Those fresh to programming may know the languages and rules but lack the experience that leads to creating cleaner, more efficient code. A few years in the trenches writing, checking and debugging code—and seeing what others produce—can help developers learn some helpful tricks to write code that’s easier to update, debug and pass on.
Luckily, new developers don’t have to wait years to learn some real pro tips. Below, 11 industry experts from Forbes Technology Council share their best advice on how new programmers can create more refined, efficient code.
1. Begin with the end in mind.
The biggest thing to remember when it comes to creating cleaner code is to begin with the end in mind. Whether you’re building an online ordering website for a restaurant chain or an app for back-of-house operations, programmers must understand the end-use case. This ensures the code is built to allow it to scale and be robust enough for different use cases that may come up during future pivots. – Tanvir Bhangoo, TBX Digital Inc.
2. Study other developers’ code.
Don’t be afraid to learn from other people’s code—especially experienced developers. Understanding common design patterns for frameworks is generally a good next step once you’ve begun to grasp language and syntax fundamentals. Avoid bringing patterns and habits with you from other environments, as these tricks may be less efficient, especially across dynamically and statically typed languages. – Jack Mannino, nVisium
3. Adopt test-driven development.
Adopting test-driven development, in which you write a unit test before writing code, takes some getting used to, but it helps drive a cleaner and simpler design. For me, it took about a week to get used to it, but now I could never go back. Writing the test first forces me to think about what I want the code to do, and it keeps the code simple. This helps reduce complexity and cost. – Dave Todaro, Ascendle
4. Make it as simple as possible.
Simplify. Edit your code and then edit it again to pull out any excessive lines. The same rule applies to writing. You can probably accomplish your programming goal with half the lines of code that you develop on your first run. Having fewer lines of code produces a more resilient product. – Suzanne Russo, Pecan Street Inc.
5. First make it right, then make it fast.
Focusing on efficiency too early in the process will lead to code that’s hard to read and incorrect. Also, the code needs to be maintained over time by yourself and other engineers, so make sure you leave enough comments in key pieces of the code. – Fabrizio Blanco, Viant Technology
6. Don’t overlook security.
Fresh programmers tend to focus only on “making it work,” but not learning to code securely is a bad habit with horrible consequences in the long run. Make sure you learn the security guidelines needed to develop secure applications, such as the OWASP TOP 10. – Jaime Manteiga, TapTok & Venkon Corp.
7. Break your code into smaller files.
If you have a thousand lines of code in a single file, you’re asking for trouble whenever you add a new team member. Smaller files are easier to understand and are likely more reusable. Testing, documentation and even code reviews are simpler when everything isn’t in one large file. – Luke Wallace, Bottle Rocket
8. Review open-source projects and contribute if possible.
The nature of open-source projects fosters better collaboration and communication and easier-to-understand code by design. There’s no need to come up with elegant solutions that make it harder for the next person to comprehend. Much like an author catering to the widest possible audience, try to write code at a fifth-grade reading level. – Chris Sullivan, Castellum.AI
9. Leverage automated scanning tools.
The use of automatic security and syntax scanning tools enables your developers to quickly and easily identify and fix common issues that crop up during the software development lifecycle. These tools can be included as part of the continuous integration process as a gate to adhere to strict code quality prior to releasing to production. – John Bellone, SS&C Health
10. Volunteer to review code.
With more teams using Agile, code reviews are happening more frequently. Still, many agile teams do not review code at all or only review one piece of code per sprint. Volunteer for the code review. No one likes being the center of a code review, but it is a great way to learn and get some peer respect. – David Moise, Decide Consulting
11. Practice, practice, practice.
Remember that “practice makes perfect.” I do not believe that there is a shortcut to gaining more experience in technology; one has to put in the hours to gain efficiency. My mentor used to say, “The more I practiced, the luckier I got.” As a security professional, I encourage new developers to perform static analysis on their code to identify any known vulnerabilities prior to deployment. – Bob Fabien Zinga, Directly, Inc./U.S. Navy Reserve