Thanks to a proliferation of free online tutorials, virtually anyone can learn how to code. Once you’ve been a developer for a while though, you quickly start to realize that all code is not created equal. Programming forums are awash with horror stories detailing ginormous if-else blocks, massive spaghetti-like algorithms and redundant code that serve no purpose.
While these may seem like rookie errors that only bedevil persons just starting out, many programmers carry on these bad habits well into their career with disastrous results.
Below are some of the useful principles of programming that you must keep in mind while writing code.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication and perhaps nowhere more than in programming. It all begins with how you document and dissect program requirements. Each requirement should be well articulated to the extent that once you start to code, you can satisfy these requirements using the simplest of techniques.
Complex code not only takes more time to design and write but is also more vulnerable to errors and bugs. A labyrinth of code can make web app monitoring tedious. Beware of feature creep where you start to add new features to the program that the customer didn’t ask for as this only needlessly entangles the software.
2. Do Not Repeat Yourself
Minimal repetition is a sign of quality code. Avoid duplicating logic and data. To know whether your program has excessive repetition, think about how much code you’d need to modify if you wanted to alter one aspect of the application’s behavior.
To minimize duplication, identify all sections of code that do the same thing. Abstract this common blocks of code into a single function that you call whenever you need to perform the said task. That way, if you ever need to change how the task is performed, you’ll need only modify the one function as opposed to amending multiple lines of code throughout program.
3. Code for the Now not the Future
One of the smart principles of programming is to make provisions for future changes in the code. It should be easy for a third party who was not involved in the project, to follow the logic and add or remove functionality as needed.
Nevertheless, making provisions for future maintenance isn’t the same as coding in functionality that you might need in future. The latter only increases the volume of code while creating a new avenue for bugs. In any case, such functionality is often not needed at all in future.
Coding for the now prevents scope creep. Unless the end user specifically requests for this functionality to be included from the onset, stay away from it.
4. Don’t Optimize Prematurely
When you enroll for a basic programming course, one of the areas of emphasis is the need to create fast efficient algorithms. The mistake some coders make is to run with this one lesson. They get immersed in trying to speed up and optimize the code from the start while losing sight of the primary objective which is a creating a functioning program.
Work on meeting the system requirements first then move on to optimize the code. Optimizing too early is akin to groping in the dark. Before the program is up and running, you cannot really be certain where the bottlenecks will be. You could waste precious time optimizing a function whose speed doesn’t contribute much to overall program performance.
Ergo, first satisfy the program requirements then work on resolving the bottlenecks.
5. Readable Code Over Clever Code
Clever code is programming that is less about creating easily understandable code and more about showing everyone how smart you are. A typical example of clever code is packing an excessive amount of program logic into a single line of code.
Minimal code was at one time heralded as a sign of good programming but over time, the industry has recognized that brief code is meaningless if it’s hard for someone else to follow the logic. Any line of code that would take another programmer dozens of minutes to understand should probably be done away with.
Good programming is not only about building applications that meet the end user’s expectation but also creating code that is easy to understand. Following these programming principles will ensure you achieve both.