What is Smelly Code and Why Your Code May be Stinking Up the Room

Code Smells. Kind of a strange phrase, isn’t it? At least I thought so while perusing Professor Wurst’s concept diagram. I decided to look it up out of curiosity and found some interesting information on it.

Well, what exactly does it mean? In short, code smells is basically code, trends, patterns, etc. that indicate there may a be an underlying issue with the code that could cause issues later down the line and/or is already causing problems. Now, that doesn’t mean the “smelly” code will always cause problems. It could be there for a specific reason. Perhaps it has to handle an odd scenario or something similar, but the point of knowing what smelly code is to be able to determine where there my be common issues or bad habits. In his blog at codinghorror.com, Jeff Atwood dives into some signs of stinky code…

Going through his list, there are several that stuck out to me. The first couple involve length. Long methods are trouble for several reasons, but perhaps the most important is they can be hard to read and trouble shoot. Atwood mentions that methods that are significantly longer that the rest of the methods in the class/program are often trouble and it is a good idea to break it into smaller methods if possible. He also mentions lengthy parameter lists. The more parameters, the longer and more complex the method is going to be. I have to say I agree with both of these. Nothing is worse than trying to read through an endless block of code. Items can get lost and users can easily get confused or lost while trying to decrypt what is going on.

Next on the list are “oddball solutions”. If there is a problem that needs to be solved multiple times, there should only be one way of getting to that solution within the code. There may be multiple ways to get to an answer (i.e. 5*1 = 5 and 1*5 = 5), but the way of getting to the answer should be consistent throughout your code. I agree with his thoughts here. Seeing two different equations to get to one solution could certainly confuse the reader. Not to mention that if the process is the same it should probably just be put into a method anyhow.

Last on the list this week are temporary fields. Make sure that all the fields are actually needed. Unnecessary fields can cause, you guessed it, confusion. The user may think they are needed for some reason and may deem the program to not work properly or something similar. Not to mention that fields that need to be filled out each time the program is run can be extremely annoying while trying to test, so you are doing yourself a favor by keeping the number of fields down as well.

Since I have found this blog particularly useful and insightful, I plan to continue with a part two next week, so stay tuned.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s