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Maintainability of a codebase – why is it important and how can it be improved?

rob0501 profile image rob0501 ・3 min read

When evaluating the success of a software product’s release, one can portray a codebase-maintainability-profitability domino effect. In order to ensure that the software product is of high quality and easily adaptable to change, the amount of financial effort needed to maintain a software system needs to be reduced to the minimum. Conversely, this effort should be concentrated on developing new features, beneficial for the profit of the business.

Living in a dynamic world where requirements of the software products are constantly changing to meet demands, DevOps need to be adapted and refined to keep pace with these changes. With most DevOps methodologies being agile, this means that more emphasis needs to be made on code quality. In short, maintainability showcases the degree of difficulty for a system to be corrected, adapted and improved in order to preserve the technical quality of the source code of a system.

When posing the question of why maintainability is so important, one should bear in mind two core variables: time and money. Firstly, high maintainable code represents a high degree of source code quality of the software product and better time-to-market ratio. Secondly, it requires less effort to find and fix bugs and more time to deploy new features. If software quality characteristics and requirements are respected in the software product development stage, the work of the developers can be effectively concentrated on spending their time on developing new code for new features.

Thus, having a high-quality maintainable codebase means less time spent by FTEs on technical debt and, consequently, more capital to invest on developing and releasing new features fit for the future. Considering that it is one of the main characteristics of software product quality, maintainability must be optimised in order to decrease costs and ensure sound adaptability of the product.

Ultimately, improving maintainability boils down to documentation, how the code is conceptually envisaged, written, named and adjusted with future developments.

Documentation:

First of all, maintainable code needs to be very well documented. Documentation doesn’t mean commenting LOC in the codebase, but having an organised and standardised manner of documenting current processes in the system, whilst also keeping it up-to-date with every design/feature change that the system encounters.

Simplicity:
Coding is a pragmatic example which illustrates that less is actually more. Short and simple code is the way to go, as maintainability is directly proportionate to the code that you write.

Meaningfully name your code:
When creating new units, naming is important. Avoid ambiguity and abbreviations. Units should be self-explanatory and be used as building blocks, just like LEGO.

Copy-paste is not a solution:
How can duplicates help in coding? They don’t. For every instance of CTRL-C and CTRL-V for any piece of code, the same amount needs to be invested in fixing/updating that piece of code. Code calls and dependencies on already existing code makes both code maintaining easier and keeping a point of reference to one single unit.

The architectural components must be adapted
Code bases tend to grow due to new development. New features and new requests are bound to be desired in any codebase. Keeping each component/module accountable for a single responsibility is key to adjust your code base appropriately. Having a monolith component is not ideal since there is no separation of concern amongst other components and it will be harder to identify where faults are.

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