How To Write Maintainable Code 10 Tips To Help Improve Your Codebase

June 06, 2022 0 Comments

Introduction

Code maintainability is important, but sometimes it's hard to know where to start. In this article, we will give you ten tips that will help you write better, more maintainable code without having to invest too much time or effort.

Define Code Maintainability

What does it mean to write maintainable code?

A maintainable codebase is one that's easy to work on. It can be edited and changed at a moment's notice without causing any breakages or leaving behind unnecessary cruft. There are many ways to achieve this, but here are some rules of thumb that'll help you get there:

  • Use consistent styling (style guide). Not everyone has the same style preferences, but there should be some consistency if you want your team members to understand what each other is doing. Consistency also makes it easier for newcomers who don't know the project well yet.

  • Choose descriptive variable names and method names. When writing software, it's important not only to remember what parameters were passed into functions but also what data type those parameters are expected by the function itself (eg: string vs integer). This can make a big difference when debugging issues later down the line since most modern IDEs provide auto-completion for usernames/email addresses/phone numbers etcetera already preloaded into memory locally on their machine  so taking advantage of these tools early helps us avoid making mistakes such as typing something incorrectly twice instead of once!

1. Do Not Repeat Yourself

The first rule of writing maintainable code is to avoid repeating yourself (DRY). When you are writing a piece of code, you want to make sure that if some other part of your system needs to use it, they can do so easily.

One way to ensure this is by refactoring the code so that it can be used more than once. For example, say you have an array with names in it and you want to write out all the names as HTML select inputs:

  • [name] => name

  • [id] => id

2. Keep It Simple, Stupid

KISS is a principle that is applied in many aspects of life and programming. The idea behind KISS is to keep things simple, avoiding unnecessary complexity. This approach can be applied when writing code in any language or platform, but it's especially useful for JavaScript since its use cases are so diverse.

When writing code, keep the following in mind:

  • Is my code simple enough? Does it accomplish one task well? If not, try breaking down your project into smaller tasks that can be accomplished independently with their own individual logic and tests.

  • What advantages will this new feature provide? Does it enhance the user experience or make development easier? Make sure you aren't creating extra work for yourself by adding unnecessary features that won't add value to your product or customers' experience with it.

3. Have A Consistent Coding Style And Enforce It

Consistency is important. Without it, your codebase will be a mess and no one will be able to decipher what you're trying to do. You'll also have trouble refactoring if you don't have consistent naming conventions and indentation throughout your codebase.

To enforce consistency, every developer needs to follow the same style guide when writing code as well as when reviewing other people's work. If there are special rules for how certain files should be structured, those rules need to apply consistently across all of them as well and any new additions must adhere as well. The best way to enforce this is by having everyone on board with the process before starting work; if someone doesn't agree with the style guide because they've been doing things differently in another language or at another company, it may take some time before they fully adopt these practices into their own workflow.

4. Use Descriptive Variable Names And Method Names

Descriptive variable names and method names are one of the easiest ways to improve your codebase.

They’re easier for you to understand, and they make it much easier for others who may come after you to figure out what’s going on. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Avoid abbreviations! If you have trouble remembering how a variable name is spelt, then it isn’t descriptive enough.

  • Avoid cryptic names! A good rule of thumb is that if someone unfamiliar with your codebase can look at a variable name or method name and not know what it does, then it doesn’t describe its purpose well enough.

  • Avoid long names! If a name is too long, people will find it difficult (or even impossible!) to remember where they saw this particular piece of functionality before which means they won't be able to use it effectively when they need it again later on down the road when working on another part of their project/codebase/etcetera.

  •  Keep them short but descriptive; don't stuff too much into one word either otherwise, things start sounding weirdly redundant... For example: "cat" isn't descriptive at all while "catfood" only tells us what kind

5. Comment Only When You Absolutely Have To

  • Commenting is important, but it's not a substitute for good code. Instead of trying to explain your code with comments, take the time to refactor your code so that it's self-documenting and clear.

  • Don't comment for the sake of commenting. If you find yourself writing a comment that could be easily replaced by another piece of code, then rewrite your code so there is no need for comment at all.

6. Embrace Solid

SOLID is an acronym for the five principles of object-oriented programming. It was initially proposed by Robert C. Martin in his book Agile Software Development, Principles, Patterns, and Practices. SOLID is an acronym for Single Responsibility Principle, Open/Closed Principle, Liskov Substitution Principle, Interface Segregation Principle and Dependency Inversion Principle.

These are all principles that should be followed when writing maintainable code and they can be used to help you improve your codebase

7. Keep Your Functions Short And Sweet

There are a lot of reasons why we like to keep our functions short and sweet. The first is that it makes it easier for us to read the code and understand what's going on without having to jump around from function to function. When you have a function that does one thing, it's also much easier for another developer who might come along later and want to know what the heck your code does. If everything is in its own function, then those functions can be isolated from other parts of your application or system by just looking at their names.

Another reason why keeping functions short and sweet matters so much is because it helps with maintenance and maintenance is an important part of software development! If something changes in your application or system, you don't want any long-winded functions where the caller has no idea when they call this function or what exactly will happen (or even worse: multiple things). It's much better if there are fewer places where changes happen so that if something breaks somewhere downstream we can easily fix it by finding out which part(s) of our code was touched after all these years!

8. Avoid Magic Numbers And Strings

Avoid magic numbers and strings

Use constants and enums instead of hard-coded values. Constants can be used to replace magic numbers and enums and replace strings in your codebase. Using the right data type for your variable will prevent unexpected behaviours when you update your codebase in the future. Use a naming convention for all constants, magic numbers, and strings so that it’s easy to scan through the codebase and see what each variable is used for at a glance without having to do any guesswork yourself.

9. Write Tests!

Writing tests are a great way to prevent regression, ensure your code is easy to maintain, and make sure it's written in a way that's easy to read.

When you write tests, you are writing "test-code" which is just normal code but with expectations on what should happen when the code is executed.

10. Write Every Line As If It Is The One That Will Break Your Application

This is a broad tip, but it's something I think about every time I write a line of code. The more defensive and pessimistic you are about your own code, the more resilient and maintainable it will be.

I always try to imagine what could go wrong with any given piece of logic and how I could prevent that from happening. When writing unit tests for each method in my classes, making sure they fail when they should is also a good habit to get into; this helps ensure that test coverage is sufficient (and if not, it acts as a quick guide to which parts need more attention).

Conclusion

You don’t need to be a coding guru or read all the best books on programming to write decent code. You just need to follow some simple principles and keep your eyes on the prize: a maintainable codebase that can be easily understood by anyone who gets their hands on it.

Remember, the best way to learn and improve your craft is to practice writing maintainable code every single day!