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How to Reduce Detrimental Effects of Bad Software Code

The average developer spends 42% of their time dealing with technical debt and maintenance issues, of which 3.8 hours are spent on debugging “bad code”, according to a recent study from Stripe and Harris Poll. Bad code is referred to as the poor quality code that’s difficult to read, understand, and maintain. On the global scale, the opportunity cost of bad code comes to a staggering $85 billion annually — money that could otherwise be used to build better software solutions.

Why Clean Code Driven Development is Crucial To Software Success

Clean code is at the heart of every custom software development solution we deliver to clients so we do our best to “embed” a clean code driven development concept to the minds of each new developer joining our or our clients’ extended teams. I’ve already written an article about why clean code development isn’t a goal, but a solution for DZone, and I’d like to continue stressing the importance of clean code delivery with this new post that aims to explain how to tell good source code from the bad one.

At different stages of professional development, programmers have different goals to reach, which is reflected in the quality of the code they deliver. When it comes to junior software developers, their key goal is to solve a problem by any means, while using their most available knowledge and skills. At this stage, the source code is usually pretty primitive,  unclear, messy, cumbersome and confused; coding style isn’t followed properly, all variables have strange and meager names that don’t reflect the essence.

As programmers gain more experience and dive deep into project development, they become thirsty for coding and acquiring new knowledge, they learn how to use new tools and frameworks and experiment with approaches and kludges. During this period, the code becomes literate, sometimes even too much, which increases the difficulty of perception by other team members. In addition, the code becomes compliant with the code style adopted by the whole team and what differentiates it from the amateur code is the availability of comments for complex sections.

After some time, a good software developer starts to realize the responsibility they bear for delivering poorly written code. On the other hand, the more experienced we grow, the lazier we become. Programmers are no exception. Laziness is often a sign of skill and efficiency.

In fact, this means that everything will be done properly from the very beginning so that you do not have to spend time correcting errors at a later stage. Software code becomes readable, complex sections are minimized, the names of variables and methods fully reflect their essence, and, most importantly, it becomes fully maintainable and simple to work with.

However, software development today is a far cry from what it used to be even 5 years ago. With modern smart IDEs that set indents automatically, correct style errors, fix the names of variable and warn you of raw branches, software development is a breeze. All you have to do is pressing the right combination of keys and the IDE will start writing code for you (it’s like flying with an auto-pilot, basically).

As such, the degree of the programmer’s professionalism is easier to assess by the adopted architectural solutions. To date, a huge amount of literature has been written about how to build the app’s architecture correctly, what techniques should be used to solve various tasks, etc. Both professionals and beginners have long studied this information and use it in their work. But a professional developer can easily assess the scale of the problem and choose the appropriate solution, while a rookie is unable to do so due to lack of experience. The result is an application with a plug-in architecture and a single plugin. Or, on the contrary, to localize the application, you have to rewrite it completely.

A real pro knows that their code will be read more than once, by different people, so they always leave clear and understandable comments on one or other important aspects.

Why is the code of a competent programmer so accurate? Because professionals are consistent, while newbies do not seek to systematize and like to dump everything, as they say, in one pile. But when it comes to software programming, the phrase “divide and conquer” could not be more accurate. While your “porridge code” may be quite workable, the first attempt to make any changes or the first non-standard situation will prove it to be inefficient and detrimental to your business success.

One more distinguishing feature of good source code is its testability, which is an essential element of code quality assurance (QA). For example, a rigid bundle of components may adversely affect the cost of your software product testing. If the component is responsible for the calculation of wages and is directly linked to a specific database, then in order to test it you will have to lift the entire database. Such an action will require a large number of resources, which can be inconvenient or even completely unaffordable.

Quality code is easy to maintain, scale, and optimize. Beginners love to spend a tremendous amount of time and energy on premature optimization – already in the process of writing code. A professional developer knows when it really makes sense to do it. In other words, the “building” of your code can be decorated only after you have built a good foundation, walls, and a roof.

Good Software Code Features

In a nutshell, good software code is distinguished with the following features:

  • Concise and linear – as mentioned above, a professional programmer always cares about those who’ll be working with their code down the road. Therefore, classes do not become 100,000 lines long “foot clothes”, and methods fit the screen by height. All naming conventions – parameters, variables, methods, classes. and namespaces – add up to a fascinating reading. The code becomes an open book – by looking at it, you get to know what was the goal of coding and what implementation methods were used.
  • The professional code is very boring because it is very predictable. You won’t find any sudden and incredible things in it.
  • No duplicate fragments – if you find them, the chance is high the solution was incorrectly designed.
  • No antipatterns – using certain structures (e.g. goto) is considered as a mauvais ton in professional developer circles so you won’t find many antipatterns in good code.
  • Microservice architecture – professional software code isn’t a monolith; it’s comprised of a number of separate microservices.

Last but not least – a good developer will never reinvent a wheel in their code. One of the key distinguishing features of amateur/bad developers is that they have zero tolerance for solutions that have been developed by someone else. Instead of using pre-built and proven libraries and frameworks (which efficiency was proven many times on numerous projects), they keep building everything from scratch, which adds extra time to work and explains why there’s a flood of so many poorly designed DIY frameworks out there.

How to avoid accumulating tech debt as a result of bad code?

Here are 8allocate’s recommendations about how you can improve the code quality within your software development team.

  1. Understand your total cost of tech debt elimination. (Read our previous post to learn more about how to assess your tech debt and its elimination.)
  2. Perform regular code review and due diligence by unbiased 3rd party companies.
  3. Hire additional development support to give your software development team a better opportunity and more time to fix the poor quality code. One effective way to responsibly scale your development resources is to extend your in-house team remotely/offshore and access good lower-cost talent.

According to Evans Data Corp., software team productivity loss due to bad code amounts to almost 10%, while developers spend on average 17,3 hours a week on bad code debugging, refactoring, and overall fixing.

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Hiring remote talent can help you relieve your core team’s burden of having to spend a substantial percentage of their working time on bad code handling.

  1. Prioritize your developers’ time. While not all developers are good at maintenance tasks, it makes sense to use specialization to make your teams more efficient and happier. Spend time with your development team to identify the right mix of time to be spent on new code writing versus old code maintenance.

To conclude, bad code can have detrimental effects on your technology solution from both the economy and human resource perspectives. Therefore, it’s important to create a solid tech debt elimination strategy and make clean code driven development the essence of your software team work ethic.

Do you need any help with this? We’re always ready to consult and help you get more benefits from your software development!

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