In software development, one major concept that impacts the success of the project is code quality. For developers, knowing they’ve put out their best effort spells greater confidence and a higher level of job satisfaction. But clean code-driven development is imperative not only because it’s a sign of good work ethics and professional integrity – poor code quality results in overhead payments, team stress, and other detrimental outcomes. Bad code influences just about every aspect of a project and often has grave reputational and financial consequences.
Here, we won’t dwell on the characteristics of clean code, although we do agree with the much-quoted words of Martin Fowler: “Any fool can write code that a computer can understand. Good programmers write code that humans can understand.” Instead, we will focus on tools and guidelines that will help you deliver your best code ever.
Code review checklist
All in all, keeping it simple, avoiding repetitions, sticking to architecture and design principles, using code libraries plus regular refactoring are universal principles to writing clean code. Coding and code reviews go hand in hand. Regardless of a programming language, reviewing your code to make sure it meets the highest standards is a critical aspect of clean code driven development. There are numerous versions of code review checklists on the web. Below are some of them:
- Code review checklist. A classic code review checklist by Github, and industry standard for most code reviewers. Covers general, performance, security, documentation and testing aspects of the code.
- Code Review Checklist – To Perform Effective Code Reviews. Here are actually two code review checklists from Surender Reddy Gutha, clean code enthusiast with expertise in Microsoft Technologies and Solutions Architecture. If you’re a beginner, it’s best to start with the first one, while a detailed checklist can give you a clear picture of whether or not your code corresponds to a range of standards. A detailed review includes such aspects as code formatting, architecture, coding best practices, object-oriented analysis, and design principles and non-functional requirements such as supportability, reusability, reliability, extensibility, security, and performance. These two checklists are applicable regardless of programming language you’re coding in.
- Writing An Amazing Code Review Checklist. Written by James Gallagher, this guide is perfect if you want to write your own code review checklist specific to your project or software development team. This guide will set you on the right track and help you identify and take into account every aspect of your code you deem critical for maintainability and performance of your project.
- Code Review Guide. This guide from MediaWiki is primarily intended for devs performing code reviews but has direct links to hands-on instructions on how to prepare your code for review as well.
- How to create the perfect code review checklist. A blog from Codacy team with insights on creating code reviews checklists for your projects. Dwells on the general code review principles and stresses the importance of code review automation.
Automated code review tools
Manual code reviews are meticulous and tiresome, so neglecting code review automation may actually do you a disservice. Conversely, a carefully assembled toolset for automated code reviews will save you time and hassle, help reduce technical debt and avoid a situation where you have different coding styles within one project. Although most popular IDE’s now provide integrated debugging, code checks and refactoring features, it’s surely worth considering third-party automated tools.
Here’s a brief overview of some of them:
- SonarQube. An automated tool for 20 programming languages. Based on the open-source model, Sonarqube is great for static code reviews. However, it requires plugins, which may be quite costly, to work with certain languages. Its extensive rule set includes coding standards, best practices, security vulnerabilities, and performance pitfalls.
- Codebeat. This tool is also open-source and integrates with Github, Bitbucket, Gitlab or self-hosted code repositories. Although it covers diverse technologies and programming languages, it also has a number of downsides. Namely: lack of security checks, lack of CSS/SCSS support as well as lack of support of open-source tools or liners. Among its benefits, users list great API and top-notch support from Codebeat team.
- CodeClimate. A tool many big companies would recommend, but also nearly the most expensive tool on the market. It supports a great number of technologies, languages, and frameworks and has convenient UI. It’s also very stable and has browser extensions. On the downside, instead of offering a detailed description of the issues, CodeClimate displays a line with the source code, so detecting an issue in question may still take some time.
Codacy. This tool has an attractive and convenient user interface and is tailored to detecting security problems. Moreover, Codacy provides Docker analyses and has a great description for each issue. It also offers an estimate of the time it would take to fix a certain issue. The cons include the inability to search between issues, lack of ‘hotspots’ or ‘quick wins’ and lack of documentation in some parts.
It’s hard to overlook the benefits of clean code driven development: ease of maintenance, eliminating code debt as well as reduction of overall project costs, ensuring seamless coordination between teams and much more. Developers may deliver bad code for various reasons: lack of expertise or it could be that the PMs may pressure them to meet tight deadline and ignore quality.
Although effective code reviews do take some time, ultimately, sacrificing code quality for development speed may result in slower time to market. Most importantly, clean code is a sign of good work ethics, so if you are hiring an outsourced development team you shouldn’t settle for less. Clean code driven development is a value-based solution that any IT outsourcing buyer should require from their custom solution provider without any compromise.