Programming languages (as well as their frameworks and libraries) are essentially a set of tools that provide developers with a variety of options to either take their projects to new heights or make them flop. The difference lies in the coding skills, approaches, and practices. They set aside an engineering guru from an amateur coder.
Buying a car from the top manufacturer won’t help you win a rally without the right driving skills. The same holds true for development tools – even the best programming language can be highly inefficient without effectively using the best practices it provides.
How does PHP – a language used by 22.54% of professional coders – implement best practices, and what business advantages does it give you by doing so? Let’s find out!
Coding Best Practice: What Is It?
Coding best practices are a set of tools, methods, and rules used by software developers to make their code better and ultimately improve the overall quality of software. These practices serve as a constant source of truth for developers to refer to when building products.
Yes, your quality assurance team is not the only one responsible for your product’s quality. Everything boils down to the code – because that is the basis of all software. Ultimately, the better code your developers produce – the less work for QA engineers.
A good piece of code is:
- Doing what it should, based on requirements
- Secure and free of vulnerabilities
- Easily testable
- Easy to read and understand
- Consistently styled
In fact, these qualities play a significant role in how companies evaluate their performance. As per Coding Sans’ report, 25% of companies use code readability as one of their key performance metrics. Speed of development is valued by more than 20% of respondents. And approximately 20% of companies consider the number of bugs to measure the performance of their teams.
Having best practices in place early on makes these milestones easier to achieve. But that’s not the only advantage they provide.
What Are the Benefits of Best Practices?
- Consistency of code: There is a good chance your code will not be written by the same engineers throughout the product’s development. Change is inevitable; people are transferred to other projects or leave the company, you may hire new developers to add on a new feature. Code that is consistent across all platforms is easy to read, comprehend, and reproduce by different programmers working for you. So you’ll save time and effort on training, and your developers won’t have to answer tons of questions from the newly hired.
- Simpler maintenance: Since a code is readable, precise, and always up-to-date, it’s easier for engineers to take over its maintenance without relying on all developers who originally wrote it.
- Improved decision-making: In coding dilemmas, instead of racking their brains, your engineers will have a source of truth (aka your coding best practices and standards) to refer to.
- Cost- and time-saving: It will take much time for developers to make decisions, read each other’s differently-written code, rework the poor code, and maintain the legacy systems if there are no standards and best practices. Since time is money in software development, you lose cost as well.
- Improved project: A better code means fewer bugs, no hidden costs, and fewer unmet technical requirements. Likewise, there is no legacy, spaghetti, or boilerplate code – so there is no need for costly rework.
- Increasing competence of your team: If you expect your team to learn best practices, they will have to in order to keep pace with your demands. As a result, your engineers’ overall competency will improve. This will, however, require your input as well, such as conducting pieces of training, offering incentives to learn new procedures, and allocating developers time to study.
Setting up programming best practices is a good idea before you begin writing code for the project. Making a change in the middle is a long and time-consuming process, and it may not even be efficient. Worst case scenario (which is still very possible) – you will need to rewrite everything altogether from scratch.
As a result, when you discover at some point in the product development lifecycle that best practices will solve many of your problems, you’ll need to do twice as much work as planned.
What are the Examples of PHP Best Practices and Tools?
One of the most structured and coherent sources about the best PHP practices is “PHP the Right Way” Repository. We will talk about the most commonly-used ones and the principles they fulfill.
Principle #1: Focusing on clear coding
Easy-to-follow, readable code optimizes time and space. The following methods can be used to do this:
- Using proper naming conventions
- Separating blocks of code within a single section into paragraphs
- Avoiding long functions
- Using the DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) principle
- Avoiding long lines
PHP best practices improving the code clarity:
- Dependency Injection: a technique that reduces coupling between classes and their dependencies, removing a client’s knowledge of how those dependencies are implemented. Consequently, the code becomes more maintainable, testable, and reusable.
- Code Style Guide: a set of guidelines or rules aimed at helping programmers understand and read source code in a consistent way and avoid bugs.
- Design Patterns: a set of methods for solving problems that most often happen in software development. Developers can tailor each pattern to fit their specific code issues because it is basically a blueprint.
- Database abstraction layers: packages for communicating between computer applications and databases.
Principle #2: Making sure the code is testable
Despite being understandable and clear, your code can still be untestable. The untestable code makes life so much harder than it needed to be! And it may result in undetected bugs, issues, and errors.
And so here are the principles your team can follow to avoid it:
- DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) – eliminating redundancy by replacing repetitive software patterns with abstractions or by using data normalization.
- KISS (Keep It Sweet and Simple) – prioritizing simplicity when developing code and at all costs avoiding overcomplications.
PHP best practices improving the code testability:
- Test-driven development: The process of converting software requirements into test cases before the software is completed.
- Dependency injection: (read in the previous section)
Principle #3: Producing an easy-to-maintain code
Code that is maintainable means you can revisit it later to make some changes or reuse some parts of it without breaking everything down. If you plan to scale your development in the future, this is a crucial milestone.
Leaving comments, writing easy-to-modify code, consistently checking for errors, and, when possible, writing less code are the keys to maintainability.
PHP best practices that will help you produce maintainable code are dependency injection, design patterns, and database abstraction layers (that we have described above).
Principle #4: Make daily backups a habit
Code can be lost due to multiple factors (such as system crashes, dead batteries, software glitches, hardware damage, and internet breakdowns.) Make sure you save your code daily and after any significant change.
PHP best practices/tools that will help back up your info:
- Git: tool for tracking and managing changes to code.
- Automatization of databases backup
How Does SapientPro Ensure Best Practices Within Its PHP Teams?
At SapientPro, we educate our people about the best practices available and provide them with clear goals for learning them.
- Our developers share their knowledge and experiences (incl. those of best practices) every week during the presentation sessions.
- Additionally, we have created a Knowledge Evaluation Program, where best practices knowledge is stated as the prerequisites for developers to advance in their careers and increase their level of seniority.
- In addition, the heads of the back-end and front-end departments provide regular code reviews and encourage coders to develop their own pet projects.
From planning activities to the code our people write, we optimize everything we do every day. Using best practices is one of the best ways to accomplish this.
Are you looking for a team of skilled and experienced PHP developers to jump into your project? Reach out and we’ll schedule a meeting!