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Coding Standards and Best Practices: What You Need to Know

Coding standards and best practices featured image of unformatted code

Whether you are new to coding or a seasoned developer, it’s essential to embrace and apply the coding standards and best practices for writing high-quality code. It is the key ingredient that enables developers to create robust, easy-to-manage, and adaptable software solutions. 

In software development, code quality can make a world of difference. Writing clean code is essential in today’s complex applications and collaborative coding environments.

In this guide, we’ll cover the fundamental guidelines that will take your code from good to exceptional. Get ready to elevate your coding skills to the next level!

Coding Standards: Naming Conventions

Naming conventions play a vital role in our code’s readability, maintainability, and overall quality. Using consistent and meaningful names can make understanding and modifying our codebase much easier, resulting in higher-quality software.

Although several people may have contributed, the files within the codebase will be more unified and consistent. Giving the impression that a single person coded them.

Let’s go over some simple guidelines for naming things in our code.

Use Clear and Meaningful Names

Using clear and meaningful names is critical for effective communication within code. These names enhance readability and convey the logic and intent behind each object and element.

Ensuring that names accurately reflect their intended purpose holds significant benefits for yourself and others reading your code. Taking the time to consider and assign appropriate names helps prevent confusion, misunderstandings, and potential errors.

As a result, it also facilitates ease of communication and understanding, leading to more efficient and effective processes overall. Therefore, it is essential to approach this task with attention to detail and a commitment to accuracy.

  • Choose names that accurately describe the purpose of the element.
  • Decide on a naming convention (camelCase, PascalCase, snake_case, etc.) and stick to it.
  • Follow language-specific guidelines.
  • Avoid using abbreviations and acronyms that are not widely known.

Example

Coding standards best practices for good naming conventions

Consequently, if we don’t prioritize clear naming practices, it can cause confusion and delays for others trying to understand our code. Let’s make sure we always use clear and consistent naming practices in all our coding projects.

Coding Standards: Code Formatting

How we structure our code plays a significant role in how it looks and is organized. This includes following style guidelines that make the code more understandable for yourself and others.

It’s absolutely essential to have this one crucial aspect when it comes to programming. The significance cannot be overstated! Properly formatted code is significantly easier to understand and follow.

Additionally, it enables seamless collaboration with other programmers, ensuring everyone is on the same page. Maintaining well-structured code is vital to ensure that it remains efficient, functional, and easy to modify in the future.

Therefore, it is essential to prioritize code formatting to ensure that you produce high-quality software that meets industry standards and delivers optimal results.

Let’s look at some general guidelines to help keep your code consistent and readable.

Use Consistent Indentation and Spacing

It is important to maintain a consistent and organized format when writing code. One effective way to achieve this is by utilizing proper indentation and spacing.

By doing so, you can significantly improve the readability of your code. This can make it easier for yourself and others to understand the logic and structure of your program, ultimately leading to more efficient and effective development.

Indentation Guidelines

  • Use indentation to indicate the structure and nesting of blocks of code.
  • Indentations typically should be four spaces (or equal to one TAB) for each indentation level.

Spacing Guidelines

  • Use consistent spacing around operators, parentheses, and brackets.
  • Add spaces between keywords, operators, and operands to improve the clarity of your code.

Example

Coding standards best practices for indentation and spacing

Brackets

Where we put our brackets is one of the easiest ways that we can bring consistent style and improve the readability of our code. Although it is a straightforward formatting rule, it still requires attention.

Programmers have debated the placement of opening braces. Some prefer them on the same line, while others prefer a new line. However, it’s important to remember that consistency is key with whichever style you choose. 

Ultimately, deciding where to place opening braces is up to personal preference. When placing brackets, remember to consider the following:

  • Ensure proper placement of opening and closing brackets to indicate blocks of code.
  • The placement of our brackets should be consistent between all files.

For example, we wouldn’t want to keep our opening brackets of a method on the same line while we put them on new lines in other files.

