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What Is Clean Code?

Rafael Dourado

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Developing systems with great longevity and easy maintenance is a common goal for software engineering teams. This requires thorough knowledge of current standards and technologies. It also involves the ability to make decisions during the process that will impact the developer’s experience. After all, this person will have to maintain the system.

Many teams just focus on the initial development of a system. However, prioritizing proactive tasks like writing clean code can streamline maintenance in the future. 

We spend most of our time studying and reading code written by other developers and often come across snippets that are difficult to understand. One of the tell-tale signs of an outdated application is having to spend extra time wrapping your mind around messy code.

In this article, you will learn about clean code techniques that reduce development and maintenance costs.

What Is Clean Code? Why Does it Matter?

According to author Robert C. Martin, clean code “is a set of quality attributes combined with good practices that guarantee that a code is easy to maintain in all aspects”. 

In short, clean code is simple, efficient, and testable. It is easy to understand, maintain, evolve, and reuse regardless of who wrote it.

But why should you apply clean code techniques during development and maintenance?

Here’s why:

• Reduce technical debt

• Boost productivity of development teams

• Faster speed of development relative to competitors

• Extend long-term value of the software

The time saved via clean code can help development teams allocate more time to building new solutions or modernizing other aspects of the platform.

Clean code will also prevent the product from having unpayable technical debt. Disorganized code not only requires more maintenance time, but it also causes confusion that grinds productivity to a halt.  

White male professional with slicked-back hair, black turtleneck, and brown coat holding laptop and confused by disorganized code

5 Clean Code Techniques

1 – Scout Rule

It is not enough to write good code. It is also necessary to improve it each time you revisit it. Clean code can get messy over time and across updates, so it is important to continuously improve it.

Sometimes, this doesn’t require massive changes. For example, it could be as simple as changing the name of a variable, constant, method, function, class, or eliminating a small duplication of code.

Why? When teams make this a habit, there is no opportunity for a mess to grow. Also, making minor changes today is a lot easier than having to do a large-scale cleaning years later. 

2 – Use Names From the Solution Domain

Everything written in the code will be read by other developers, and everyone involved in the project needs to be on the same page.

If a stakeholder speaks of a specific term in their guidelines on how they want the system to work, it must be used when the code is written and appear without any variations. 

Why? This proactive approach makes it easier for other developers to know what each term means. It also helps prevent teams from using terms that are unpopular or completely foreign to the business area.

Young Black woman holding up magnifying glass to her left eye.

3 – Use Searchable Names

During source code development, it is common for developers to look for shortcuts to circumvent the need to think and name. In fact, a good part of systems development consists of “naming codes.”

Using searchable names is a technique that allows you to determine if the names used in a software’s code are in variables, functions, classes, methods, and files that are easy to search. 

That way, these names have their own identification or represent some information in a logical way. Different from using only letters, codes, or abbreviations that only those who developed a certain piece of code can understand.

Why? This makes it easier to search during maintenance. Developers who need to make a change will easily be able to identify what certain pieces of code do by the name given and what it represents in context. That reduces the amount of time needed to understand what each snippet does or what it means.


4 – Avoid Repetition

This technique is directly linked to a principle of programming itself, DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself). Avoid repeating code snippets and allowing them to be reused throughout structures. 

Why?  Code repetition exponentially increases maintenance time. That’s because whenever one of these snippets needs to change, you also have to find and alter the others throughout the code. Particularly in medium and large systems, this can cause real chaos.

Jumbled white letters ranging from 0 to 9 against red background

5 – Use Constants Instead of Magic Numbers

It is common to find fixed numbers in methods and other code snippets. These are often used for comparison, calculation, or as a numerical limit. However, a number alone may not express by itself what it represents in the code. This is what we call a magic number.

Magic numbers can hinder the general understanding of a code snippet by not explaining a business logic or what it represents. Imagine finding a 1, 3, or 7 in the code and not knowing what they represent. 

Now, imagine the time spent to understand this, or the time you’d spend looking for someone to explain it. Optimize this time instead by using constants.  

Why? Replacing magic numbers with constants helps reduce maintenance costs in 3 ways:

• What the number represents is made explicit in the code just by looking at the name of the constant

• The very use of a constant shows that its value is fixed

• If the number is used more than once in the code or in other files, the same constant can be reused.

Example of clean code

How Clean Code Techniques Reduce Costs 

Clean code increases efficiency in maintaining applications and adding new functionalities. Simply put, clean code makes it easier to understand what needs to be done in a system.

Teams that think long-term and make maintenance efficiency a priority tend to save themselves headaches in future modernization efforts. Plus, they can add new features at any time as customer or employee needs for the system evolve. 

Clean Code as an Investment

Successful systems are generally measured by their adaptability to allow rapid evolution in the face of business and market needs. Unfortunately, most systems are built without good practices and techniques that facilitate seamless maintenance. Legacy application modernization is vital to creating a solid, scalable foundation for your digital infrastructure. 

If your organization has an application that is next to impossible to maintain or update due to messy code, Programmers can help. With our Fast-Track Application Modernization service, we target the most prominent barriers to value in your legacy systems and iteratively address them in 90-day modernization cycles. 

That means your company can begin seeing value from clean code in 90 days. Learn more about Fast-Track Application Modernization and how it helps your legacy systems evolve.

Let us know how we can help you.

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