10 Simple Tips to Clean Code

by T Ashok @ash_thiru on Twitter

As much as testing is seen as a key activity to deliver quality, there are simple practices that can ensure that code developed is constantly cleansed. In current times where code is churned out at a rapid pace, it makes great business sense to contain the entropy continually. This article outlines ten simple tips to help produce clean code continually.

“Great quality code is not the result of intense system testing, it is result of well structured filtration of issues from the early stages. A compromised ‘unit test’ puts unnecessary strain on the QA folks who seem to be compelled to go after these issues at the expense of system test.”

Developers do not deliberately write bad code, it is just that accidents happen. Accidents happen due to a variety of reasons – unclear requirements and therefore making assumptions, just sloppy coding, brute force push of unit testing without it being simple and practical, over reliance of testing rather than prevention, not enough refactoring, not enough focus on non-functional requirements(NFR).

Here is  how I feel as a developer as a poem titled “Hug each bug”

On a quiet  night
I sat down to code
Happiness in every byte
On the keyboard, it just flowed

Sheer poetry it was
But quietly slipped in tiny flaws
Silly it was, what I found
When the code ran aground

An exception I missed
And the code really pissed
Forgot to catch the ball
The system had a mighty fall

Bugs are uninvited guests
Makes you beat your breasts
That is why you need to test
So that you deliver your best 

I say Hi to every bug
From each one I learn
Embrace with a warm hug
For perfection is what I yearn

If you want a lovely poster version of this, click here.

What may be some tips that I as a developer can follow to write clean code?

  1. “Never assume, ask, question”
    Requirements are never complete, it just gets refined with time. Don’t assume when something is unclear.
  2. “Think of behaviour in terms of conditions”
    Good behavior is about compliance to conditions
    ,ensure combinations are well taken care.
  3. Be friends with bug(s)”
    Do not hate bugs, for they are the ones from who teach you constantly to do better. Learn from each, so that you find it and not others.
  4. “Use smart checklists”
    While coding, be sensitive as what issues can occur. Sensitise & prevent rather than rely only on test to find issues.
  5. “Treat code as a living entity”
    Nothing is frozen. Refactor, refactor constantly to simplify. Clean code is really never done, how much you can do is simply limited by time.
  6. “Be sensitive to NFRs”
    Non-functional requirements cannot be ‘fitted’ in later, so pay attention to load, performance, usability scaling, security, maintainability etc. always.
  7. “Don’t be scared to inject bad inputs”
    Checking correctness with good inputs are fine, but it is incorrect inputs/settings that create unwanted technical debt. Get these out of way early, by ensuring robustness at early stage.
  8. “Be purposeful of issues to find via unit test”
    There are different types of issues that may be there, be clear as to what to strive to prevent, what to go after via unit test and what at higher levels of testing. Ensure clarity of what you are going after.
  9. “Strive to understand how your code will be consumed
    It is not meeting a spec, it is not working in isolation, it is about visualising who (i.e other code) will use/consume my code so it can take care of the situations in future.
  10. “Unit test is not an after thought or compliance”
    The act of unit testing is not a chore or compliance to satisfy someone, it should be natural thing that we do to ensure our code does not stray. Treat this as part of coding, not as another activity post code. Write a script while doing this or jot down stuff to perform this manually. Stay lightweight so that you can repeat this continually. After all, development should be friction-less.

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