Web development for humans

Long time coming: A post about coding style and the development of a developer. Pretty meta, I know :)

We should code for humans first. The computer is pretty good at complaining when it can’t understand something. But unfortunately, there is no parser error when a human doesn’t understand your code. The WTFs per minute does not matter for the compiler, after all, the code works ™.

Image courtesy of http://www.osnews.com/comics

But as we all know, there are big differences in the way we code. There are probably as many ways to write a piece of software as there are programmers multiplied by the number of programming languages (and probably some more). But which way is the desired one, which one should you aim at?

I would say the answer to this question is: none. Because there is not a single way which is superior to code. There is only a path to improve. If you read your own code from a year ago you should see what you would do differently. You should see how you improved. This does not mean you’re a bad coder. In fact, if you wouldn’t see anything you could improve it would mean that you didn’t learn a lot in the last year.

But being on a path also means to be constantly evaluating the direction you’re heading. The good thing is, that basically moving on the path is the thing which makes you a good programmer. You stop being a good coder when you stop moving, regardless of the position you’re at.

Now having a plan where you’re heading is always a good thing. And coming back to the blog post title I think you should aim to write your code for humans.

The practical impacts of this decision are to put the readability and therefore the maintainability first. If you start to go in this direction you often find that your code is too complicated. You start to realize that 15 classes for just fetching some answers from a HTTP-API is too much. You start to realize that it is not always good to abstract something if you do not need the abstraction. If the reader or user of your code does not have to get all your smart abstractions to find out what the code does, why not save the hassle for her?

I realized that often more “straight forward” code is better readable. It may not be as beautiful and as easely extendable as other code, but it sure is better maintainable. And the longer I work in this business the more I tend to put more weight on the maintainability side. As stated above: This does not mean you should not use abstractions. They help a lot. But if you think about that poor guy which has to maintain your code, maybe you do one abstraction less and one thing more explicit. <bold statement>You will write more maintainable code. And therefore better code. </bold statement>.