Programming is a complex area of study, with various languages and individual styles that can impact the end result. One of the best parts of learning how to code is that whether you’re a beginner or a veteran, there’s always room to learn and improve.
The better your code, the more efficient your programs will run and the easier it will be to collaborate with a team. Here are some helpful tips for easily improving the quality of your code.
More and more programmers are turning to logging practices to hone their skills and improve their coding abilities. Logging gives valuable information about what your code is doing, providing insights for debugging when a problem arises, and communicate your individual coding style to other programmers.
In essence, using a program like Papertrail to log what’s happening behind the scenes gives you a better understanding of your code. To be able to improve your code, you must first understand what it’s capable of and what it’s sticking points are. From there, you’ll be able to think of the changes you can make to alter your current code or to use when developing new programs.
Keep it Simple
Don’t take shortcuts that will save you time now, but ultimately add complexity to your code. By doing so, you ensure that your communication and debugging requirements are met without additional headaches and time. For example, use names that explain what the function is doing rather than inside jokes or abbreviations that other programmers– or you at a later date– might not understand. Break up functions based on what they do, rather than grouping them into a couple of over-crowded source files.
Consistency is another key aspect of keeping your code simple. Use white space to your advantage to make the code easier to review after the fact. Write the code that you’d want to review if someone else had asked you to.
Use Peer Code Reviews
Peer code reviews have numerous benefits, especially when conducted within a diverse group of programmers. Seasoned programmers will be able to provide insights that come from years of experience. New programmers will be able to identify newer tricks and trends they’ve come across. Everyone ultimately gets a chance to learn from one another.
When having a peer code review, it’s important to remember how to communicate constructively. Programmers can be sensitive about their code. It’s important to point out the strong points in the code as well as suggesting a change in a positive manner.
Use Smart Commenting Practices
It’s important to comment on your code, particularly on complex areas. This will help explain your line of thinking to other programmers who review your work as well as your future self, who may not remember why you did things the way you did. Use comments as a high-level way to briefly explain things. These comments should consist of a couple of sentences that can be understood at a glance.
Conversely, it’s equally important not to bog your code down with too many comments. Unless there’s a need to get granular in your explanations, don’t comment on lines and functions. Only comment when there’s extra complexity or importance that isn’t conveyed through the function name. If you find that there are a lot of lines and functions that require comments, go back and see how you can simplify the code by breaking up functions and keeping things clean.
Communicating with Code
When you get down to it, coding is a form of communication. For communication to be effective, it should follow the 7 C’s principle: correctness, clarity, consciousness, completeness, consideration, concreteness, courtesy. When trying to improve your coding, the same foundational approach applies.
Start by looking at code from programmers you admire and note what you liked about their approach. Then, review your own code and see how you can emulate their best practices. Once you find your new groove, bring it to a group of trusted peers for further refinement. With practice, you’ll see continuous improvement.