Home Code Quality Coding standards: what are they, and why do you need them

Coding standards: what are they, and why do you need them

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While often ignored, coding standards are crucial to creating a consistent and readable codebase. 

Have you ever tried writing and understanding code on a large codebase that doesn’t follow coding standards? It can be quite a messy and unmaintainable process. But on the other hand, having coding standards can significantly impact your software development process and code quality. 

Continue reading to understand what coding standards are, why they are important, and the best practices to use them.

What are coding standards?

Code standards are rules, techniques, and guidelines to create cleaner, better readable, and more efficient code with minimal bugs and errors. In addition, they offer a uniform way for developers to build highly functional code.

Remember that coding standards are not personal opinions; they are concrete rules determining your code’s programming style, procedures, and methods. Therefore, they need to be explicitly defined and made available to developers.

Coding standards make sure all developers follow specified guidelines. As a result, every developer – even newcomers – can easily understand, debug and maintain the code. Ideally, your team’s source code should look like it was written by a single developer in a single session.

Why are coding standards necessary?

  • They reduce security concerns and performance issues that might have resulted from poor coding practices;
  • They help guarantee code quality, making your code easier to read, analyze, and work through. The code also becomes easier to maintain and extend, even by new developers; 
  • They lead to lower code complexity and more elegant design solutions;
  • Any developer can examine any part of the code, understand it, and change it independently of when and who wrote it.

Advantages of using coding standards

  • Enhancement of the efficiency of the software development process: developers spend a large part of their time fixing code quality issues that could have been avoided. Implementing coding standards will help your team detect the problems early on or prevent them entirely.
  • Reduction in the code complexity and the number of bugs: if your codebase is unnecessarily complex, the chances of being vulnerable to errors and bugs are higher. Coding standards help you develop less complex software and, therefore, reduce errors.
  • Improvement of the bug fixing process: with coding standards, it becomes easier for developers to locate and correct bugs in the source code because it is written in a consistent manner.
  • Improvement of the code maintenance process: if developers are following coding standards, the code is consistent and can be easily maintained. Anyone can understand it and modify it easily at any time.
  • Reduction of development cost and time by enabling reusability: A clear code allows the developers to reuse the code whenever required. Reusability can radically reduce the cost and time of the development process.
  • Better team integration: onboarding new developers become painless because the code is uniform and effortless to understand. New team members can quickly comprehend the codebase, and they know how to contribute to it in the same consistent way.

Best practices for using coding standards

  • Understand why you are using coding standards: remember that using coding standards improve your code’s readability, maintainability, and portability.
  • Choose the best coding standard for your industry or primary programming language: there are coding standards and style guides for specific application domains or programming languages. For example, see how to implement the Google JavaScript style guide with Codacy.
  • Describe the intent behind each rule: if you are using an internal standard, each rule or guideline that you are implementing should have a  clear description. You need to summarize the rules’ intent and provide deeper context for why they are there.
  • Update coding standards with care: naturally, your organization will evolve, and your coding standards might change or you might update them over time. However, frequent updates may not be a good practice, because it’s harder to constantly stay up to date.
  • Prioritize coding rules: when you first check your code against a coding standard, you might get a lot of problems. Categorizing the rules with a severity matrix helps you assess code quality and prioritize bug fixes.
  • Plan for rule deviations: coding standards do not fit all situations and there might be some exceptions. You need to decide which guidelines can be deviated from and which cannot; specify how a deviation can be done property; and list what needs to be documented when a deviation takes place.
  • Educate your team: providing support materials can help your team better understand the coding standards and why they need to be applied. If your team knows the advantages, they will also be more motivated to follow the coding standards.

[Webinar] Don’t drop the ball: Keeping your code up to standards

Are you interested in getting deeper into coding standards?

Hélio Rocha, our Technical Solution Manager, will explore the impact of coding standards in your development process, and answer the following questions:

  • Why do we need coding standards?
  • What are some challenges and best practices?
  • How can we automate code standards with Codacy to consistently keep our code up to standards?
Webinar - Keeping your code up to standards

Join us in our Webinar Don’t drop the ball: Keeping your code up to standards. See you there!

👉 When: April 27th 2022, 4 pm UTC / 11 am CDT
👉 Where: online

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