By December 2, 2019

Quality Begins With Code: 10 Ways to Reduce Software Bugs

Software bugs are the plague of any software programmer, regardless of how skilled they are.

It’s well-known among programmers that bugs come from complex interactions. From messy code to inadequate testing, we know why bugs happen, but how can we reduce them? 

It’s impossible to prevent bugs in your code altogether—nobody’s perfect! But there are a few simple steps you can take to decrease the number of bugs that appear in your code.

We have tested thousands of apps for customers and found that these programming practices can reduce software bugs in production. Here are our 10 best practices you can use to avoid pesky bugs when developing software. 

1. Create Testable Code

Make sure you see your test fail at least once. This is the key concept of test-driven development.  Write code first that will, inevitably, fail a test. Then write code to pass the test. Then repeat. 

This will ensure that you have testable code and will put quality assurance (QA) at the forefront of your development process. By starting your project with a focus on testability, you can reduce the number of bugs that could have appeared further down the line. 

2. Keep It Simple

Complex code is destined to lead to bugs, and it is also much more challenging to test. Your code should only do what it needs to do; anything else is just a distraction. 

Avoid using huge code commits. Instead, use concise, smaller code commits that are readable, clearer and easier to unit test. Remember that simple code leads to fewer bugs, and less time needed to fix them. Delete code you don’t need, and definitely don’t spend time writing complex code that isn’t necessary.

3. Split up Your Code

Think about splitting up your code into independent modules. By modularizing code into separate files, you can test each piece of code independently. 

This modularity will make your code less complicated and more straightforward to test. It’s all about making things as simple as possible.

4. Don’t Use Comments as a Band-Aid

Keep your code comments as clear and concise as possible, and don’t depend on code comments to solve poor readability of your code. This practice will not only be helpful to you, but also to other developers down the line. 

You can use code comments to flag factors that may be potential issues to developers. But more issues will arise if your code is messy and accompanied by long code comments attempting to cover up for the confusing code. Remember to use a clear structure and write clear comments. 

Overall, only ever add comments that provide real value.

5. Take Compiler Warnings Into Account

Don’t ignore compiler warnings. These warnings indicate issues that may lead to bugs in your code. 

While some warnings might not actually identify software bugs, by keeping an eye on these warnings, you can ensure that potential problems are stopped before they become critical issues.

6. Test Your Code … Regularly

Test, test, and test again! By testing at multiple stages in your pipeline, you can catch bugs early and fix them more easily than if they were found in the later stages of development.

Component test code commits throughout your programming process by hot reloading and reviewing your code in watch mode. If this sounds too time-consuming, think about automating the process to speed it up. What may seem like an extra step in an already lengthy development process could save you from bugs in the long term.

7. Take Your Time

If your team works under intense pressure to release code by unrealistic deadlines, you are more likely to make mistakes. Rushing for a release and cutting corners could create larger issues for the program and the company. 

Take your time to ensure that best practices are put in place, and you will avoid costly and time-consuming mistakes later in the process. Your work is vital, so don’t let it be cut short.

8. Implement Coding Standards

This is important. Effective coding standards help to standardize code development and provide a clear guide on how certain issues should be approached. By implementing these standards, you can avoid common pitfalls that can lead to tricky bugs. 

Some companies may prefer one style of coding over another, and some projects may also have their independent coding standards. Therefore, it’s important to follow coding standards rigorously.

9. Use Existing Libraries

If you have tried and tested code in your possession that replicates the function you’re looking for, use it. This will save you time and reduce the risk of bugs. 

It makes perfect sense to use existing libraries, so don’t be afraid to do so—you’re not cutting corners!

10. Use Rubber Ducky Testing

This one is old-school, but it gets results. Review your code line by line and read it to your metaphorical (or physical) rubber ducky to make sure that your code is clear, concise, and easy for any developer to understand. 

In certain scenarios, pair programming can similarly ensure that your code isn’t too complex. With two brains working on the code instead of one, this can—where appropriate—reduce the possibility of bugs resulting from complexity. 

By making code review a serious part of your development process, you can find potential hidden bugs before they go to test. 

Put Quality Code First

Implementing these best practices at every stage of your development process will help reduce bugs further down the line. 

Remember the Boy Scout rule: Leave wherever you are in better condition than when you arrived. When you go into a piece of code, take these best practices into account and do your best to improve it. This won’t prevent bugs altogether, but it will help your development team to reduce them. 

We know that however rigorous your QA process is in the development stages, some software bugs can slip through the net. But by putting quality at the forefront of your mind when writing code, you can make actionable changes that will reduce them.

About the author

Fahim Sachedina

Fahim is a Quality Consultant at Global App Testing. He’s interested in the potential of AI, machine learning and how exponential technology will shape our world.