Writing clean and readable code is one of those things that naturally happens after you have done it often enough (at least for most people). Although everyone improves at a different pace, there are ways for you to speed up the pace. Therefore, the goal of this post is for me to share with you some tips on how you can speed up the pace to writing cleaner and more readable code.
1. Gain Some Experience Writing Code
Before you worry yourself about writing clean code, you should gain some experience writing code. This is important because if you do not have much experience writing software, you will find yourself putting most of your time and effort into understanding the syntax and concepts. When you are constantly trying to understand different syntaxes and concepts, it is far too distracting for you to write clean and readable code. How can you write clean and readable code, when you do not have a strong grasp of the syntax and concepts? It is like trying to write a well-written piece of paper without knowing grammar.
2. Embrace the Clean Code Mindset
Get into a habit of exercising some of the common traits to clean code. For example, indentation and spacing are two common traits to cleaner and more readable code. Do not try to cram as much as possible into a few lines of code. It makes the code more difficult to understand and tires out the brain faster. In addition, humans are not good at reading long lines of text. Think about the text in the newspaper.
3. Read Other People’s Code
Reading other people’s code can help you write cleaner and more readable code. It does not matter if it is “bad” or “good” code; there is always something to take away from it. If the code was “bad”, now you know what not to do without you having to make the mistake yourself. If the code was “good”, now you have an example to follow or incorporate into your own unique style.
A great way to see other people’s code is to look at open source projects. GitHub is a great place to start. Another is, of course, your peers (friends, co-workers, or members of development communities).
4. Think Big Picture
A mistake that less experienced software developers make is that they start small and go bigger along the way. It seems like the perfectly natural thing to do since that is how you would tackle most things in life. However, in software development, this does not work out with respect to clean and readable code in a timely manner usually. This is because as the project grows you find yourself adding more and more to the codebase in an unstructured way (no planning involved).
Therefore, the way to tackle problems in software development is to think big (the outcome) and then start going smaller. Take the outcome and break it down into smaller parts and then those parts into smaller parts and so on. By breaking the problem down into small pieces, you are actually setting yourself up for writing modular code. Each of the smaller parts can probably be in its own module or class that does a specific function.
5. Know Your Audience
Knowing your audience is important. It will actually determine whether someone thinks your code is readable and clean. You can have one person say your code is super readable and clean with another saying that it is the worst code they have seen. How can this happen? When there is a mismatch between your code and the reader’s coding experience.
Consider the scenario that a very experienced Java developer let a beginner Java developer read their code. In the code, it is filled with best practices, optimizations, and modularity. Other developers say the code is easy to follow and to understand the intention. However, for the beginner reading that code all the syntax (grammar), concepts, and jumping around the codebase does not make sense. The beginner probably finds a big function that can be read top to bottom without having to jump between code more understandable.
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- Why Comments Are Dangerous and You Should Limit Your Use of Them
- Hidden Factors to Code Readability
I hope you found this post helpful. If you found this post helpful, share it with others so they can benefit too.
What are your experiences with writing clean code? Do you agree with the points in this post or have something to add?