Cutting corners costs you: the importance of code quality
The good, the bad & the ugly
So what is the difference between good and bad code? Let’s start with poor quality code, which features:
Lack of coding standards or style
Poorly designed architecture
High method complexity
Poor code results in lots of errors and bugs as well as security concerns. Yuck! It is difficult to understand and replicate the method or to test properly. This makes updates and changes to the software more difficult and more bug-prone, setting the product up for obsoletion.
So what about the good stuff? Quality code is marked by 4 elements:
1. Readability & simplicity
2. Predictability & reliability
3. Robustness & bug-resistance
4. High performance
High-quality code is easy to read, understand, and replicate without being prone to hidden bugs. This makes it simpler to fix, update and improve. It has consistent quality from developer to developer. The result is software that is compliant with specifications and the client’s needs and that can also be updated and improved continually without a problem.
Why code quality gets overlooked
When companies are revving up to launch a new application or website, code quality is often seen as an afterthought. With software projects subject to many different constraints, development stages and testing, the code ends up being overlooked as a matter of function over form. When deadlines and budgets are tight, developers sometimes cut corners to deliver. Code review processes can also suffer because of lack of budget for tools, lack of human resources and a failure to maintain a quality standard across team members.
High-quality code simply takes more time to create and review. While it’s perfectly possible to create an attractive-looking product with poor quality code, sooner or later there is a price to pay. Products built on poor quality code quickly become obsolete and lead to heavy technical debt: the work you must do tomorrow because you took a shortcut today.
Why quality code is so important
Code may be thought of as the hidden technique behind the smooth façade of a website or app, but in reality the end-user is directly impacted by its quality. Bad code quickly leads to obscure error messages, quirks and bugs that hamper a smooth user experience. Of course poor quality code can also be updated, but here is where your technical debt comes back to haunt you. Developers end up spending massive amounts of time in code review and guess what? That costs money. Cutting corners on code means not only bugs, but a higher chance of new bugs being introduced with every update. All the short-term benefits and cost savings are quickly wiped out by the long-term problems.
Meanwhile high-quality code results in fewer and clearer error messages, and bugs can be more easily repaired because editing simple, readable code makes implementing changes more straightforward. This is why high-quality code survives much longer than poor quality code. High-quality code also makes the translation of software across platforms easier with minimal changes. You can see how investing in it could quickly pay off if you want to develop a product across different platforms.
How to achieve it?
We made our point pretty clear about why you want to go for high-quality code from the start. So how do you go about achieving it? It’s all about using the right tools and the right measurements. That’s not as easy as it sounds, because there are a lots of different ways to measure the quality of code. Some key metrics are: reliability, maintainability, testability, portability, and reusability.
Following a coding standard and documenting code are also important aspects of quality. We start with an appropriate coding standard or style depending on the language or framework. It’s also key to maintain consistency in class, method and variable names, properly documenting these and making sure comments are simple and concise. We ensure code reusability by choosing and refactoring the correct design patterns.
Code analysis tools executed at different stages are also important for ensuring quality. They assess complexity using several different metrics and signal problems in code before it is merged. Automated testing also helps prevents new bugs and makes sure code meets requirements and responds correctly to different inputs. Leveraging tools can be used to test and show an overview of the quality of a project and identifies issues.
Have no idea what any of this means? That’s what you have us for! A partner who sees the big picture of your product and how code quality fits into it is essential. Software builders who are serious about quality will be honest about the time and resource investment necessary to make your product more user-friendly, sustainable and profitable over the long term. The bottom line: quality code pays off, both in terms of investment and in terms of customer satisfaction.
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