Code quality is something that plays an important role in every programmer’s work and its evaluation. It is also one of the major factors that reflect the experience level of a coder.
In programming, every year of practical coding experience matters. And normally it wouldn’t be a problem to distinguish a code written by Junior programmer from the code of a more experienced developer. Actually, many programmers with several years of professional experience would probably be a little embarrassed looking at the code they have written not as long as a year ago or less.
Poor quality code can be a real problem affecting not only you but the rest of the development team and the project as a whole. Fortunately, with time and experience, given you are writing code full time, the quality of your code will be getting better.
But the perfection doesn't come by itself, you need to seek it. Follow these recommendations to improve your coding style and achieve regular and significant progress in this component of programmer’s work.
1. Learn the theory and read books on improving the coding style
Reading books and other materials on how to make your code better is always advisable. Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship by Robert C. Martin
is one of the most famous books about the coding style. It is highly recommended to programming beginners. In it, the author demonstrates the main differences between good and bad code, and explains the major rules of writing clean and readable code using the best practices. There are multiple other books that you can read, such as Pragmatic programmer by Andrew Hunt & David Thomas
, Algorithms by Robert Sedgewick & Kevin Wayne
, and Data Structures and Algorithms Made Easy by Narsimha Karumanchi
2. Learn about the Coding Conventions and follow them
Coding conventions are sets of guidelines for each specific programming language with recommendations on different aspects of software development in this language, including coding style, best practices and methods. Coding conventions are meant to be followed by software programmers who are coding in this language as the quality guides to ensure their code is readable and the proper maintenance of the software by other people is possible. Coding conventions normally cover every essential component of making software in this programming language. Here
you can learn more about the most common Java Coding Conventions.
3. Use static code analyzers
Using tools that provide automatic code analysis is a way to achieve an improvement in the quality of your code by finding errors in it right after it’s written. Static code analyzers allow you to add an additional quality assurance layer and improve the code prior to the code review phase.
Here are some of the popular static code analyzers for Java: Checkstyle
, PMD Java
, Find Security Bugs
4. Apply four-eyes principle in code reviews
Applying the four-eyes principle to coding means that at least two people should perform the code review, including the author of the code. Nowadays, pull requests
are used as one of the most common mechanisms for a developer to notify team members about a completed feature and ask for a review before merging the new code into an existing repository.
5. Apply the Continuous Integration practice and use CI tools
Continuous integration (CI) is the practice of merging all developers' working copies to a shared mainline several times a day. Applying continuous integration allows you to get quick feedback about broken builds and fix them immediately.
There are multiple CI tools that you can use to improve the quality of your code. Jenkins
, for example, is an open source automation server written in Java that allows developers to reliably build, test, and deploy their software with continuous integration and continuous delivery of projects, regardless of the platform. Buddy
is another well-known continuous integration and delivery software tool. Claims to be 87% faster for CI/CD adoption time compared to other tools. TeamCity
is a general-purpose CI/CD solution that allows the most flexibility for all sorts of workflows and development practices. The Projects Overview lets you quickly check the status of your builds, see what triggered them, download the latest build artifacts, and more.
6. Use debugging tools
Using debugging tools is highly advisable as they also can increase the quality of code to a great extent. When it comes to Java development, all major IDEs, such as IntelliJ IDEA
, have debugging features, either in-built or as plugins. There are other tools with debugging features as well, including Raygun4Java
, The Java Debugger (jdb)
, and Visual Studio Code
7. Use CodeGym to learn and practice best coding practices in Java
Learning Java on CodeGym and using CG as a platform to practice your coding skills also proves to be effective when it comes to improving the coding style. Since CodeGym course was designed as a way for inexperienced beginners to learn Java and get a job in software development, it teaches learners to mind the quality of their code from the very beginning. That is one of the reasons CodeGym has its own plugin for IntelliJ IDEA, the most popular IDE among Java developers, which our students are encouraged to install to start getting used to both tools the programmers are using in their daily work and best coding practices common in the industry.
Here are some thoughts on how to improve the code quality by software developers with decades of coding experience.
“Most programming is more of an art form than an engineering activity. Even programming that supports engineered devices (like writing I/O drivers and firmware) should be approached more as art than a science. Write your code like you'd write anything that's really, really important. Every line means something that is vitally important. It's not so important that your code is perfect, but that you know what every line in your code does and what you meant for that line to do,” recommends
Kevin Carothers, an experienced software developer from the U.S.
A concise recommendation
from Mark Canlas, a software engineer at Apple: “Find a programmer who is better than you and have them critique your code. And incorporate the feedback into your next project. Add 10,000 hours of practice, stir, and repeat.”
Yunkai Zhou, a former engineer at Microsoft and Google, has developed
a Quality Ladder to determine how good in your or someone else’s code: “Correctness, efficiency, readability, and extensibility are the steps of Ladder. They are not independent from each other. Readable code is more likely to be correct; low efficiency code is hard to extend. For each software engineer, the ultimate goal is to do well in all these areas. But at any given moment, each person is at a certain level. My suggestion is to assess your own level of expertise, consider where you spend most of your time and effort, then focus on mastery in that area before moving onto the next level. Avoid tackling a level before you are really ready. Keep this in mind - you cannot build excellent skills or tackle more challenging problems with a weak foundation.”
“Write comments first and then write code to do what your comments say. For example, before coding a function write a comment on top of it as to what it should do, roles of its parameters, return values, etc. Once you know what exactly the function is supposed to do, the code will be much better, simpler and clearer,” recommends
Abhinav Sharma, a programmer working for Facebook.