With time, practice, and a lot of discipline, learning how to code is easy. What isn’t so easy, especially if you’re a self-taught developer, is breaking any bad habits or programming routines that you’ve adopted along the way.
One bad habit doesn’t make you a bad coder, but it can limit your potential for growth and increase the risk of time-consuming mistakes. For collaborative projects, a bad habit can hinder team productivity, negatively affect a business report, and even give you a bad reputation.
Adopting good habits does exactly the opposite. A web developer with the discipline to embrace smarter coding practices opens the door for professional growth while simultaneously improving team productivity.
Are you ready to code smarter? Let’s dive in.
1. Start with a plan
Are you one of the majority of coders who uses online resources to learn? The great thing about online, self-teaching resources is that they provide you with a vast amount of knowledge. However, something that they often fail to stress is how incredibly important it is to plan.
Image sourced from freecodecamp.org
If you’re the kind of coder who jumps into new projects straight away, it’s likely that you have a lot of dropped projects under your belt. Excitedly rushing into a project without a plan increases the risk of errors, retries, bugs, and burnout.
Planning your code saves you time in the long run. It gives you clear objectives to follow and improves the overall quality of your code, meaning it will need less intensive refactoring and debugging later on.
So, before you write a single line of code, here’s what you need to plan:
It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when you’re creating. For client projects in particular, project summaries keep you on track in alignment with client requirements. Two of the most important things to summarize are the project’s goal and who the end result is for. For example, Dialpad call center system applications are designed to be user-friendly, whereas other solutions like Twilio Flex are designed for users with extensive technical expertise.
Necessary tools and technologies
Create a general feature outline to identify critical features, important features, and not-so-important features. With a birds-eye view of your project’s architecture and feature interactions, you can code much more accurately and purposefully.
2. Think organization-first
Structured, organized code facilitates easier searching and modification capabilities, optimizing your programming routine so you can complete tasks more efficiently. It also goes a long way in building a collaborative team culture.
Free to use image sourced from Pexels
Some code organization best practices include:
Separating code into structured folders: You might create different folders for images, extensions, CSS files, etc.
Creating a code-snippet library: Put all of your reusable code (code snippets) into one place to optimize your workflow. You could set up a code-snippet library on your hard drive or go a step further and utilize a code snippet manager. The developers behind DocuSign Business Pro, for example, have access to a code example launcher which employees can use to source working example instances of eSignature and API scenarios.
Follow the DRY principle: More on this below.
3. Don’t repeat yourself (DRY)
Of all the organizational tips and tricks for web developers, the ‘don’t repeat yourself’ (DRY) rule is probably the most popular.
Formally introduced by Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas in The Pragmatic Programmer, the DRY principle dictates that “every piece of knowledge must have a single, unambiguous, authoritative representation within a system”. Put simply, developers should never use the same code in multiple places and refrain from using two different pieces of code to complete the same function. But why?
Duplicate code presents a lot of headaches. It increases the time it takes to modify tasks as each instance of code must be attended to separately. It also increases the risk of mistakes (the more code you write, the more potential for error).
Developers who successfully follow the DRY principle reduce redundancy and improve maintainability. As part of your programming routine, regularly double-check your code for repetition.
4. Remember to indent
Make indenting your code a habit and you’ll earn the respect of your collaborators. Why? It’s simple – nobody wants to read blocks of code.
For the human reader, whitespace is essential for cognitive processing. People reading your code can navigate and interpret it quicker, making maintenance and debugging much more time-efficient. Whitespace also reveals your code’s structure and increases visualization of how lines interact.
Free to use image sourced from Unsplash
5. Always comment your code
Have you ever revisited an old project only to be completely confused by what each bit is doing?
Commenting on blocks of code with a human-readable description improves its readability and maintainability. It’s much easier to revisit a project when you have pointers to jog your memory, especially if you have nested elements. Comments also help collaborators navigate lines or blocks of code that aren’t self-explanatory.
You might use code comments to explain the function of a line of code, explain why you used that specific line over another solution, or remind yourself of a change that needs to be made.
6. Use naming conventions
Standardize the format of your code by using consistent naming conventions. Regardless of the naming convention you use, it’s important that you use it consistently. For example, if you use pascal case to name classes, camel case to name functions, and snake case to name variables, you should strictly stick to this convention. Before you write a single line of code, naming conventions should be agreed upon across your team.
Also, while there are circumstances where you might use your own code or tweak conventions for convenience, it’s best practice to follow the standard conventions of the language as well as the developer community you’re in.
Code linters can help you with this. They enforce code to adhere to language standards and highlight inconsistencies and/or formatting errors. Take a look at a code linter in action below.
Image sourced from github.com
7. Perform code refactoring
Code refactoring involves making lots of small changes to your source code to improve internal optimization without changing its functionality.
Code refactoring eliminates instances of dirty code and reduces code rot. It enables developers to identify and address any dependencies and vulnerabilities with more efficiency, mitigating the risk of costly errors further down the line.
While you want to make code refactoring a habit, too much mid-project auditing can slow down your progress. Try scheduling it into your programming routine: for example, you might do spots of code refactoring after hitting specific milestones and a full audit after completing your first draft.
8. Test and debug as you go
Your code will have bugs – it’s unavoidable. But having to trawl back through old code to find the source of the problem can sometimes feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Not only does it cost you money and time, but it can quickly lead to burnout.
If you make a habit out of testing and debugging every newly-built block of code, you’re much less likely to encounter the white screen of death. Browsers are equipped with powerful debuggers that are capable of error detection, expression tracking, and more.
9. Use version control software
Invaluable to improving collaborative testing and building, version control is a great habit to adopt into your programming routine. Version control software stores and manages all past versions of your project. It tracks any changes made to your codebase along with information on who made the change and when it was made.
Flexible collaboration is a top priority right now. Whether it’s a virtual phone number service, video conferencing solution, or cloud document storage, businesses are utilizing different methods to enhance internal communication and team productivity.
10. Try to finish your projects
Abandoning projects is a bad habit that strikes beginner and seasoned web developers alike. There’s nothing inherently wrong with giving up on a difficult project (sometimes, it’s better to just start afresh), but if you have a hoard of half-finished projects on your computer, it might be time to make a change.
Problem-solving is a fundamental part of web development. Instead of running away from difficult projects, make it a habit to see projects through, especially if you’re new to web development.
While you should always prioritize important and inspirational projects, why not schedule in some time to complete some of those unfinished projects, too?
Free to use image sourced from Pexels
Learning how to code – and how to code well – can take time. It’s why apps like Ringcentral and Dialpad are busy creating user-friendly functionalities to empower teams of all technical abilities to tailor applications to their needs.
For developers, though, simply identifying current bad habits and replacing them with better ones can make all the difference. Your programming routine should prioritize planning and organizational best practices while keeping human readability at the forefront. This will allow you to improve remote team communication and collaboration as well as individual project productivity.
Grace Lau – Director of Growth Content, Dialpad
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered communication platform providing cloud collaboration solutions for better and easier team collaboration through products like Dialpad’s enterprise call center software. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Grace has also written for other domains such as VMblog and nTask. Here is her LinkedIn.