Code quality: Definition and effective ways to improve it

Code quality defines code that is good (high quality) and code has low quality. Code that is considered high quality may mean one thing for an automotive developer. And it may mean another for a web application developer. For that reason, we explain what is code quality and how to improve code quality.

Why Code Quality Is So Important

The code quality is important, as it impacts the overall software quality. And quality impacts how safe, secure, and reliable your codebase is.

High quality is critical for many development teams today. And it’s especially important for those developing safety-critical systems.

Quality Analysis: Good Code vs. Bad Code

Good code is high quality. And it’s clean code. It stands the test of time. Bad code is low quality. It won’t last long.

Essentially, code that is considered good:

  • Does what it should.
  • Follows a consistent style.
  • It is easy to understand.
  • Has been well-documented.
  • It can be tested.

Testing Isn’t Enough

Programmers aren’t perfect. Manual code reviews and testing will never find every error in the code.

A study on “Software Defect Origins and Removal Methods” found that individual programmers are less than 50% efficient at finding bugs in their own software.  And most forms of testing are only 35% efficient. This makes it difficult to determine quality.

Coding Errors Lead to Risk

The quality of code in programming is important. When it is in low quality, it might introduce safety or security risks. If software fails due to a security violation or safety flaw, the results can be catastrophic or fatal.

Quality Is Everyone’s Responsibility

Quality is everyone’s job: The developer, the tester, the manager. High quality should be the goal throughout the development process.

How to Improve Code Quality

Measuring quality helps you understand where you’re at. After you’ve measured, you can take steps to improve overall quality.

Here are four ways you can improve the it:

1. Use a Coding Standard

Using a coding standard is one of the best ways to ensure high quality code.

A coding standard makes sure everyone uses the right style. It improves consistency and readability of the codebase. This is key for lower complexity and higher quality.

The best way to use a coding standard is to:

  • Train your developers
  • Help them to comply with it

You can do this by using a static code analyzer.

2. Analyze Code: Before Code Reviews

Quality should be a priority from the very start of development. There isn’t always the luxury of time as development progresses. That’s why it’s important to analyze code before code reviews begin. And it’s best to analyze code as soon as it’s written.

After all, the earlier you find errors, the faster, easier, and cheaper they are to resolve.

3. Follow Code Review Best Practices

Manual code reviews are still important for verifying the intent of the code. When code reviews are done well, they improve overall software quality.

How to Do It

The best way to do code reviews is to follow best practices and take advantage of automated tools. 

4. Refactor Legacy Code

One way to improve the quality of an existing codebase is through refactoring. Refactoring legacy code can help you clean up your codebase and lower its complexity.

How to Do It: The best way to improve a legacy codebase is to do it gradually.

Get Started With Code Quality Analysis

Analyzing and measuring quality can be tricky, as quality can be subjective. You can use some metrics to objectively evaluate code, including cyclomatic complexity. And there are several ways you can lower complexity and improve quality.

Quality coding might take more time and effort on the first pass. But by introducing quality early on, you’ll lower the cost of maintenance and bug fixes in the long-term. And you’ll reduce your technical debt.

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