Guest post on clean code techniques by Mark Trego of Stone River eLearning.
The saying “Presentation is as important as the quality of the content that you are presenting” is applicable to computer programming. Before you start scratching your head over how and why is presentation necessary in coding, I will save your hair the trouble and give you the answer.
First, in real world scenarios it is highly likely that you will be working as a team of programmers to build any specific application; therefore, it is important to keep your code clean and understandable because you are not the only one working on them. Further, clean code adds to the value of the project, as it ensures that developers as well as non-programmers (generally) are able to understand what the code is actually doing with the help of the flow and structure of the program.
Now let’s look at the different ways to write clean code, regardless of what programming language you are working on.
- Keep It Simple
The first and the most basic tip, is to keep your code as simple and readable as possible. Don’t get fancy if you don’t have to, and don’t over-complicate problems (a common issue among software developers). By keeping it simple you can produce higher quality code, solve problems faster, work better in developer groups and have a more flexible code base, among other things.
2. Understand Your Code
As a beginner, even if you are writing simple code having an ‘if else’ statement, start by realizing the code on a piece of paper. The algorithm and the whole compiler process will look more meaningful once you understand the idea behind the code. Even for experts, the best way to solve a complex problem or formulate an algorithm to solve any complex problem is by breaking it into sub-parts and then try to formulate a solution for each. Once you start internalizing the code and solving problems you will quickly build up your confidence.
3. Comments Are Your New Best Friends
As people grow and gain experience as coders, they tend to forget one of the most basic tips that they received in their early days of programming — leave comments. Adding comments to your code is a tip that spans every programming language. It makes updating, debugging, analysis and other post-programming activities easier and more efficient. Further, if you are working as a team, having comments in the code makes it convenient for the other members to understand your idea of the code.
4. Don’t Repeat Yourself (DRY)
The DRY principle, formulated by Any Hunt and Dave Thomas in The Pragmatic Programmer, is the use of functions, classes and instances to allow you to avoid retyping code that has already been written once. This fundamental principle allows developers to avoid duplication to produce much cleaner code compared to the programmer who uses unnecessary repetition. Optimizing the code is what often separates a great coder from an average one.
5. Indent Your Code
Imagine you go to a supermarket and there is no consistency over how the items are placed in the area. Some dairy products are at the clothing sections, others are at the cosmetics area, and bread products are placed with the vegetables. Indentation in the code is much like the arrangement that you need in a supermarket or any other place in the real world. When your code is indented, it becomes more readable and easier to find what you’re looking for.
6. Naming Convention
This is one tip that keeps popping up in every single article about the correct way of working on any programming language, and still people tend to forget or neglect it. Having a proper naming convention is extremely important in a code as the doors for future edits and updating is always wide open. Having irrelevant or contradicting names to your pages, variables, functions or arrays will only create troubles for you in the future. Therefore, name elements on the basis of what they are and make it a habit to maintain a convention throughout your code.
Be your own teacher and try to explore as much as you can. There is a lot of help available in the form of good online courses and experienced coders. Remember, there is no shortcut, the more you code, the better you get!
8. Use Your Brain
Instead of simply copying and pasting code from Google or any other source, learn to use your brain. Use the help that you are getting to your advantage and try to optimize the code that you have. Simply using others code might give you temporary joy, but you will not have the satisfaction until you’re able to write code and solve problems by yourself.
9. Test Runs
Having a rectangular box on display because the browser was not capable to output the content is a major turn off for users. To avoid these situations as a developer, your final work must be to check how your website displays on different devices and across different and make the required changes accordingly. The saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” does not hold true for programming languages because the better your display looks, the more appreciation your work gets.
10. Practice Your Art
Being a good developer is an art, a skill, and you must regularly practice writing code to ensure that the art does not develop rust on top of it. It is amazing how much you can learn by coding and exploring the different dimensions of any programming language. You can never learn if you are not willing to get your hands dirty and therefore, start coding the moment you read something new. Write the PHP code for something that you like and do not be afraid of failures. Only when you fail, you realize the true value of success.