By Ronald Kouvelt
Posted on 2023-08-26T00:00:00.000Z

Maintaining Clean Code in a Growing Team

Learn the importance of clean code, spotting code rot, and best practices for a clean code culture. Strive for success with these key tips.


As a development team leader, keeping your codebase clean is crucial as the project and team grow over time. This gets harder as new members with diverse skills join. Building a culture that values clean code from the start helps ensure long-term success.

Why Keep Code Clean?

Imagine a junior developer new to clean code joins a team with clean, well-structured code. Their manager asks them to add a feature. They implement it quickly, but without clean code knowledge. Their messy code propagates as new developers mimic it. Each change gets costlier and riskier. The project becomes rigid, fragile, and hard to change.

This is like the "Broken Windows Theory" - leave problems unfixed and things deteriorate. In software, messy code causes entropy and can lead to losing control of the project.

Poor code's economic impact is huge - billions lost yearly.

Spotting Code Rot

Software is complex. Small issues can snowball when not addressed. Common problems include:

  1. Developer neglect. Cooperation and reviews are key. Nobody writes perfect code instantly.
    • It is essential to recognize that failed systems often result from human decisions rather than technical aspects. Neglecting responsibility can be the quickest way to derail a project. In software development, cooperation and communication are vital, but some may skip reviewing their work, leading to entropy. Embrace the reality that perfect code rarely emerges in one attempt. Collaboration and continuous improvement are key to success.
  2. Over-engineering simple solutions. This confuses readers without improving quality.
    • At times, developers aim to showcase their prowess by using complex and niche syntax, believing it makes them brilliant. However, overengineering simple solutions can confuse readers, harming code quality and maintainability. True genius lies in understanding the human aspect of software development and prioritizing clarity and maintainability over unnecessary complexity.
  3. Cryptic naming. Well-named functions and variables help understanding. Poor names require guessing.
    • Naming variables is a challenge in programming. Clear names make code easy to understand, while bad names lead to confusion. Using good naming conventions saves time and avoids arguments during code reviews. Prioritize readability for better code understanding.
  4. Duplication. Copy-pasted code must be updated in multiple places when requirements change. Use abstractions, despite the upfront cost.
    • Duplicating code seems tempting, but it can cause headaches in the future. When requirements change, updating multiple instances of copied code becomes a tedious task. Embrace abstractions, though challenging, to save time and effort in future maintenance. Prioritize long-term benefits.

Best Practices for Clean Code Culture

  1. Define clean code. Agree on standards, like SOLID and DRY principles.
  2. Code reviews. Reviewing each other's code improves quality and finds defects early. It's also a learning opportunity.
  3. Refactor regularly. Imperfect code happens, especially when rushed. Note areas needing improvement. Continuously refactor.
  4. Coding standards. Automate checking for standard violations, like with linters. Get quick feedback.
  5. Reward clean code. Recognize developers who consistently deliver clean code. This spreads positive culture.

How Much to Aim For?

Strive for clean code, but don't obsess over perfection. Weigh it against other factors like deadlines. Leave comments to refactor later if needed. Focus on adaptability for future changes. The right balance depends on the team and project.

In summary, build a culture valuing clean code for long-term success. Automate checks. Refactor continuously. Reward those advancing the culture. But know when to move forward with "good enough" code.