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Best Practices for Software Development

Updated: Jan 2

No matter which SDLC you use, a successful development process requires a balance between documentation and a collaborative environment. There are some tips to guide you toward an effective development process.




Follow Checklists

It is highly possible that every individual in your team repeatedly makes the same mistakes. To eliminate frequently made mistakes and be sure that nothing important is missed, checklists are the most efficient approach. It should be done for every part of the development process: coding, reviews, issues, etc; because checklists will help you to establish clear guidelines for each process and can be beneficial in monitoring progress, setting the standards and improving the process.




Provide Estimates

Providing estimates for issues in issue repositories is an important part of effective project management. It helps to ensure that work is planned and executed effectively, priorities are set appropriately, progress is tracked transparently, communication is improved, and team members are held accountable for their work.




Estimates provide a way to plan and allocate resources effectively, and allow project managers to evaluate the importance of different issues based on their estimated time to completion. Knowing how long a particular issue is expected to take allows project managers to plan sprints and allocate work to team members appropriately.


It’s also important to track progress against estimates. In this way, project managers and stakeholders can see how work is progressing and identify potential issues early on.




Commit Early, Commit Regularly

Committing code regularly is a best practice in software development that can improve collaboration, reduce the risk of data loss, promote better code quality, and make it easier to track progress over time.


Regular commits create backup points that can be used to recover lost or damaged code. If a problem arises, having a recent commit can make it easier to recover lost work and reduce the risk of data loss.


It also allows developers to make incremental progress toward completing a feature or fixing a bug. This makes it easier to track progress, identify potential issues early on, and adjust course if necessary.




Stay Documented

Lots of changes are made to code over time, and people often have weak memories. Documentation is necessary not only for tracking architectural changes but also for code reviews and comments on the tickets. The benefits of documenting can be summarized as follows:






Knowledge Sharing

Documentation serves as a means of sharing knowledge and information about the development process. By documenting code, processes, and decisions, developers can share information with their team members and future developers working on the project. It also helps to maintain the codebase over time by providing a clear understanding of how the software works and how it should be modified or extended. This can help to reduce the risk of introducing new bugs or issues during maintenance activities.


Collaboration

Written knowledge facilitates collaboration among team members by making it easier to share knowledge and understand the work of others. This can help to reduce misunderstandings and improve communication, which is essential for effective collaboration.


Onboarding

Documentation can be a valuable tool for onboarding new team members, helping them to get up to speed quickly and understand the codebase and development process.




Encourage a Positive Approach to Code Reviews

Code reviews are an essential part of software development that help to improve code quality, catch errors, and share knowledge among team members. However, the way in which code reviews are conducted can have a significant impact on team morale and productivity.


First of all, you need to make sure everyone on the team understands the purpose of code reviews, what should be reviewed, and what the expectations are for reviewers and authors. Set clear guidelines for how reviews should be conducted and what feedback is appropriate.

It’s important to ensure that everyone feels comfortable participating in code reviews and providing feedback. Encourage respectful and constructive communication, and discourage personal attacks or negative criticism. Emphasize that code reviews are about improving the code, not criticizing the author. Critiques should focus on the code and specific issues, not the person who wrote it.


When team members provide valuable feedback or go above and beyond during code reviews, recognize and reward their efforts. This can help encourage positive behavior and reinforce the importance of code reviews.


By creating a safe and supportive environment, you can help your team produce higher-quality code and improve the overall productivity of your software development process.




Refer To Issues In Commit Messages

It’s often overlooked, but referencing issues in commit messages is essential for improving the development process for several reasons:


Better Tracking

Referencing issues in commit messages allows for easier tracking of changes made to the codebase. It provides an easy way to see which issues were addressed, when they were addressed and who made the changes.


Better Collaboration

It also promotes better collaboration among team members. It helps to establish a common language and understanding of the work being done, which can improve communication and reduce confusion.


Better Accountability

It provides a clear record of why the changes were made. This promotes accountability among team members and helps to ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals and objectives.


Better Documentation

This habit also helps to document the changes being made to the codebase, making it easier for developers to understand the changes made over time, and providing useful information for future development work.






Keep Reviews Short

Studies revealed that developers should keep reviews less than 400 lines of code (LOC) at a time. Beyond 400 LOC, the quality of review diminishes, hence the ability to find defects.

To maximize review quality, up to 90% of defects can be found with a 60-90 minute review for PRs between 200-400.









Balance Review Duration

Assuming that someone else will catch the errors you didn't find, it may be tempting to quickly skip a review. However, the ability to find defects at speeds drops significantly at rates faster than 500 LOC per hour. Code reviews at a reasonable pace and for a limited amount of time at a slower speed provide the most effective code review.


You shouldn't review the code too quickly, but also shouldn't spend too long examining it in one sitting. When people engage in any activity that requires intense effort for a certain period of time, performance starts to decline after about 60 minutes. Studies show that taking breaks from a task for a specific period of time can greatly improve work quality. Doing more frequent reviews will reduce the need to do a review of this length.

Of course, the list can be expanded. Understanding and implementing best practices in software development is crucial for building reliable, efficient, and scalable applications. By following these practices, developers can enhance collaboration, stay productive, and deliver high-quality software products. Remember, the key principles of best practices involve maintaining clean and readable code, leveraging version control systems, conducting thorough testing, prioritizing security, and fostering continuous learning and improvement.


As you embark on your software development journey, keep in mind that best practices are not stagnant. The industry is ever-evolving, with new technologies, methodologies, and frameworks emerging regularly. Stay curious and remain open to learning, adapt to changes, and embrace innovative ideas. Engage in communities and forums, collaborate with fellow developers, and share your knowledge to contribute to the growth of the software development ecosystem.


By incorporating best practices into your development process, you are not just building software; you are laying the foundation for success, both for yourself and the users who will benefit from your creations. So, embrace the power of best practices, push the boundaries of your abilities, and watch as your software development skills and the impact of your work soar to new heights.


Valven Atlas offers you more visibility into your systems to understand which practices you apply in your development and deployment cycle and how you can improve the areas that need more efficiency to empower your ability to ship any product or feature faster.


If you have any questions or require assistance, we are always here to help. Reach us at atlas@valven.com. Happy coding!





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