The definition of high-quality code is hard to pin down. Depending on who you talk to, there are a lot of different theories on what makes code good or bad. Sometimes, this line is blurry, and that’s why hunting down the mythical high-quality code is a complicated process. Most importantly, how can you define high-quality code? This guide will share a strong definition of what makes high-quality code, as well as valuable tips for ensuring you find it in your own work and the work of others.
Defining High-Quality Code
While it’s impossible to find a single definition of high-quality code that every developer of all time can agree on, we can all agree on a few key things. First, the code needs to be correct to be considered quality. Next, it needs to be capable of handling error and different exceptional situations. How will the program react in an error situation? Finally, how maintainable is the code? Will it take time to change over time or is it something that has a long lifetime? These three things form the foundation for any high-quality code, so let’s break them down.
The most common thing to look for when evaluating whether a code is high-quality is if the code is correct. Does it perform its intended function? If you’re creating a function that creates a new user account, you’ll need to have a function which creates a new entry in the account database, for instance, as well as follow-up actions. Do all of these steps work correctly?
When reviewing code correctness, it’s important to look for correctness in terms of this particular code function. Many types of code functions can serve different purposes depending on the situation. Testing the process or application is a clear way to analyze correctness.
The next code quality is error management. Error situations are inevitable, but the right error management can prevent small problems from corrupting an entire application. Will the program instance fail on its own or will it continue to corrupt other data? Also important is how the error will be logged within the system.
To review error management, you can perform a series of actions to try to reveal any potential errors. From there, you’ll be able to find an error trace (or lack thereof) within the project’s log. What context is included within error reports? How are these messages revealed, and how will developers debug any code? How does the application or program manage current errors? Does it shut down or does it return an error report? Errors happen, but they can be embarrassing, especially when users are on the other end. Solid error management is essential to any high-quality code.
Finally, the more a code is able to be maintained, the easier it will be to grow as needed. Bringing new developers onto a new project is impossible is the code isn’t maintainable. How will the code be used in the future? Ask these questions when reviewing the code to ensure it’s easy to maintain in the long run.
Consider the following elements when looking into maintainability:
- Class and File Structure: Are things saved in the right files and the correct format?
- Function Naming: Are functions named in the style of the source code? It’s common to follow the already established style to be consistent.
- Use: All the classes, modules, and variables included in the code are actually in use.
- Comments: How many comments are included in your code and do these comments follow pre-established style?
Now that you understand the three aspects that form the foundation of quality code, you’re ready to learn how to review code! While many developers believe you’re unable to review your own code, there really is no right or wrong, as long as you have a strong system. Let’s continue to explore the best ways to review code!
How do you review code for the qualities above? There is a lot of disagreement among developers over whether it’s best to have a third party review your code or if you can review your code yourself. This is up to personal preference, but you should keep several tips in mind when reviewing code. Follow these tips to be efficient and effective with your review process.
Break the Code into Chunks
Always review small chunks at a time. Go function by function to avoid missing any small errors. Going slow helps you keep the context of each new function fresh in your mind. Don’t try to tackle more than three functions in a sitting, since you’re likely to lose focus. Take a break before reviewing another chunk of code.
Take a Break
Whether you’re reviewing someone else’s code or your own, take a break. Image your code like laundry. You need to hang it out on the line a bit before it can dry. When you’re actively working on it, you are too close to see any errors. Taking a break to grab a coffee, go for a walk or even just look at the sky is a great way to return with a fresh mind.
Save Your Edits
Avoid fixing issues while you’re reviewing. If you’re attempting to both write code and review code at the same time, mistakes are likely to happen. Instead, take accurate notes on your comments and questions while reviewing to look back with later.
While you shouldn’t rely completely on automated code checkers, they can be a great supplemental resource. Performance monitors can help you avoid errors and track performance over time.
Remember, there is no single correct way to review your own code or someone else’s. Remember the criteria for high-quality code, and find a way to find it that works for you. Raising the quality of your code and others’ code takes time and practice. Adapt the tips above as needed to create a system that works for you.