Writing code is, admittedly, a skill. There is a concrete reason why there are so many different courses and accreditations out there to help people get to grips with the art of making programs function.
Without ‘good’ coding, programs and apps simply do not do anything. Poor coding leads to all kinds of bugs and breakdowns that can spoil the end-user experience. Moreover, it impacts massively on the reputation of the coder and brand that is delivering such products.
That is why clean coding is a concept that has gained lots of traction over the years. But what does coding cleanly actually mean, and what are the impacts of cleaning up your coding practices? Let’s take a look.
Recommended: Most Common Programming and Coding Mistakes
Clean coding in brief
Clean coding is all about keeping code simple to understand. Essentially, it is a style of coding that takes little time to read and edit if needed.
There is a misconception that all coding is worthwhile if it serves a purpose. That is not always the case. The best coders need to focus on how their programs are represented, not just on what their outcomes might be.
That means working as much on the presentation of code as much as it means making sure it is functional.
Clean coding is all about keeping it brief, yet functional. Think about how you would set up a desk. You need it to perform a simple task, but you can do without the clutter. The same, too, goes for programs such as inventory management software — you want to make sure things are neat, tidy, and easy to use.
An example in practice
Let’s keep things simple. A good example of a clean code may be a line that clearly shows how one object impacts another. It may show the reader what the outcome is without them having to dig deep through reams of extra detail.
This applies to all coding scenarios. Coding cleanly can apply to backend work that benefits engineers working on in-house projects. It certainly helps to keep public apps and games easy to manipulate should patches be needed in future, too.
Ultimately, the world as we know it is growing ever more efficient, and with it, people are growing impatient. While expert coders can work through extensive lines of complex data to present fantastic solutions, not everyone has the time or interest to dive so deep in practice.
But, let’s consider some of the wider impacts of clean coding, and why the practice may be extremely beneficial in the long run.
It is always easy to edit
The idea of clean coding does not just help everyday users understand how things work ‘under the hood’. There are massive benefits to engineers and programmers, too.
With a clean, simple line of code, programmers can easily dip into the source and edit out a potential issue in a matter of minutes. There is no need to spend hours or even days hacking away at different areas of code in the hope something changes.
Clean code is easy for programmers to come back to. Instead of having hundreds of different ways to edit their code in case of problems, they can switch out one or two different factors and check for improvement.
That is a lot of time saved — and plenty of headaches spared — on the programmer’s part.
Problems are quicker to fix
In our app-driven world, people expect quick fixes to programs if something goes wrong. If an app on your phone crashes, or if your game suddenly stops saving your progress, you have every right to get frustrated.
In this day and age, news travels fast. A bug or break in the code that is raised by one person may be raised by hundreds in a matter of minutes. That means programmers need to act fast.
Once these problems are raised, coders can go back into the source and make fixes. But what if that code is sprawling and complex? It is going to take a lot of time (as well as trial and error) to push out a new version, and ensure users are happy again as soon as possible.
Clean coding removes this wait time. Programmers can simply dip into the source and make swift edits, test a few times, and rerelease. Several problems could be raised and fixed in the space of a day.
That means users are happy, and reputation is saved. Great news all around!
It is easy for people to learn and train on
Whether you are getting into an MS in software engineering (such as at Baylor University) or are learning on your own, training on clean code is a massive plus.
Imagine you have zero knowledge of coding before getting into a course. What would you think if you received lines and lines of code and had to make a fix in the space of an hour? There would be a lot of pressure.
That is why clean coding is so important from a learning perspective. Think of it as stabilizers for a bike when you are first starting to ride.
Clean code offers you a simple set of building blocks to work with. From there, you can start to move onto more complex processes and problems after getting to grips with the basics.
That said, clean code has a firm place in even the most complex of software development tasks. In any case, there is no better ‘leg up’ into coding, as it stands.
Is clean coding the future?
That really depends on who you ask. However, as the world continues to simplify complex processes to appeal to mass audiences, it is easy to assume that coding will start to get more rudimentary in appearance as the years go by.
But that is not a bad thing. Having coding skills in your arsenal will ensure you can write and edit both basic and complicated lines whenever you need to. Arguably, clean coding is also helping younger people — and those who may not be technically minded — get started with the wonders of programming.
It will be exciting to see where clean coding practices take us in the years to come. For now, however, it is absolutely worth embracing simplicity. It benefits us all.