Many of us learnt an integral lesson during computer studies sessions while at middle school: hardware, without software, is useless. This principle still rings true today, no doubt. As each individual is now equipped with his or her own smart device, it’s safe to say that software is essential to keeping all our digital requisites running in order and delivering the things we’re dependent on. Mobile apps are a form of software first and foremost, and while a plethora of digital devices exist in our day and age, none would present any value without working software.
From AI to Augmented Reality, similar technologies are possible because of competent codes, which in turn make up entire software systems. This is why mobile app development in Sri Lanka is in full swing for numerous international companies on an offshore basis, simply because the combination of highly skilled talent and an affordable cost make this island nation ideal to conduct such technology operations. As international organizations look to evolve in order to stay abreast of their competition, high quality software engineering that is offered in accordance to a friendly budget is the perfect solution to sustain offshore development on a long-term basis. On top of that, such partnerships come with a host of supplementary (but equally necessary) services – such as software testing, SEO, digital marketing and even business process operations such as telemarketing/sales.
To say that software is necessary in today’s era is an understatement. From big data collection to fully-fledged business intelligence, the absence of software would not have made any such operations possible. Complex as these functions may be, the consistent development and testing carried out by software engineers through the decades is what has made such feats a possibility, as companies now rely on such resources before making any business decision. Also, let’s not forget to mention that the aspect of AI and machine learning has long since been a topic of interest – and dedicated commitment on the part of software engineers is what has led to the advanced landscape we have in this field today. From voice assistants to AR-based maps, such resources have become the useful mainstream tools they are today through repeated trial and error over a prolonged span of time.
Intricate as it is, the world of software development is one that can be forayed into with no specific rules in mind. With a working product that is usable and user-friendly being the final objective of any pool of software developers, there’s no protocol of sorts to follow in order to make an accomplishment. However, adhering to certain basic guidelines can still be helpful, especially if you’re new and overwhelmed about where to start. You certainly cannot go wrong with some of the best practices mentioned in this article, and even if you don’t see results, constant practice is key in discovering which code works best to your favour.
However, before we delve into the nitty-gritty pertaining to software development’s best practices, here’s a key principle you need to remember before you get started.
Sounds paradoxical? In an age where technology and its many devices govern the way we lead our lives, it’s hard to accept the fact that code can ever be ‘human’. However, it is imperative to keep in mind that all the code that is written day in and day out is done so by human software programmers, thereby giving any piece of code a touch that is very much human. In other words, code that is executed is a manifestation of what software programmers think you need, or how you may react to a specific function. If they get it right, their concept succeeds. If not, then it doesn’t. Simultaneously, code is also liable to error, since it is written by humans and under human supervision. This means that no software product is immune to mistakes, and troubleshooting bugs is always going to be part and parcel of a process that is considered daunting by one too many. Adding the possibility of (relatively frequent) errors into a mix that is already plentiful in intricacy, the field of software development can seem like a treacherous and highly pressurizing avenue for the average software developer.
On top of that, let’s not forget the client’s end goals; after all, isn’t that why all this hard work is being dedicated to in the first place? Keeping in mind budgets, targets and other KPIs provided by the client can further add to the list of deliverables, thereby giving software engineers much to juggle amidst a growing grey area of outcomes. On a side note, customer experience, albeit being solely dependent on how users react to a new product or feature, is also something that needs to be contemplated upon – especially since users have the final power, all other business and tech objectives aside.
This may be a fundamental rule (and even a boring cliché), but simplicity in the endeavour of creating functional code cannot be stressed any further. Albeit being a basic, go-to principle, many end up in oversight of the very same. From attempting to write a multi-faceted piece of code without starting small, failing to perform basic unit testing or by ignoring a style guide, the aspect of simplicity is severely compromised in coding – which eventually trickles down to the final outcome borne by the software product.
Most of the time, starting simple essentially means to start small, which can conveniently touch base on writing what works instead of trying to create something that is less predictable. On the other hand, simple structures of code can also set the foundation for more complex code, as lines can be exponentially layered one on top of the other to reveal a set of functions that supersede its prior basic value.
