Should you invest in better code? When your developer asks for extra time to refactor code, should you listen—even if it disrupts your ideal timeline?
Yes, and yes.
It’s easy to understand that having good code is a positive thing. But for people who lack a tech background, it’s difficult to fully grasp the potential impact of faulty code, and just how code quality can affect your business.
Coding is incredibly abstract. Yet the basic logic behind why it matters is as straightforward as a simple construction metaphor.
If you build the ground floor out of wood, you probably don’t want to stack five floors made of concrete on top. If you do, you can imagine the result. It isn’t great.
A strong foundation is essential—in building a house, and, though perhaps less obviously, in software development.
Let’s get into what actually makes code good, and how it can cause a project’s success, or failure.
COMMON MISCONCEPTION: THE ONLY CONSUMER OF CODE IS A COMPUTER
A prevalent mindset is that code is fed to a computer, that computer translates the code into a product — a website, an application, etc. — and that as long as it works, doesn’t matter how you got there. It’s about the end result. Right?
Well, no. With code, this common and in many cases sound thought process doesn’t apply.
The quality of code has a significant impact on the end result, as well as on the entire development process—which includes future updates and changes that often can’t be predicted.
Coding is not a simple first step. It’s the complex base on which the final product is built. And it affects every single part of that product’s journey. This means that everything developers work with during the development process, and everything users see and experience when using the end product, is, in fact, the result of code.
WHY GOOD CODE MATTERS FOR THE END PRODUCT
As a user, recognizing good code means analyzing the quality of the product you’re using—whether that’s an app, a website or any digital tool or service.
The product aspects most influenced by code are accessibility, performance and functionality.
Having developers who know how to write good code affects how many users discover your app or website—and whether they can find it at all.
Ever used an app or visited a website that was too slow or had too many bugs? Probably, you have. If not, it’s most likely because your preferred search engine or app store efficiently filters out products of lower quality.
What does that mean?
An app that doesn’t meet certain standards or doesn’t comply with an app store’s guidelines will not be allowed in an app store. And when users search on mobile devices (which amounts to 60% of all searches), Google is able to suppress websites that aren’t optimized for mobile phones.
Performance / Bounce rate
It’s not enough to catch users’ attention. You have to retain that attention. Keep them entertained. Happy.
Statistics show that with websites, the highest bounce rate occurs in the first 10-15 seconds. Users decide whether they stay on or leave your website almost immediately. If they spend half of that timeframe waiting for the full content to load, or they see a malfunctioning animation pop up—you’ve most likely lost them.
DoubleClick found that publishers whose websites loaded within five seconds earned up to twice as much ad revenue as sites loading within 19 seconds. And what does the loading speed rely on more than anything else? Code.
Websites now have more features than ever before. Countless things can go wrong, and even a tiny glitch can have a big impact.
Based on an infographic by Global App Testing, 48% of users are less likely to use an app again if they’re disappointed with the app’s performance. And 88% of American users form negative opinions of brands if the brand has a poorly performing app.
The only way to keep things running smoothly is through impeccable code, created by a developer who has thought ahead.
WHY GOOD CODE MATTERS IN DEVELOPMENT
The development process is heavily dependant on code quality. Anyone working in the software field will confirm that having thoughtful, first-class code is a huge part of future success. Just as faulty code can lead to failure—immediately, or in the long run.
It may seem that a code’s job is done once a product hits the market. But that’s never the case.
New features & development time
Having well-structured code that is prepared for future extensions (new features) has a dramatic effect on the time needed to implement those features. But only experienced developers know how to build the proper extendable code, how to create a backdoor, etc.
In many ways, writing a strong codebase is like an investment. From a business owner’s point of view:
- If my team spends one extra week on writing automated tests, it will save us weeks of debugging every time we have to implement new features going forward.
- If we write code in a more complex, modular way, adding or modifying modules later can save weeks of work.
- If we take the time to ensure that the code reflects my business’ real-world use cases, I will never hit an unexpected major roadblock.
This brings us back to the construction analogy. A good foundation is crucial for everything that comes after it. And every new feature should function as a foundation for the next one.
Good code is designed to handle future features and extensions, even when those additions aren’t yet known or defined. That’s not an easy task. To do it right, developers need to understand a business top to bottom. This leads to a full grasp of possible use cases, and that comprehension is then reflected in the code and database architecture.
Data & security
Fewer tech issues usually mean fewer security mishaps.
Nowadays, IT security can cause the collapse of a company. Having a highly-capable engineering team that ensures all code is up to modern security standards is crucial.
It may seem like something can’t happen, but as the saying goes: “It’s not a problem until it’s a problem.” And in the case of IT security, you can never be too careful.
A relatively common issue is corrupted data. This stems from errors within the code, and it can lead to a partial or complete loss of that data. Data that isn’t lost becomes difficult or impossible to work with, data mining is out of the question and hard work that feels remarkably frustrating and endless is the only way to fix the situation.
Code can be reused. How much, and how often? That depends on how carefully it is written and how well-thought-out it is.
Reusing code leads to faster development time—by eliminating the need to write new code from scratch—and helps incredibly with the maintenance of existing code.
When writing code, reusability is not the goal. It’s the natural outcome. If a highly skilled developer focuses on what needs to be delivered, and on functionality and the required performance of the product, the way the code is written makes it inherently reusable.
Simply making sense
Development is about reading code just as much as it is about writing it. It’s also about understanding the code’s meaning, purpose and life cycle—something that can only be done if the code is structured properly, and is written by a skilled developer.
When code makes sense to not just the person writing it, but to any developers who see it, it’s incredibly beneficial to any business owner. Why?
- You can choose to work with different developers or companies at any time.
- When a developer implements new features, it’s not just about adding new code. It’s about reusing/modifying the existing one.
- New developers joining a project should be able to look at code and understand why it’s there and what purpose it serves, without needing someone to explain in detail.
A quick note, from personal experience: I’ve come across a few companies which had developers who they couldn’t fire because no one could understand the code except for them—the guys who wrote it. Not because the code was that advanced, but because the code was that terrible.
Good code makes money and saves time. Bad code does the opposite. No exceptions.
And if you’re scouring the internet hoping to figure out how to fix poorly written code—that’s an undertaking that only an experienced developer can face.