15 Bad coding practices you should avoid

15 Bad coding practices you should avoid

Good coding practices are the bedrock of software engineering. They ensure not only that your code works as expected but also that it remains maintainable, scalable, and robust. While many developers recognize the significance of good practices, some still fall into the trap of bad habits. This article dives deep into some of these detrimental practices, aiming to shed light on their drawbacks and suggesting alternatives.

1. Hardcoding Values

Hardcoding is the practice of embedding data directly into your code rather than using variables or constants. While it might seem convenient initially, hardcoding values can make the code rigid, difficult to maintain, and prone to errors.

Hardcoded Passwords and Security

One of the most perilous examples is hardcoding passwords. This is a glaring security risk, making the application susceptible to breaches. If the code is ever exposed or shared, so are your passwords. Moreover, changing these passwords would require a code change, which isn’t efficient.

Using Configuration Files and Environment Variables

Instead of hardcoding, utilize configuration files or environment variables. These allow for a centralized place to manage settings, making them easily configurable without altering the main codebase. For instance, using .env files in a Node.js environment with the dotenv package can efficiently manage such values.

2. Not Following Naming Conventions

Descriptive and consistent naming in code is crucial. It enhances code readability, making it easier for developers to understand the purpose of variables, functions, and classes at a glance.

Poor Naming Choices vs. Recommended Naming

Imagine a variable named a1. Without context, it’s hard to determine its purpose. A more descriptive name like userAge instantly clarifies its role. Adopt conventions like camelCase for variables and PascalCase for classes. Avoid cryptic abbreviations and ensure consistency across your codebase.

3. Neglecting Code Comments and Documentation

While code should be self-explanatory, comments and documentation bridge the gap between clean code and absolute clarity.

Importance of Commenting

Comments are essential for explaining the why, not just the how. They offer context, making the codebase more comprehensible for others or even for the same developer revisiting the code after a while.

The Right Way to Document

Excessive commenting can clutter the code. Instead, focus on documenting complex algorithms, decisions that might seem non-intuitive, and public APIs. Tools like JSDoc or Doxygen can assist in generating comprehensive documentation from comments.

4. Writing Long Functions or Classes

Monolithic designs, characterized by lengthy functions or classes, make the code less readable, maintainable, and testable.

Problems with Monolithic Design

Long functions often handle multiple tasks, violating the Single Responsibility Principle. They’re harder to debug, test, and understand.

The Single-responsibility Principle

Each function or class should have one reason to change. By ensuring that a function addresses only a singular task, you increase its clarity and decrease potential error points. Refactor lengthy functions into smaller, more focused ones.

5. Ignoring Error Handling

Programming is as much about handling failures as successes. Ignoring errors can lead to unpredictable behaviors.

Ignoring Returned Errors or Exceptions

Silencing errors or exceptions, like using empty catch blocks, makes it harder to debug issues. An unhandled error could cascade, causing widespread problems.

Graceful Degradation and Recovery

Instead of merely logging errors, aim for graceful degradation. Ensure that the application can still function, albeit in a limited capacity, even when certain components fail. Implement recovery strategies and provide informative feedback to the user.

6. Using Global Variables Excessively

Global variables are accessible throughout the code, making them tempting to use for shared data. However, they can introduce unpredictability.

Dangers of Global State

Since any part of the code can modify global variables, tracing changes becomes complex. This can lead to unintended side effects and bugs that are hard to pinpoint.

Favoring Local Scope

Encapsulate variables within the context they’re used. If multiple functions require access, consider passing them as arguments or utilizing class properties. Frameworks and design patterns like Modules in JavaScript can assist in managing scope effectively.

7. Not Optimizing Code

While optimization is crucial, striking a balance is key. Over-optimization can complicate the code unnecessarily.

The Pitfalls of Premature Optimization

Donald Knuth famously said, “Premature optimization is the root of all evil.” Focusing on micro-optimizations early on can detract from developing a working solution. Moreover, without profiling, you might not address the real bottlenecks.

The Need for Efficient Algorithms

Instead of early micro-optimizations, focus on using efficient algorithms and data structures. These foundational choices often have a more significant impact on performance. Once the application is functional, profile it to identify and address specific bottlenecks.