Starting off might be as simple as copying bits of code that may currently be in use elsewhere but may perform the exact function that you need. From that point onwards, seeing how you can improve the code from the perspective of the overall product and business objectives at hand can be a great starting point, in terms of expanding on otherwise simple code.
Had an idea in a flash and thought of pinning it down as code for possible future use? While the prospect of writing code for such a purpose may seem productive, it can have the opposite effect instead. Any code written in the past, if taken into use in the future, may still need several iterations and even possibly a complete re-write, thereby creating double the effort in the process.
So as a rule-of-thumb, it’s best to write code only as and when it is required – instead of writing something in the hopes of using it one fine day. Also, think about what you can do with the time you use to write a complete set of codes; researching, conducting brainstorms, attending hackathons, or just learning something new in the software field can prove to be much more useful for yourself and your team in the long run. In fact, the arena of Agile development terms this as YAGNI (You Aren’t Gonna Need It), making it a relatively common best practice, as a result.
Although developing software is an important facet of the whole process, so is testing everything that has been built prior to implementation. While this isn’t necessarily breaking news, it is still imperative to harp on the necessity of quality testing, since this is what will eventually determine the overall quality of code. For this purpose, quality assurance engineers and software engineers often lock horns to fine-tune code, but it’s a necessary evil that can ultimately make or break the final set of deliverables that your client sees during and post implementation.
This is why testing your software for usability, bugs and the like is as important as building the software itself. Whether it’s basic unit testing or a fully-fledged beta testing that is looking for feedback to improve the next version, software testing is a field of expertise within the greater arena of software development. In short, if you have the resources to write thorough code, you also need to have resources in place to test the same code thoroughly too.
In a world where there are no rules per se when it comes to working as a programmer, guidelines that software engineers follow can always be up for debate by their fellow colleagues. No matter what the differences are, it is wise to keep in mind that everyone needs to be working towards a collective goal over here. The final software product is meant to achieve something, whether it’s a target of some sort or KPI. So no matter what is done by means of software design, development and testing, all operations need to facilitate these end goals in order to deliver the results the client was looking for in the first place.
That is why it is important to foster a culture that encourages thoughts, suggestions, feedback and opinions from team members, without being shunned or shot down for the same. In the absence of such a work environment, many are reluctant to speak up mainly for fear of being dismissed. This can negatively impact the quality of the final product, as a pool of varying opinions from members of equally varying seniority levels can provide much insight into the workings of the software being developed at hand. Therefore, providing constructive feedback to your colleagues in software development while also being open to the same from other team members can create positive impact in the quality of the final deliverables on a long-term, sustainable level.
Once you pass the initial phase of gathering information from the client, it is sensible to brainstorm not just a software design plan, but also do it within budget. Again, this requires feedback from the client, and letting them know what can be done and for how much is necessary to establish clear goals in the long run. This can be done by first suggesting a plan post the information gathering phase, and giving the client a ballpark amount for consideration. Based on whether they can accommodate your suggested budget or not, make necessary changes and agree to meet halfway in order to create a software product that matches their desired budget.
Thereafter, continuing to adhere to the budget when building and testing codes can be challenging, but can also help streamline work for you and the team. A set budget can give your team a clear idea of how much work needs to be done in order to accomplish the goals discussed, thereby quantifying the amount of effort needed in proportion to the budget available.
Software development is a field of expertise that is indispensable in this day and age, owing to the increased reliance on software products that we have on both a personal and commercial level. From routine instant messaging apps to sophisticated voice assistants, it’s safe to say that software has transformed our world for the better. Considering how intricate this field can be, there is no exact right or wrong when it comes to practicing software development, but adhering to a few best practices can make life all the more easier for programmers, especially if they are new to the field.
For example, keeping codes simple is a common but reliable way to be productive, along with comprehensive testing before the final product is put out into the market. Other than that, inculcating a sense of motivation within the team that makes each member provide constructive feedback, as well as sticking to a budget are great basic principles to keep in mind when building any form of software.