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Five ways to improve your code quality

With over 37 billion open source components combined in the most popular open source ecosystems, keeping your code in top shape can feel like trying to blow out trick birthday candles. Luckily, the newest code quality course from the Sonatype Learn Team, 5 Ways to Improve Your Code Quality, outlines a few essential ways to maintain outstanding code quality.

We're rounding up the biggest takeaways from this interactive and comprehensive course. After reading this, you'll be able to understand what makes quality code and how to achieve new code quality heights that will help you spend less time fixing broken code and more time breaking development boundaries.

Article contents

How to define code quality

Quality code does what it's intended to do. Excellent code quality follows a consistent style, is easy to understand, is well documented, and can be tested. As noted in the course, there are five pillars that support the software development life cycle (SDLC): Readability, Performance, Maintainability, Reliability/Resiliency, and Security. By focusing on the development of each pillar, you can increase the entire quality and health of your software supply chain.

These pillars are all non-functional requirements of the code, meaning the attributes of a software system and the ability they have to perform. Think of non-functional requirements as the "how" rather than the "what." For example you know a birthday cake will come frosted, but how? Non-functional requirements of that cake could include rose tip piped chocolate frosting from the bottom up, or vanilla buttercream frosting smoothed with an offset spatula on all sides. The "how" matters to make sure the consumer purchasing the cake is happy with the product. When you can better define the "how," you’ll be able to improve your code quality and get more consistent performance.

We've outlined the top five tips to help you think of the "how" to improve your code quality.

Improve readability: How will others understand?

Tip 1: Create and enforce a consistent coding style

If you've ever said to yourself, "dang, this documentation is horrible" this one is for you. Time spent reading code is often 10 times greater than the time it takes to write new code. Poor readability frequently impacts interdepartmental and cross-team collaboration.

It's easier to understand code when devs know what to expect and where to look. You can do this through consistent variable naming conventions, commenting styles, line formatting, use of white space, and nesting, just to name a few.

As explained in the course:

"When your goal is to write new code, you have to understand the context, what you're changing, and the impact that has. With readable code, new team members have an easier time wrapping their heads around the code base when it's easily understandable and approachable."

Once you improve readability, you can expect:

  1. Easier onboarding

  2. More efficient cross-team collaboration

  3. Better maintainability (another important non-functional requirement)

Improve performance: How fast should it be?

Tip 2: Implement API best practices

Efficient performance is essential to monitoring development budgets and end-user value impacts. Reports show that companies across all industries may be overspending on cloud services by an average of 42%. Setting a standard about which APIs your team will use, data formats, and configurations to set up APIs is a great starting point. Adding automation into scanning for these will make consistent, high performance a reality for your team.

Efficient performance also lets you run in lower-resource environments like mobile and IoT, broadening your reach. You're able to do more with less power, and these all directly relate to user value.

An institution of API best practices will give your team access to:

  1. Cost savings

  2. Broader reach in lower-resource environments

Improve maintainability: How will it keep running?

Tip 3: Choose a highly supported library/framework

Maintainability measures the ease of making code changes. Libraries that are highly supported over time are less likely to break your code because there are more constant updates, keeping your code fresh.

It's estimated that operations and sustainment costs comprise 70-90% of lifecycle costs. Additionally, making your code easily maintainable lowers risks associated with change, speeds productivity, and reduces technical debt.

While the course outlines more ways to do this, using a highly supported framework will get you:

  1. Lower maintenance and support costs

  2. Easier product changes

Improve Reliability/Resiliency: How will it recover after failure?

Tip 4: Eliminate memory errors and resource leaks

Reliability measures the level of risk inherent in your software and the likelihood it will fail, while resilience measures the ability to deal with failure. Common failures result from having memory errors like null pointer exceptions and resource leaks that degrade performance.

It's estimated that, in Fortune 1000 companies, the average total cost of unplanned application downtime per year is $1.25 - $2.5 billion. "Unplanned" means inconvenience for both the company and its supporting users, and equally frustrating for both groups.

Mitigating these issues well means:

  1. Better user experience

  2. Lower cloud expenses (less replication needed)

Improve security: How is it safe?

Tip 5: Control information flow

There is a constant flow of information between sources and services that leaves countless opportunities for a breach. Security is a code quality measure that considers the number of vulnerabilities found, the time to resolve those (in production environments), the ease of deploying patches, and actual security incidents/breaches.

To control the flow of information, use tools that scan for vulnerabilities earlier in the development lifecycle, test early in development by measuring code quality, and introduce tools that reduce risk in your code. Customers will remain confident in your business when you do this because they know you care about security, and you'll have overall reduced risk in your ecosystems.

Improved security will result in:

  1. Less risk

  2. Enhanced customer confidence

Keep learning how to improve your code quality

You now have some of the tools you need to avoid blowing out any more trick candles, but there are so many more tips to be found in the course "5 Tips for Improving Your Code Quality." Having outstanding code quality today means putting out fewer fires down the road.

Find even more tips and insight into the five pillars of code quality when you take the course 5 Ways to Improve Your Code Quality. Once you get a grasp on the pillars that hold up your SDLC, there will be no stopping crushing your development goals this year. Good luck out there! You’ll be so glad you made it to the other side once you start.


Picture of Keiana King

Written by Keiana King

Keiana is a Digital Marketing Copywriter at Sonatype with a passion for brand communication. Based in Brooklyn, NY and originally from Northern Virginia, Keiana studied Product and Brand Management at Virginia Commonwealth University. When she's not gawking over her favorite brands she's out hunting taco spots.