In conclusion, avoiding these common pitfalls can greatly improve the quality of your code. Remember, coding is as much an art as a science. With the right practices, tools, and continuous learning, especially on platforms like codedamn, you can craft efficient, maintainable, and robust software.

8. Copy-Pasting Code

We’ve all been there: up against a deadline, not sure how to solve a problem, and a quick Google search presents a solution that seems to fit. It can be tempting to just copy-paste the code and move on. However, blindly copying and pasting code without understanding it can lead to several problems.

Dangers of Copy-Paste Coding

  1. Lack of Understanding: You might be introducing code that you don’t comprehend, leading to potential errors when you need to modify it.
  2. License Issues: Not all code found online can be freely used in projects. You may inadvertently violate copyrights or licenses.
  3. Hidden Bugs: The copied code might have bugs or vulnerabilities that you’re unaware of.

The “DRY” Principle

“Don’t Repeat Yourself” (DRY) is a software development principle aimed at reducing repetition. While copy-pasting can seem like a violation of DRY, the core idea is to understand and have reusable components rather than blindly duplicating code.

9. Skipping Code Reviews

Code reviews, or peer reviews, are crucial for maintaining a high quality of code in any project. They offer an opportunity for team members to check each other’s work and catch issues early.

Benefits of Peer Code Reviews

  1. Catching Mistakes Early: Even experienced developers make mistakes.
  2. Knowledge Sharing: It’s a chance for team members to learn from each other.
  3. Consistency: Helps maintain a consistent codebase, making it easier for anyone to jump into the project.

Risks of Unreviewed Code

  1. Undetected Bugs: Bugs can make it to production, affecting users.
  2. Lower Code Quality: Without reviews, code quality can deteriorate over time.

10. Avoiding Testing

Both manual and automated testing play an integral role in software development. Relying too much on one can leave gaps in your testing coverage.

Importance of Different Testing Types

  • Manual Testing: Essential for usability and exploring different use-cases.
  • Automated Testing: Ensures that existing features work as expected after changes.

Pitfalls of Not Testing

Skipping tests can result in undetected bugs, increased technical debt, and a loss of trust with users.

11. Not Considering Security

Security should never be an afterthought in development.

Common Security Pitfalls: SQLi, XSS, etc.

  1. SQL Injection (SQLi): Occurs when an attacker can insert malicious SQL code.
  2. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS): Attackers inject malicious scripts into web pages viewed by other users.

Secure Coding Practices

  • Validate all inputs.
  • Use parameterized queries.
  • Keep software and libraries updated.

12. Using Outdated Libraries and Tools

Keeping your tools up-to-date is crucial for both functionality and security.

Risks of Outdated Dependencies

  • Security Vulnerabilities: Older versions might be susceptible to attacks.
  • Compatibility Issues: Outdated libraries might not be compatible with newer software or systems.

Keeping Updated

Regularly review and update your dependencies. Platforms like Dependabot can help automate this.

13. Tight Coupling

When components in software are dependent on each other, making changes can become a herculean task.

Benefits of Decoupled Design

  • Easier maintenance.
  • Improved scalability.
  • Better reusability of code.

14. Not Adhering to a Coding Standard

Coding standards ensure readability and consistency.

What are Coding Standards?

They are a set of guidelines for writing code, which can cover naming conventions, comment styles, etc.

Benefits of Standardized Code

  • Improved code readability.
  • Easier team collaboration.

15. Not Version Controlling Code

Version control systems track changes and help manage multiple versions of a project.

Importance of Git and Similar Tools

  • Track changes.
  • Collaborate with others.
  • Revert to previous states.

Risks of Not Tracking Changes

  • Lost work.
  • Overwriting others’ code.


While everyone can fall into the trap of bad coding practices, being aware and actively avoiding them ensures a smoother development process, better code quality, and ultimately, successful projects.

Further Reading & Resources

  • Books: “Clean Code” by Robert C. Martin, “The Pragmatic Programmer” by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas.
  • Tutorials: MDN Web Docs for official documentation on web technologies.

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