Software Development Best Practices 

Developing and maintaining a software program is a complex process that requires a talented and knowledgeable team. Implementing software development best practices across your organization makes the process more efficient. 

Using these best practices keeps your entire development team on the same page to reduce back-and-forth and deliver better results for your stakeholders. Here are some key software development practices to implement across your organization. 

Choose the right application framework

Before you start the development process, your team must choose an application framework that fits your needs. An application framework is a tool that facilitates development by creating a digital environment in which you’ll create your software program. 

When you use an application framework, you don’t have to spend extra time building a work environment – you can just jump straight into development. Application frameworks also come with various helpful tools to speed up time-consuming processes. 

Many different application frameworks are available, and the right one for your team will depend on your project type. For example, if you’re programming in Python, you might use Django or Flask, but if you’re using PHP, you might use Laravel, CakePHP, Yii, or Symfony.

Plan and document your project from start to finish

Before you start coding, you must plan your project thoroughly with your entire team and key stakeholders. Not only does this give you a roadmap for the rest of the project, but it also gives everyone involved an opportunity to ask crucial questions and share their thoughts. This planning will reduce miscommunications and minimize the need for revisions later on. 

Implementing a software development methodology during planning is a very efficient way to structure your work. These methodologies specify which tasks you’ll complete and the order you’ll complete them in, as well as best practices for communication and testing. 

Waterfall is the most traditional software development methodology, but agile methodology has become more popular in recent years. DevOps is another popular approach that builds on the agile practices to facilitate continuous deployment. 

Keep your code simple and clean

When working in a team, it’s important to make collaboration as smooth and efficient as possible. The best way to do this in software development is by writing simple, clean code that’s easy for other developers to understand. 

Straightforward code is the easiest to test and improve throughout the development process. It’s also easier to reuse your code for different applications if it’s straightforward. 

Developers must also document and comment on their code as they work. Detailed comments provide important context for your developers and anyone who may revisit the code later.

It’s also helpful for developers to follow appropriate style guides and naming conventions for the programming language they’re working in. While not technically necessary, following these guides make the code easier for everyone to work with. 

Don’t write code you don’t need

You’ll need to be as efficient as possible while you work since software development requires strict timelines. It can be tempting to write code for future applications while you’re working, but the reality is that you’re unlikely to use it, and this will only slow you down. 

This forward-thinking is often called the YAGNI principle, which means “you ain’t gonna need it.” Writing code for the future is usually pointless, as software changes so often that the code may not even work by the time you’d want to use it. Breaking your project down into small pieces of code helps you focus purely on the code you need. 

Don’t repeat yourself

Another oft-cited best practice for software developers is don’t repeat yourself or DRY. This means avoiding writing multiple pieces of code for the same function within your application. Having two versions of code for the same concept will cause conflict within the program and ultimately waste your time.  

This doesn’t mean never duplicate code – you can use repeat lines of code for different functions when possible for efficiency. However, you’ll want to ensure each piece of code correlates with an individual function or business process within your app.

Always keep data governance in mind. 

Today’s developers often have access to huge volumes of data and collect even more with the programs they build. Storing and implementing this data ethically and efficiently is crucial to your organization’s success and reputation. 

Whenever you’re working with consumer data, you should have governance steps in place to verify the quality of the data and ensure you have the appropriate permission to use it. Consider working with a data governance specialist if you’re using particularly sensitive data or unsure where to start with governance procedures. 

It’s also important to know industry-specific compliance regulations when developing your app. For example, certain industries, such as healthcare, finance, and defense, have strict customer data regulations. 

Test all of your code frequently

Frequent testing will help you identify problems with your code as you work so you can fix them more efficiently. You should write your unit tests before you start coding. 

This testing makes testing easier and forces you to define what type of code you’re writing and what it will do ahead of time, providing the necessary structure for your code to help you stay focused.

Make sure to test for as many scenarios as possible. Your tests should account for various inputs and potential failures, not just an ideal scenario. Testing your code for multiple scenarios will allow you to correct problems before the software launches rather than scrambling to address them later. 

Write small units of code to facilitate testing

Since you’ll need to test your code frequently as you’re working, writing code in small sections is best. Smaller sections are much easier to test than large sections and will help you identify problems faster. In addition, when you find a problem in a small section of code, you can be sure that the issue is within that module rather than being negatively affected by another program component. 

