Coding Standards and Best Practices to Follow
By Shreya Bose, Community Contributor - April 20, 2023
Coding standards are a set of guidelines and best practices that are used to create consistent, high-quality code. Consider coding standards as rules, techniques, and best practices to develop cleaner, more readable, and more efficient code with minimal errors. They offer a uniform format for software engineers to build sophisticated and highly functional code.
Let’s understand the advantages/purpose of maintaining coding standards in software engineering and learn 8 coding practices for writing and running clean, correct code that delivers accurate and relevant results.
- Purpose of having Coding Standards
- Coding Standards & Best Practices To Follow
- 1. Choose Industry-Specific Coding Standards
- 2. Focus on Code readability
- 3. Standardize Headers for Different Modules
- 4. Don’t use a Single Identifier for multiple purposes
- 5. Turn Daily Backups into an instinct
- 6. Leave Comments and Prioritize Documentation
- 7. Try to formalize Exception Handling
- 8. When choosing standards, think Closed vs. Open
Purpose of having Coding Standards
- Improve Code Quality: Coding standards ensure that code is written consistently, readably, and maintainable manner. This makes it easier for developers to understand and work with the code, leading to higher-quality software.
- Increase Efficiency: By following coding standards, developers can save time by avoiding common mistakes and implementing proven solutions.
- Facilitate Collaboration: It creates a common language that all developers can understand and allows teams to collaborate, share code, and communicate effectively.
- Ensure Compatibility: It ensures that code is compatible with different platforms, browsers, and OS-device combinations.
- Reduce Maintenance Costs: By following established standards, developers can avoid introducing new bugs and make changes to code more quickly and easily.
Coding Standards & Best Practices To Follow
1. Choose Industry-Specific Coding Standards
Coding best practices and standards vary depending on the industry a specific product is being built for. The standards required for coding software for luxury automobiles will differ from those for gaming software.
For example, MISRA C and C++ were written for the automotive industry and are considered the de-facto standards for building applications that emphasize safety. They are the absolute best practices for writing code in the industry.
Adhering to industry-specific coding standards in software engineering makes writing correct code that matches product expectations easier. Writing code that will satisfy the end-users and meet business requirements becomes easier.
2. Focus on Code readability
Readable code is easy to follow and optimizes space and time. Here are a few ways to achieve that:
- Write as few lines as possible.
- Use appropriate naming conventions.
- Segment blocks of code in the same section into paragraphs.
- Use indentation to mark the beginning and end of control structures. Specify the code between them.
- Don’t use lengthy functions. Ideally, a single function should carry out a single task.
- Use the DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) principle. Automate repetitive tasks whenever necessary. The same piece of code should not be repeated in the script.
- Avoid Deep Nesting. Too many nesting levels make code harder to read and follow.
- Capitalize SQL special words and function names to distinguish them from table and column names.
- Avoid long lines. It is easier for humans to read blocks of lines that are horizontally short and vertically long.
3. Standardize Headers for Different Modules
It is easier to understand and maintain code when the headers of different modules align with a singular format. For example, each header should contain:
- Module Name
- Date of creation
- Name of creator of the module
- History of modification
- Summary of what the module does
- Functions in that module
- Variables accessed by the module
4. Don’t use a Single Identifier for multiple purposes
Ascribe a name to each variable that clearly describes its purpose. A single variable can’t be assigned various values or utilized for numerous functions. This would confuse everyone reading the code and make future enhancements more challenging. Always assign unique variable names.
5. Turn Daily Backups into an instinct
Multiple events can trigger data loss – system crash, dead battery, software glitch, hardware damage, etc. To prevent this, save code daily, and after every modification, no matter how minuscule it may be, back up the workflow on TFS, SVN, or any other version control mechanism.
6. Leave Comments and Prioritize Documentation
Don’t assume that just because everyone else viewing the code is a developer, they will instinctively understand it without clarification. Devs are human, and it is much easier to read comments describing code functions rather than scanning the code and making speculations.
Take an extra minute to write a comment describing the code function at various points in the script. Ensure that the comments guide any readers through the algorithm and logic implemented. Of course, this is only required when the code’s purpose is not apparent. Don’t bother leaving comments on self-explanatory code.
7. Try to formalize Exception Handling
‘Exception’ refers to problems, issues, or uncommon events that occur when code is run and disrupt the normal flow of execution. This either pauses or terminates program execution, a scenario that must be avoided.
However, when they do occur, use the following techniques to minimize damage to overall execution in terms of both time and dev effort:
- Keep the code in a try-catch block.
- Ensure that auto recovery has been activated and can be used.
- Consider that it might be an issue of software/network slowness. Wait a few seconds for the required elements to show up.
- Use real-time log analysis.
Learn more about Exception Handling in Selenium WebDriver.
8. When choosing standards, think Closed vs. Open
- With CERT, users can comment on specific guidelines – comments are considered when the standards are reviewed and updated.
- On the other hand, MISRA is a set of C and C++ coding standards developed and maintained by the Motor Industry Software Reliability Association (MISRA). It is primarily considered the de-facto coding standard for embedded industries.
- MISRA was created and is updated by working groups according to predetermined blueprints. While secure and reliable, it is not available for free though it does admit some community feedback when implementing updates.
- Naturally, CERT is easier to work with. But open standards change quickly, making them hard to keep up with.
- However, closed standards like MISRA are better for safety-critical industries because they enforce uniformity across teams, organizations, and vendors.
In other words, they offer a reliable reference that demands adherence to mandatory requirements. With products like those created by the automotive industry, standards must be set in stone because real lives are at stake.
Despite adhering to the coding best practices detailed above, remember that all code needs to be extensively tested on real browsers and devices. Instead of dealing with many inadequacies of emulators and simulators, testers are better off using a real device cloud that offers real devices, browsers, and operating systems on-demand for instant testing.
By running tests on a real device cloud, performance tests can be conducted to ensure they get accurate results every time. Comprehensive and error-free testing ensures that no significant bugs pass undetected into production, thus enabling software to offer the highest possible levels of user experience.
- Whether manual testing or automated Selenium testing, real devices are non-negotiable in the testing equation.
- In the absence of an in-house device lab (regularly updated with new appliances and maintains each of them at the highest levels of functionality), opt for cloud-based testing infrastructure.
- Run parallel tests on a Cloud Selenium Grid for faster results without compromising accuracy.
- With BrowserStack’s Test Observability, teams can access test reporting, precision debugging, flaky test detection, and more on the same dashboard.
- Quickly detect performance issues in your test suites. Drill down by test runs, unique errors, or even devices & browsers to find areas to optimize your tests.
- Simulate user conditions such as low network and battery, location changes (both local and global changes), and viewport sizes and screen resolutions.
Having a set of coding standards makes keeping the code clear and easy to collaborate. Of course, norms vary by application, nature, industry, project, developer skillset, and multiple factors. But generally, the coding standards and coding best practices described in this article will help developers and testers establish easy workflows and eliminate unnecessary grunt work.