8 Best Programming Practices All Coders Should Implement
“I’m not a great programmer; I’m just a good programmer with great habits.”
― Kent Beck
Wise, yet humble words from a pioneer in the industry, credited with the creation of extreme programming. So what best practices can you implement to be great at programming? There are certain tips and tricks that programmers will learn over time, establishing best programming practices, a productive coding environment and writing clean code that’s easily adjustable.
Does that mean you have to be a veteran in the industry just to become great? Not necessarily. Try out these 8 Best Programming Practices to start writing cleaner, more efficient code today.
#1 – Prepare and coordinate your code before starting
There are many things to consider before you begin a coding project, especially if it is a more expansive one. But all coding practices will contribute to higher-quality products in the end. When you lack planning, the likely outcome is an insufficient product that makes it difficult for you to come back and continue your work on it in the future. That additional and unnecessary challenge can lead to bugs, as well as the hassle you’ll likely want to avoid. Here are some tips you may want to implement:
- Establish an organized folder system for the code by creating folders designated for images, CSS files, JS files, etc.
- Use Twitter’s Bootstrap to execute cross-platform scripting on mobile, tablet, and desktop devices.
- Set up an includes folder for all code you know you will need on multiple occasions while completing the project such as headers, footers, and menus.
#2 – Incorporate functions and classes
One essential best programming practice to implement is to ensure that you produce functions or classes for code that will eventually be reused. You want to avoid having to rewrite code that’s being used over and over as it contributes to code-bloat, making it larger both in size and scale than it needs to be. An important aspect of programming is efficiency, especially in the foundational code that ensures everything runs smoothly and functions properly.
Create a file dedicated to functions that will be reused consistently. For example, database calls such as opening a database connection, selecting data, inserting data, updating data, deleting data, and closing connections should all be combined into functions. This will also help to make your task at hand simpler by removing the need to rewrite redundant lines of codes. All that’s necessary is to call the function, making it simple, clean, and easy.
#3 – Apply easy-to-read naming conventions in your code
Naming conventions are vital no matter what category of code you are developing in. The simpler you make the variable names, function names, class names, and any additional programmatic names, the easier it will be to write that code and reference other parts. Since code is not written within one day, it’s beneficial to be able to come back and reference code you developed, in an efficient manner.
#4 – No matter how obvious, you should comment all of your code
Regardless of what happens, you should comment all of your code. This best programming practice is one of the best you can implement because while working on your code, it’s easy to decipher. However, when you return to work on that code, it can become highly confusing to do so, especially in cases where there are numerous nested elements within that code.
#5 – Increase the efficiency of your code through arrays, loops, etc.
If you happen to be an experienced programmer, then you’re likely familiar with the concept of using loops and arrays to iterate through result sets or to compute some code without needing to write out each line separately. This best programming practice helps to optimize code and cuts down on code-bloat, which is a deciding factor in how quickly your code runs.
Initially, when you first begin to code, efficiency might not be at the top of your priorities. However, this is an important habit to implement early on because it will allow your code to take up less space and execute significantly faster due to the memory it requires to execute.
#6 – Test and debug your code as you write
You most likely want to avoid ending up in a situation where you write a significant amount of code, then have to debug several sections of it because a mistake was made. Not only is it important to test and debug the code as you create it, but you also need to check that you have your error reporting turned on, so you’re able to see your errors as you work. This best programming practice can save you hours of unnecessary work.
Each time you produce a block of code, it’s wise to test and debug it to ensure that it functions correctly. In terms of PHP, you will also need to turn the settings on in your php.ini file, which can be found in your root directory. Debugging as you work is also beneficial due to the hours you will save when it’s no longer necessary to sort through hundreds, or even thousands, of lines of code to find the error.
#7 – Establish a system designated for version controls
Version controlling is a crucial best practice of programming. When you produce a simple piece of software, you may not consider version control initially. However, you’ll eventually need to improve upon that code, and as you improve, you’ll want to keep track of the different versions. Remember that programming is about more than just writing lines of code; you have to be able to coordinate that code and track your work.
It’s also a good idea to keep older versions so that you can see what you’d previously worked on, and have the option to bring back code that you need to reuse if needed. A control system that can be used to track those different versions is GitHub’s version control system.
#8 – Incorporate new skills to expand your coding skill set
A best practice that’s relevant to all programmers is learning and familiarizing yourself with a variety of technologies. While it’s important to continually be looking to improve your grasp on your current language of choice, it’s beneficial to learn skills in numerous other languages. All this requires is 30 to 45 minutes per day.
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