• Technology
  • by Jakub Szczęsny
  • 31/01/2020

Code cleaning – is spending time on it worth it?

Most companies want to release products as fast as possible and focus all of their energy on building the application. But here’s what happens if your development team was forced to write code as quickly as possible: the project might take a lot of time to finish, become bug-ridden and complicated, or be very costly and difficult to maintain and scale.

code cleaning
All of these issues are the consequences of not paying enough attention to code cleaning. Read this article to learn how to avoid such situations and put your development team on the right track with the best practices in code cleaning.

Why is code cleaning important? 

If you’ve ever worked on a development team and had to deal with old code, you might have stumbled across code blocks that looked completely chaotic. Unclear variable definitions, messy syntax, and jumbled or cramped code – these are all common issues that make the codebase less understandable. 

It’s impossible to be efficient when you’re constrained by deadlines and need to sort through someone sloppy code to move the project forward. Transferring the code to someone else when they’re not familiar with your standards (or lack thereof) can be challenging as well. 

That’s why spending some time keeping the code neat, concise, and easy to read is worth the effort. It not only accelerates the work of the entire development team but also ensures that your product is easy to maintain and scale. 

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are other key benefits of dedicating time to cleaning code during the development phase. 

Benefits of code cleaning 

Clean code is understandable to everyone 

Developers may easily forget that a line of code written today may be read many times by many different people during its lifetime. That’s why it makes sense that software developers write it as clearly as possible. The use of classes, procedures, and namespaces needs to be conscious and careful. If developers do that, then transferring the project to other team members will be much easier.

It’s efficient

The primary benefit of clean code goes to those who actually write it. If you’re a software developer who is employed on the project for several months, you might overlook things that you wrote in the past – especially if the customer approaches the team with variations. Clean code is well-prepared for changes and helps developers in orienting themselves around the codebase.

It’s easier to maintain 

While writing code is relatively easy, its analysis can be very challenging. That’s why many software developers are more willing to rewrite code rather than read and understand the existing codebase. By writing clear code, your team will spend less time on code analysis later on, and you won’t have to worry about code readability issues. 

But what exactly is clean code?

Here are a few key characteristics that differentiate clean code from messy code: 

  • Elegant – clean code is nice to read. It’s elegant, well-phrased, and easy to follow. 
  • Focused – every class, function, and module exposes a single-minded attitude that is not distracted by the surrounding details. 
  • Well taken care of – it’s clear that the developer has taken the time and effort to keep it simple and orderly. 
  • Attention to detail.
  • No duplications. 
  • Runs all the tests. 

How to create a futureproof code? 

Refactoring code

Code refactoring is a way of modifying the code so that it meets new standards, APIs, or just looks differently while still carrying out the same tasks. The program never changes in terms of its functionality – the only difference is the code itself. 

When does refactoring code make sense? When developers want to prepare their code for the future. Refactoring can offer teams more opportunities by providing an additional API for classes or doing something completely different (like removing unused parts of the API to make your code more encapsulated). 

To explain it better, let’s take a closer look at the topic of the aging of code.

Aging of code

Some developers believe that one should write code in a way that doesn’t require re-factorization. They make a valid point. But there’s simply no way to write perfect code. After all, software developers are only humans, and humans make mistakes. 

Another thing we know for sure is that issues tend to grow bigger with time. What seems like a small mistake during the early stages of development might become a huge problem later on. For example, it might turn out that making changes to your product becomes very expensive or even next to impossible. 

Also, remember that the business requirements for digital products often change over time. For example, you can create a simple online store application that only accepts credit cards. While it makes sense today, it doesn’t mean that the application stays like that throughout the next decade. Once the app grows, your client may want to support other payment formats, and you will need to implement these changes as smoothly as possible. 

And that’s why futureproofing code is such a smart practice. Futureproof programming is based on planning ahead, and considering the potential features, an app may need in the future. That way, the development team can prepare the required APIs easily. 

Naturally, futureproofing has its limits because it’s virtually impossible to plan everything. However, even if you’re not able to predict what happens to your app in the future, it’s still smart to prepare your code by making sure that it’s clean. 

Challenges of code cleaning

Every hour a developer dedicates to cleaning code and making it readable for the future is an hour lost from the actual development. So, does it really make sense to dedicate your time to code cleaning? It depends on the nature of your project and its level of complexity. 

If your project is large and long-term, investing in code cleaning is a smart move because it will help to accelerate your product’s growth and ensure that it’s bug-free when released to users.  

Read also: What is Kubernetes? Here’s what you need to know

6 rules of clean code

Now that you know why code cleaning is so important in every software development project, here are a few rules to help you keep your code clean and clear so that your application is easy to understand, maintain, and scale. 

1. Naming conventions

What is the best way to get started with writing clean code? Using naming conventions. Such conventions help to keep things clear and allow the entire team to know exactly what you’re working on. A naming convention means that the team decides to call certain variables by specific names. Keep the names simple and make them as clear as possible so that developers instantly know what type of variable they refer to. And don’t forget to keep the naming consistent throughout your project. 

2. Use conventions that indicate variable scope

This rule follows the previous one about naming conventions. Every development team has its own way of dealing with conventions that suggest the scope of variables. But as long as you set up a convention and use it consistently, you can be sure that developers know how variables work in your project. 

3. Pay attention to code formatting

Sometimes software developers write code that is bunched up and smashed together, leaving absolutely no blank spaces. As a result, the code is really hard to read. Solid walls of text aren’t very inviting or readable. 

That’s why it makes sense to break the text up into paragraphs – and the same principle should apply to writing code. Whitespace can be very powerful, and using it usually doesn’t bring any downsides (other than adding a few extra kilobytes of weight). However, even when the weight of your source code file is important, it still makes sense to keep whitespace during development to make the code readable and then remove them.  

4. Add comments to your code

By adding comments, you can quickly tell other developers what a given function is doing or even explain why certain things need to happen in a specific order. Note that commenting comes with one downside – too many comments can have the opposite effect and actually make the code messier. But if you keep your comments concise, focused, and well-positioned, you will make everything clear and help other developers understand what you’ve written. 

5. Keep your function definitions concise

Long and complicated function definitions can easily clutter your code. That’s why it’s best to focus on what these functions actually do when describing them. 

For example, if a certain function does more than its name suggests, then perhaps you could split up the excess functionality into its own function? That way, it becomes easier to read, and the same ease will extend to the rest of your code too. 

If you use smaller functions chunks on their own, it will mean that the other parts of your code can also use them without the need to duplicate code. 

6. Create classes

If you’re keeping a large number of functionalities in one place, it’s smart to create a separate class to handle this functionality. This point isn’t only about writing clean code. It’s also about keeping your code tidy and allowing its reusability to accelerate the development process. Perhaps some other classes are using the same functionality? It would be better if they could access a single place that would handle all of them. 

Conclusions

Keeping your code clean requires investment; there is no doubt about it. However, in the long-term perspective, code cleaning is an important practice that enhances the maintainability and scalability of your software development project. 

Are you looking for a team of experts who know how to keep the code clean? Or maybe you’re dealing with legacy code that is cluttered and unclear? 

Reach out to us. Our experts will advise about the next steps and pathways to creating cleaner code for your application and ensure that it’s futureproofed.

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Jakub Szczęsny

PR / Marketing Specialist at Concise Software. Author of one of the largest technology websites in Poland - Antyweb

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