5 software development best practices you need to know

11 min read
June 28, 2024

Bugs, poor-quality code, broken deadlines, and ultimately a failed product – that’s what happens if you don’t get the best out of your software development team.

If you’re a startup founder, this can kill your product’s chances of success before it even gets off the ground.

And if you’re running an enterprise-level project, it can ruin your brand’s reputation and help your competitors overtake you.

So, how can you prevent this from happening?

We’ve got the answer – we’ll discuss the top 5 software development best practices you should follow.

Let’s dive in!

Software development best practices

Here, we’ll cover each best practice in detail, discuss why it’s important, and how to achieve it.

Be Agile

How you approach software development can be more important than what you’re building.

And being Agile, i.e. using Agile methodologies, is the way to go if you want development to be successful.

These aren’t just empty words, either – on average, Agile projects are 28% more successful than projects using traditional methodologies.

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But, why is that?

One major reason are the core Agile values outlined in the Agile manifesto:

4 Agile values

Agile methodologies focus on adaptability, collaboration, and speed.

So, they not only allow you to build software faster but also help you adapt to any unexpected changes mid-development.

Take Scrum, for example.

Scrum divides your development cycle into smaller (2-4 week) iterations called sprints.

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Each sprint is like a mini development cycle, starting with planning all the way through to launch.

This iterative approach not only helps your team build software faster but also makes it easier to pivot mid-development.

And that’s why being Agile is a must if you’re building a software product in a competitive market.

Why being Agile is important

  • Reduces risk – frequent iterations and continuous feedback from users and stakeholders are key to being Agile and both help you identify and mitigate risks early in the development process
  • Improves software quality – Agile methodologies integrate testing and QA at every stage of development, so any bugs and issues are solved as soon as they happen which improves the quality of your software
  • Flexibility – Agile methodologies are designed to be flexible and allow teams to adapt quickly to changes mid-development, which especially useful if you’re building a product in a competitive market

How to be Agile

  • Deliver in iterations – to be Agile, you need to break down your project into smaller, manageable tasks and deliver them in iterations or sprints, depending on your methodology of choice
  • Give your team autonomy – if you want them to truly be Agile, your team needs to be able to make decisions and solve problems independently without unnecessary interference from management
  • Use Agile project management tools – Project management tools like Jira and Asana support Agile methodologies and make managing tasks and projects easier

Follow the best coding standards

Following the best coding standards in software development is non-negotiable for successful development.

But, what does that mean, exactly?

Coding standards are a set of guidelines and best practices a software development team follows to ensure your code is high-quality, readable, and maintainable.

They are usually language-specific and cover things like naming conventions, code structure, and documentation.

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Some of the most popular coding standards and style guides out there are:

Of course, these just cover the basics but they’re a great starting point if you don’t have established standards already.

They’re not set in stone, so you can easily adjust them depending on the type of software you’re building and your team’s specific needs.

If your team follows them, they’ll write cleaner, more consistent code.

And that’s the secret to high-quality software.

Why coding standards are important

  • They ensure consistency – well-defined coding standards and guidelines will ensure your code is uniform and consistent, which makes it easier for the whole team to read and understand it
  • Improved readability – the best coding standards emphasize code readability, i.e. writing clear and consistent code and that makes onboarding new engineers much easier
  • Reduced coding errors – having clear coding standards will help your team more easily catch common coding errors, which will improve your software’s quality

How to implement coding standards

  • Use established standards – you should use established standards like PEP 8 or Google’s Java Style Guide to make implementing coding standards easier before making your own product or project-specific guidelines
  • Use code linters and formatters – code linting and formatting tools like ESLint and Black check your code for common programmatic and stylistic errors
  • Document guidelines – you should create an in-depth guide covering your coding standards and best practices which your team can consult at any time

Set up code reviews

Setting up code reviews is one of the most important things you need to do if you want to develop high-quality software.

They’re one of the best ways to maintain high code quality standards and continuously improve your product.

So, what exactly is a code review?

Code reviews are a collaborative process in software development where 1 or more engineers look over and evaluate another team member’s code.

There are a number of different types of code reviews:

Types of code review

So, code reviews can be both informal and spontaneous as well as a structured and regularly scheduled process.

But, to make the most out of them, they should be a regular part of your team’s workflow.

This way, your team will have regular opportunities to hone their skills and have an easier time maintaining code quality standards.

Here’s another tip – you should also encourage your team to self-review.

It’s a great way to make your engineers think about the code they’ve written and how they can improve it before pushing it into production.

Our Android team lead, Ivan Trogrlic, spoke about why self-reviewing is important and how to do it when he last joined us on The Roadmap:

So, to sum up, code reviews help your team build high-quality software and continuously improve.

And that’s why they should be an essential part of your development process.