Example

Consistent brackets for coding standards best practices

Line Length

As software developers, we spend a lot of our time reading code. Whether debugging or determining how we will implement a particular feature, a lot of code can end up on our screen at any given time.

For efficiency, it’s best to either eliminate horizontal scrolling or at the very least, reduce how much horizontal scrolling is needed to read your code.

  • Keep lines of code within a reasonable length to avoid horizontal scrolling.
    The maximum length of a line of code should be between 80 and 120 characters.
  • Break long lines into multiple lines using proper line breaks or continuation characters to improve readability.

Code Comments

Code comments can be a touchy subject among developers. Often we hear statements such as “code should be self-documenting” and “if you need to comment on your code, then your code is unreadable.”

Nonetheless, comments can still be quite helpful. However, we should always consider when and how often we use them.

  • Use comments sparingly; expressive code generally requires fewer comments.
  • Only use comments when they improve the understanding of your code.
  • Comments should explain the purpose, logic, and intent of the code.
  • Update or remove comments when they’re no longer accurate.

However, excessive comments are a major red flag telling you to refactor your code. Your code really should be self-documenting and easy to read; however, comments do have their place.

It’s crucial to use comments carefully since a comment that was useful today may not be applicable tomorrow. As the code matures, comments can become outdated quickly. Regularly reviewing, updating, or deleting comments is vital to ensure everything is clear.

While I generally recommend utilizing code that is easily understandable on its own, there are certainly situations where incorporating comments can be advantageous and appropriate.

Furthermore, comments are beneficial when they contribute to a better understanding of the code. Allowing for improved readability and more efficient problem-solving.

Coding Standards: File Organization

Nothing is worse than having to hunt around and search for the files we’re looking for in our project. It’s really important to keep our project files organized in a logical way.

Related files should be easy to find, and we should be able to easily navigate to the files associated with specific features within our software.

When our code is well organized, it improves the reusability and extensibility of our code while reducing redundancy. We’re much less likely to re-implement a snippet of code if our codebase is easy to traverse.

To ensure that your file structure is sound, follow these simple rules:

  • Always use meaningful folder structures.
  • Related files should be grouped together.
  • File names should be descriptive and accurate to their purpose.
  • Files should be organized by functionality, modules, or components.

Remember that the specific structure and organization will depend on the nature of your project and your personal preferences. It’s important to maintain consistency and adapt the structure as the project evolves.

Regularly review and refactor the organization of your files to ensure it remains effective and aligned with the needs of your project.

Example

coding standards best practices

Coding Standards: Code Modularization

When we say that we want our code to be modular, we really mean that we want a clear separation of concerns within our codebase. By encapsulating functionality within modules, we can easily reuse those modules in different parts of the project.

Designing our code to be modular makes it simpler to reuse logic, manage, and maintain our code. To ensure we’re designing our code to be modular, it’s best to follow SOLID principles:

  • Single Responsibility Principle: A class should have a single purpose.
  • Open/Closed Principle: Modules in our code should be open for extension but closed for modification.
  • Liskov’s Substitution Principle: Child classes must be substitutable for their base classes.
  • Interface Segregation Principle: A class should not be required to implement an irrelevant interface.
  • Dependency Inversion Principle: Any higher classes should always depend upon the abstraction of the class rather than the detail.

To learn more about SOLID principles, check out the Geeks for Geeks article SOLID Principle in Programming: Understand With Real Life Examples.

Conclusion

Following clean coding practices is an essential part of software development. Clean code enhances readability, maintainability, and collaboration among developers. It reduces code complexity, making it easier to understand, modify, and debug.

Clean coding practices improve efficiency, reduce the likelihood of introducing bugs, and promote code reuse. It also contributes to the long-term success of projects by facilitating scalability, extensibility, and adaptability.

By adhering to clean coding practices, developers can create high-quality software that is easier to work with, leading to improved productivity, reduced technical debt, and enhanced overall software quality.

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