Success in software isn’t just about having an innovative product portfolio or a solid marketing game. It’s also about how your organization does things —your software development best practices.
But let’s be clear: there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that fits into the software development ecosystem. Every engineering team has its own style, from how they write code to the way they solve problems. Still, there are some best practices in software development that get a nod from engineering leaders worldwide.
This article delves into those tried-and-tested (and true) methods, so you can see what the leading dev teams have in common and why they are ahead of the game.
Let's jump in!
Essential Software Development Best Practices
What distinguishes the top software developers from others? What are they doing differently, giving them an edge in development?
Some of the best developers manage to stand out because their software development best practices align with every project’s unique requirements. These practices are used across thousands of development projects worldwide.
Let’s take a look.
Split Project Into Micro Phases
Development projects can be straightforward and short-term endeavors, or longer multi-year initiatives with multiple complex elements. Regardless of project size, it is important to divide the projects into smaller phases. This approach offers clarity on your next steps and pay attention to critical tasks one step at a time. It also eliminates any confusion if you are working on various modules simultaneously. A better approach is to work on each module independently and merge them at a suitable phase of the project, such as testing or integration.
Efficiency Through Simplicity
Keeping your code simple is among the most critical yet overlooked software development best practices. Max Kanat-Alexander, the Chief Architect of the open-source Bugzilla Project and Software Engineer at Google, emphasized the need to focus on simplicity instead of complexity.
Software development has evolved from what it was a few decades ago when writing complex code was in vogue and garnered massive admiration. Fast forward to 2023, and the priority has shifted to writing simple and user-centric principles with an increasing demand for functionality. The code has to be efficient and straightforward.
Follow these two principles if you face any barriers while coding.
- Don’t repeat yourself (DRY)
Computers are not humans; do not treat them that way. You do not have to send timely reminders to computers to complete tasks. It will remember the commands given to it till you delete it.
Therefore, avoid duplication, especially while writing code, as it adds extra load to your budget, code, and project. The DRY principle may not always apply to all tasks. That said, it is still an excellent practice to follow.
- You Are Not Going to Need it (YAGNI)
YAGNI stands for you are not going to need it. Will you use a bulldozer to dig a small area in your garden? The answer is probably no since it's unnecessary and does more harm to the cause than good. Similarly, it is essential to note that if you do not need a specific code immediately, it is best to avoid including it. Focus on the current problem and refrain from predicting what the future holds in store for your project. Writing additional code can also prove to be counterproductive as it requires more time for development, increases the potential for bugs, and eventually leads to higher maintenance and overhead costs.
Define Coding Standards
Following pre-defined coding standards is another software development practice that distinguishes efficient software developers from those who produce flawed and unreliable code. Furthermore, well-defined coding standards ensure uniformity in code developed by multiple engineers. It also improves maintainability and readability, reducing the complexity of the entire process. For instance, if numerous software developers are working on a project and one of them has fallen sick, leaving an incomplete file, the developer filling in should be able to continue working without any hassles.
Some of the most common coding standards and guidelines include creating standard headers for various modules, naming conventions for functions, constants, local and global variables, etc.
Prioritize Testing Throughout Development Lifecycle
Some of the top software companies prioritize testing at all stages of development. They do not wait until they integrate different lines of code and conduct rigorous testing consistently throughout the development cycle. Despite that, only 35% of organizations have successfully implemented testing into their development operations. Consistent testing has significant benefits, including a better understanding of code, spotting errors, and the best way to proceed.
It is common for developers to get carried away writing the code. That said, they should remember to test it to ensure its runs smoothly. Additionally, experienced developers should not get complacent and sideline the need for testing. Ultimately, it is essential to understand that the margin for error is generally low as there is always a possibility of losing a client. You should also create a detailed testing process to ensure your software runs smoothly.
We have listed some standard tests to help you identify minor and major problems.
- System testing
- Integration testing
- Load testing
- Unit testing
- Performance testing
- Security testing
- Automated testing
- Usability testing
Master Project Estimation
Each project is unique, making project estimation a dynamic and complex process. Create project timelines and budget estimations after considering various elements, including project scope, complexity, potential risks, resource capacity, and more. Please note that writing quality code is not enough. It should align with the niche requirements of a project. Refrain from writing code just to meet tight deadlines. Unrealistic goals and expectations can lower the quality of your software and create technical debt.
Integrations, particularly continuous development (CD) and continuous integration (CI) are the backbone of modern software development. These integrations ensure that the entire process is running seamlessly without major roadblocks.
CI ensures that every code change made by team members from multiple teams is integrated into a shared repository enabling stakeholders to identify and resolve issues at the earliest.
CD delivers those integrated changes to production environments automatically, improving user experience and minimizing downtime.
Clear and Effective Documentation
Let’s explore the importance of documentation and why companies use it in their software development best practices checklist. How does documentation help? Simply put, it outlines the different features and functionalities of your software and serves as a handbook for end-users. They can refer to this handbook in case they need assistance while troubleshooting a problem. Systematic documentation also aids developers in maintaining and understanding the software throughout its lifecycle. Software development is not static; the process is dynamic and requires consistent adaptation to new project requirements and technologies.
You know how your smartphone applications are updated consistently, right? While developing software from scratch is one phase of the software development lifecycle, improving quality and maintaining it through consistent updates is equally crucial to staying in tune with the evolving user requirements and technological advancements.
Documentation becomes even more crucial for a long-term project. Here’s why. Consider a scenario where you implemented a solution three years ago, and the client requests a few modifications. There’s a high chance you may not remember the ins and outs of the project. Around 46% of workers find it challenging and time-consuming to find the right documents at the right time. Documentation is necessary to tackle such situations as it is a comprehensive record of project progression, decisions, features, codebase, architecture, and other details.
Software development best practices shouldn’t be written off as just buzzwords. They’re valuable guidelines that can elevate your team’s productivity and enable quicker software delivery. From breaking down projects into manageable chunks to sticking to coding standards and prioritizing testing, these practices are the building blocks of quality software.
However, keep in mind that these practices need to align with your project’s short-term and long-term goals. Engineering managers should strive to continuously evaluate software development trends and constantly refine these best practices to help their teams succeed.
Schedule a demo to explore how DevDynamics can help you adopt these best practices!