Avoid writing code that requires a large mock-up to test. The testing process should be as efficient as possible, so this extra time will likely just detail your process. 

Capitalize your software costs

Software development affects all departments in your organization, not just your immediate team of devs and engineers working on the project. For example, your accounting team will need to consider the cost of internal software development when managing the books. 

Software development costs for internal projects should be capitalized rather than expensed. This capitalization means the software is recorded as a fixed asset. 

To capitalize your software programs, they must meet certain GAAP criteria. This criterion is only appropriate for software you use internally throughout its lifespan. If you plan to market and sell your software program to customers eventually, you won’t be able to capitalize the costs. 

Monetize your internal tools when possible

Many development teams create innovative internal tools with huge potential but opt to keep them for internal use. However, if you have a strong program with applications beyond your organization, consider monetizing it by selling it to others in your industry who could benefit. 

Of course, you’ll need to consider the pros and cons of this approach before committing to monetization. If you decide to monetize your internal tools, you won’t be able to capitalize them during the accounting process. 

You’ll also need to figure out where your tools fit into the current market and how you will market them. Upkeep also looks different for external tools compared to internal tools, so it’s important to ensure your team has the time and resources to handle it. 

To successfully monetize your tools, they’ll need to provide unique functionality or offer some other differentiator that fills a hole in the market. You’ll also need the right sales and marketing expertise to ensure your target customers find the tools you create. 

Don’t fall for “analysis paralysis.” 

Analysis paralysis happens when either an individual developer or an entire development team gets stuck overthinking and cannot make a decision. While analysis paralysis can happen to anyone in any field, it is particularly devastating for software developers who must meet tight deadlines. 

These looming deadlines are another reason why it is so important to break your code up into small sections. It’s much easier to tackle a small part of the project than the entire thing. 

It’s also important to remember that even if you make the wrong decision, you can always correct it. If you’re so unsure of what to do that you’re not making progress, start with your gut on a small decision to get the project moving again. 

Use version control when working with multiple developers

Version control is essential when working with a team of developers. Version control tools like GitHub allow multiple developers to work on the same project simultaneously without accidentally changing someone else’s code. 

Good collaboration is essential to the software development process. Implementing version control prevents confusion and conflict on your team and keeps the process running smoothly. For remote teams, version control is often the only way to collaborate effectively without working together in the same room. 

Version control also makes it easy to fix coding mistakes. When a mistake happens, you can use version control to switch back to a previous iteration of the code quickly. Additionally, you’ll see exactly who’s coding what so developers can take ownership of their work. 

On top of that, version control is also important for data recovery. Since these tools save every version of your work, you can easily revert to a past version if your current version is compromised. Of course, you’ll want to ensure that your version control tool takes appropriate cybersecurity measures to protect your data. 

Conduct regular code reviews

While creating a quality app on your own is certainly possible, it’s very difficult. Everyone has their blind spots and weaknesses in coding, so it helps to work in groups and implement code reviews as necessary. 

Code reviews help your developers stick to software development best practices and catch mistakes they might need to identify independently. 

Additionally, it allows your team members to learn from each other. Everyone has their own unique skills and knowledge bases, so working in groups will only help everyone improve. 

Don’t launch too many new features at once

After you’ve launched your software program, it might be tempting to keep adding new features to maximize functionality. However, launching several new features quickly might cause more problems than it is worth. 

Every time you add a new feature, it will require testing, bug fixes, and ongoing maintenance. Therefore, you must ensure adequate time to develop and maintain the features before committing to them. 

Build time into your schedule to work on “tech debt.” 

It’s normal for software development teams to build up tech debt over time. This tech debt happens when teams write code the quickest way possible to meet deadlines but plan to refactor it later on. 

While a certain amount of tech debt is unavoidable, you must add some time to your schedule to control it. Refactoring your code is essential to improving your app’s performance. If you don’t take the time to refactor code, you’ll end up with bugs and other issues later on, which take even more time to fix. 

Final Thoughts

Implementing these best practices into your software development process will not only help your team work more efficiently and improve the quality of your code. Additionally, these best practices make team collaboration easier and more enjoyable. 

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