In today’s software industry, we can identify two types of software engineers. The first type is comprised of developers who are proficient in the necessary tools and techniques to quickly complete tasks. These developers are often relied upon by managers when there is a need for prompt deliveries. However, when it comes to establishing long-term relationships with clients or building enterprise-grade products or services from scratch, success hinges on implementing the right processes and methodologies, a software developer must practice when crafting software applications, these practices can range from writing quality code to automating the testing, deployment, and integration pipelines, many service/product based companies keep overlooking this aspect of their engineering teams until a huge technical debt is accumulated which suddenly becomes the biggest bottleneck for the business.
In this article, we will dive into some of the good development practices every software engineer can adopt to enhance code quality and build scalable, reliable, and robust software applications while maximizing the team’s productivity.
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Now Let’s Dive into the Good Software Development Practices
1. Follow Coding Standards
Writing clean code doesn’t always necessarily involve applying complex design patterns to solve an object-oriented problem instead starting with small steps like adhering to standard naming conventions, using indentation, and adding proper tab spaces and formatting can produce a more readable and maintainable code.
But why is code quality important?
Code quality often gets compromised as the deadline approaches near, managers only want results and satisfied customers, most of the time software development is user-centered, which means if the application passes all checks mentioned in the acceptance criteria, it seems good enough, but here’s the catch, the same code will most likely require maintenance in future and another developer has to deal with the same unstructured ambiguous code some junior developer wrote and got away with, therefore it should be the responsibility of management to enforce best practices even when they don’t seem necessary.
Here are a few good coding practices every software development team can adapt to improve code quality gradually:
- Try to refactor existing code as you are fixing the bugs.
- Use code comments, they are an excellent way to simultaneously document the code.
- Use the DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) principle, to avoid code duplication.
- Pair Programming can also be effective in enhancing code quality since you can immediately receive feedback from your peer who is assisting as you code.
2. Version Controlling
Imagine an enterprise-grade application serving thousands of users suddenly crashes on production, such scenarios can significantly affect a company’s reputation, and identifying what went wrong or who should be held accountable for it, is essential, but if the software developers behind the scenes were just pushing code to production and maybe modifying code directly on the hosting platforms, it quickly becomes impossible to track down the failures, version control tools like Git offer several key features and advantages that help address the challenges associated with tracking down these failures and maintaining code quality:
Here are a few advantages of using Version Control which can ease the life of the developers:
- History Tracking: Version control systems maintain a detailed history of all changes made to the codebase. Every commit represents a specific set of modifications, allowing developers to trace back and identify when and why a particular change was made.
- Branching and Merging: Version control enables developers to create branches, which are independent lines of development. This feature allows for isolated changes and new features to be developed without directly affecting the main codebase. Branches can later be merged back into the main branch, facilitating controlled integration and reducing the chances of conflicts.
- Conflict Resolution: When multiple developers are working on the same codebase simultaneously, conflicts can occur when trying to merge changes. Version control systems provide tools and mechanisms to handle and resolve conflicts efficiently, ensuring that conflicting changes are appropriately managed.
- Rollback and Recovery: In case of failures or bugs discovered in the production environment, version control allows for easy rollbacks to previous stable versions of the code. This ability to revert to known working states helps restore functionality quickly and minimizes the impact on the company’s reputation.
- Collaboration and Code Reviews: Version control systems support collaborative workflows, where multiple developers can work on different branches or features simultaneously. Pull requests or merge requests enable code reviews, allowing team members to provide feedback, catch errors, and ensure code quality before merging changes into the main codebase.
3. Writing Tests
Reviews on a pull request are supposed to be the last code quality check a software developer should rely on before it gets pushed to production, every time a software developer adds more untested code in the application, the probability of other existing modules breaking increases, this is where tests come to the rescue, writing tests is highly underrated and considered an extra overhead, mainly because they do not add enough value to the business, which may be correct if the team is short on deadline but the team only realizes their worth as the software grows and more features are added, now manually testing each module will eventually delay the deliveries and lead to inevitable chaos.
Here are a few testing techniques that can be incorporated by development teams to enhance productivity:
End-to-End (E2E) Testing: This type of testing involves running the entire flow of the application and verifying whether the business logic is correctly implemented, these types of tests simulate the behavior of the end-user and therefore can test both the client-side and backend of the application deployed and working together.
Unit Testing: They focus on verifying the functionality of individual units or components of the code, such as functions or classes, these types of tests also ensure that each unit behaves as expected and can be executed quickly and in isolation.
Test Driven Development (TDD): This is another approach that primarily focuses on tests, rather than the actual code, the idea here is to write tests first and then add code that passes these tests, techniques such as Red, Green, and Refactor can be used in this scenario.
4. Regular Code Reviews
Okay so your Unit, Integration, and E2E tests have passed, congratulations! But wait ? Does that mean your code can successfully be merged to the main branch or shipped to production? Not necessarily, tests are an excellent source to verify that your code doesn’t break existing features and the test cases written by the Quality Assurance team are all green but they won’t tell if you wrote an unnecessary method to sort an array of objects which was implemented in a helper class and could have been reused, this code smells, unfortunately, need to be reviewed manually to ensure the code is maintainable and extensible for other developers, but your lead will probably not be excited to review 60+ files you have just added, let’s be honest and here are few tips to improve this reviewing process:
- Code reviews should be done regularly.
- Add a clear and concise title and description on your pull requests, this can help the reviewer in understanding the context.
- The code change set should be small and logical, so it can quickly get reviewed, pull requests should be raised after every bug fix and addition of a new feature.
- Use separate branches for fixing a bug or implementing every new feature, this keeps the changes isolated and facilitates easier collaboration and testing.
5. Continuous Integration and Deployment (CI/CD):
To maximize the productivity of your team, one of the first steps is to automate the boring stuff, let’s say you have written tests that execute using a single command, but you still have to manually enter these commands every time you need a report, this is where you can automate the build, testing, and deployment processes using CI/CD pipelines. This helps catch issues early, ensures consistent builds, and enables frequent and reliable releases.
Here are some of the key benefits you can harness with CI/CD:
- Automated Test Reports: One of the major advantages of automated tests is the generation of detailed test reports. These reports provide valuable insights into the test results, including information about test coverage, pass/fail status, and any errors or failures encountered, this can foster continuous feedback and opportunities to optimize existing features.
- Faster time to market: As soon as your code gets reviewed and merged with the branch, it will automatically trigger the CI/CD pipeline. The automated build, test, and deployment processes ensure the code is thoroughly tested and quickly deployed to the desired environment.
- Improved Collaboration: Pull requests, code reviews, and automated testing provide opportunities for collaboration and feedback. This collaboration enhances communication, knowledge sharing, and the overall quality of the software development process.
- Reduced Risks: It’s evident that automation and standardization provided by CI/CD will reduce the risk of human error and inconsistency in the software development processes and automated tests and will ensure that each code change is thoroughly validated, minimizing the likelihood of deploying faulty code to production.