Why code reviews are important

  • Improved code quality – code reviews will help your team catch bugs and issues early, which will improve the quality of their code and your product
  • They promote consistency – if your team regularly does regular code reviews, it will help you maintain consistency in coding standards and practices
  • They boost collaboration – code reviews are inherently collaborative and will help your team work better and more efficiently

How to set up code reviews

  • Use code review tools – version control tools like Github and Bitbucket are also a great option for code reviews and using them will make the review process faster and easier
  • Create a review checklist – make sure your team has a checklist of key points to review (e.g. readability and maintainability) to standardize the review process 
  • Schedule regular reviews – code reviews should be a standard part of your development team’s workflow and they should happen on a predictable schedule

Set up automated testing

Strict testing and quality assurance (QA) protocols are key to successful software development.

Poor software quality costs U.S. companies $2.42 trillion every year, so investing in QA can save you a lot of money.

And setting up automated testing is a key to creating a successful and effective testing strategy.

Like the name suggests, automated testing means that tests are run automatically by a tool instead of manually by your QA engineers.

There are plenty of automation testing tools on the market, like:

And it’s not just a fad, either – automated testing comes with a lot of benefits:

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But, by far the most important benefit you need to know is that automated testing saves time – and time is money, after all.

With automated testing, your QA team will be much more efficient and will catch and fix bugs faster.

This will speed up your entire development process and get your product to market faster.

And that’s exactly what you should be looking for.

Why automated testing is important

  • Saves time – automated tests run faster and are easier to manage than manual tests, which will allow your QA team to focus their efforts and resources on more complex tasks
  • Ensures consistent results – automated tests perform the same operations every time, so their results are always consistent
  • Reduces human error – automated testing minimizes the risk of human error impacting testing results

How to set up automated testing

  • Choose the right tools first – you need to pick the right tools, like Selenium (for web apps) or Appium (for mobile apps), that work well with your tech stack
  • Start with unit tests – start by automating simpler tests, like unit tests, before scaling up and automating more complex types of tests
  • Integrate with your CI/CD pipeline – make sure that your automated tests are a part of your CI/CD pipeline to catch any issues as soon as they happen

Promote product-minded development

Promoting product-minded development is the best way to take your software development to the next level.

But, what does that mean exactly?

Product-minded development means that your engineers think beyond the code and also understand user needs and business goals.

In other words, it’s when they’re not just task-doers and code monkeys, but actually understand what your product is about.

Product-minded developers understand the domain they’re working in and are better aligned with your business goals. This means they can see inconsistencies in your product and suggest improvements, so they make better decisions when coding.
Boris Plavljanic
Product Manager at DECODE

But, to get there, you’ll need to train your team and involve them more deeply in product planning.

Still, it’s worth it because they’ll understand why they’re building your product and not just how to build it.

This will help them get better at what they do and improve their decision-making.

And that’s exactly what you should want.

Why promoting product-minded development is important

  • Improves efficiency – if your engineers understand the broader context of the software they’re building, they’ll be able to make informed decisions during development and work more efficiently
  • Improves your product’s UX – engineers who understand user needs will be able to more easily build features that actually meet those needs, which will improve your product’s UX
  • Aligns development with business goals – promoting product-minded development will ensure your team understands your business goals and that your development efforts are in line with them

How to promote product-minded development

  • Train your development team – make sure to explain your product’s vision and your business goals to your team, so they can understand the bigger picture and how their work fits in
  • Involve engineers in product planning – your engineers should be involved in product planning and roadmap discussions so that they not only have a voice in the decision-making process but also understand your product better
  • Create cross-functional teams – cross-functional teams that include engineers, designers, product managers etc. are an absolute must for product-minded development

Software development best practices: FAQs

To find developers who aren’t just code monkeys, you need to hire the right software product development company.

And to do that, you should:

  • Review their case studies and expertise
  • Review their development process
  • Evaluate their tech stack
  • Check their reviews
  • Look into their pricing

All of these steps will help you find a company that’s the right fit for your project and that can deliver value beyond just writing code.

Now, there’s no simple answer to this question.

That’s because your choice of development methodology depends on a number of factors, from your product’s requirements to your team’s expertise and size.

And there are a number of Agile methodologies to choose from, like:

  • Scrum
  • Kanban
  • Lean Software Development
  • Extreme Programming (XP)
  • Feature-Driven Development (FDD)

But, in our view, Scrum is the best choice for most teams and the stats back that up, too – 81% of Agile teams use Scrum or a Scrum hybrid.

Need a software development team?

Do you have an amazing idea but don’t have the team to build it? Or are you sick of depending on unreliable vendors who can’t get anything done on time?

Well, you’re in the right place.

We can give you a dedicated team that will help you flesh out and validate your idea and then build your product from the ground up.

And if you just need to plug some skills in your existing team, we’ve got you covered, too.

If you want to learn more, feel free to reach out and we’ll set up a quick call to discuss how we can help you in more detail.

Written by

Toni Vujevic

React Native Team Lead

Skilled in React Native, iOS and backend, Toni has a demonstrated knowledge of the information technology and services industry, with plenty of hands-on experience to back it up. He’s also an experienced Cloud engineer in Amazon Web Services (AWS), passionate about leveraging cloud technologies to improve the agility and efficiency of businesses. One of Toni’s most special traits is his talent for online shopping. In fact, our delivery guy is convinced that ‘Toni Vujević’ is a pseudonym for all DECODErs.

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