicts automatically. Developers can work on their own branches, make isolated changes, and merge them back into the main codebase when they are ready. This allows for parallel development and enables teams to work efficiently without stepping on each other's toes.

Version control systems also offer the ability to revert changes when needed. If a mistake is made or a feature needs to be rolled back, it is much easier to undo specific commits or changesets with version control. This ability to roll back provides a safety net, allowing developers to experiment, make changes, and explore different directions while having the confidence that they can revert back to a stable state if necessary.

Moreover, version control systems provide features such as branching and tagging, which offer flexibility and control over the codebase. Branches allow developers to create separate streams of development, enabling the isolation of feature development, bug fixes, or experiments. Tags, on the other hand, provide meaningful labels for specific points in the codebase's history, such as releases or milestones, making it easier to navigate and reference specific versions of the code.

Using a version control system also contributes to code quality and stability. With version control, it is possible to enforce best practices, code review processes, and continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines. These practices help ensure that code changes are thoroughly reviewed, tested, and validated before being merged into the main codebase, reducing the risk of introducing bugs or regressions.

There are several popular version control systems available, such as Git, Subversion (SVN), and Mercurial. Git, in particular, has gained significant popularity due to its distributed nature, speed, and rich feature set. It is widely used in both open-source and commercial software development.

In summary, using version control is essential for effective collaboration, code management, and maintaining a reliable and traceable codebase. Version control systems provide a history of changes, enable collaboration among developers, facilitate code review processes, and offer the ability to revert changes if needed. By adopting version control practices, developers can work more efficiently, track the evolution of the codebase, and ensure code quality and stability.

10. Continuously refactor the code to keep it clean and maintainable, even as requirements and business needs change:

Continuously refactoring code is a critical practice in software development that ensures code remains clean, maintainable, and adaptable to changing requirements and business needs. Refactoring involves making improvements to the existing codebase without altering its external behavior, with the goal of enhancing code quality, readability, and maintainability.

As requirements evolve and new features are added, code can become complex, hard to understand, and difficult to modify. By regularly refactoring, developers can proactively address these issues, making the codebase more robust and easier to work with.

Refactoring improves code quality by eliminating code smells and anti-patterns. Code smells are indications of poor design or implementation choices that can lead to maintainability issues. Examples of code smells include duplicated code, long methods or classes, overly complex logic, or excessive dependencies. Refactoring helps to identify and resolve these issues, resulting in cleaner, more concise code.

Maintainability is greatly enhanced through refactoring. By breaking down large, monolithic functions or classes into smaller, focused units, code becomes easier to understand and modify. Refactoring also improves the readability of the code, making it easier for developers to comprehend its purpose and behavior. Clean and maintainable code reduces the time required for bug fixing, feature implementation, and code reviews.

Refactoring also plays a crucial role in ensuring that code remains adaptable to changing requirements. As business needs evolve, it is common for new features to be added, existing features to be modified, or obsolete functionality to be removed. Refactoring allows developers to make these changes with confidence, as they can rely on a well-structured and modular codebase that is easy to modify. By refactoring regularly, the codebase becomes more flexible and responsive to changing demands, reducing the risk of technical debt and minimizing the effort required for future enhancements.

It is important to note that refactoring should be done incrementally and with the support of automated tests. Having a comprehensive suite of unit tests or automated tests provides a safety net, ensuring that code modifications do not introduce regressions. Refactoring should be carried out in small, focused steps, each validated by running the automated tests to ensure the correct behavior of the code is maintained.

Refactoring is not a one-time activity but rather an ongoing process throughout the development lifecycle. It should be integrated into the daily workflow of developers to continuously improve the codebase. By allocating time for refactoring during development sprints or iterations, teams can proactively address technical debt, improve code quality, and maintain a clean and sustainable codebase.

In summary, continuous refactoring is essential for maintaining code quality, readability, and adaptability. It eliminates code smells, improves maintainability, and enhances the codebase's ability to accommodate changing requirements. By making refactoring an integral part of the development process and leveraging automated tests, developers can ensure a clean and maintainable codebase that can evolve and adapt to meet the needs of the business.

By following these best practices, developers can write clean, maintainable, and efficient code that is easy to read, understand, and modify. If you like this, they is a chance you might want to read my other posts.
Thanks for reading and happy clean coding 😃 !!!

Top comments (8)

miketalbot profile image
Mike Talbot ⭐

Your section on comments is a repeat of your section on functions.

codepapi profile image
Samuel Egbajie

Thanks for reading and pointing that out.

ekqt profile image
Hector Sosa • Edited

Very detailed post! A couple of examples or screenshots would've been a great addition! @codepapi I've built a OSS tool for creating engaging screenshots with ease. Check it out and let me know what you think! Cheers!

codepapi profile image
Samuel Egbajie

Hi @hector

Thanks, I will check it out

wilmela profile image

Great tips. Thanks for sharing.

codepapi profile image
Samuel Egbajie

It is always with joy. thanks for finding it useful 🙂

stelio profile image
Info Comment hidden by post author - thread only accessible via permalink
Stelio Kontos

Totally written by ChatGPT, but solid list of principles to code by nonetheless.

sebinsuresh profile image
Info Comment hidden by post author - thread only accessible via permalink
Sebin Suresh

Are we seriously just going to let ChatGPT write articles from now on?

Some comments have been hidden by the post's author - find out more