Setting Coding Standards in a Software Project

The purpose of setting a coding standard is to maintain consistency and regularity of habit among the software developers. A coding convention allows the development and establishment of common practices and allows reading, checking and maintenance of code that have been written by various programmers with much ease. The coding standard helps to identify and classify an accepted technique or model and establish uniformity in coding practices. Below lists some of the benefits of setting coding standards in a project.

Benefit of Setting Coding Standards in Project

  • Allows the programmer to revisit any code thereby making it easy to understand the head and tail of the codes. This enhances the readability, reusability and maintenance of the codes as looking back through the codes becomes less complex.
  • Since common guidelines are followed by all, regularity in code sequence allows even a new programmer to get the grasp of the code easily and helps to learn quickly.
  • Analysts who are new to a programming language can easily follow the set conventions without having to develop any specific personal coding techniques and it prevents them from repeating their mistakes again and again. This increases dependability and trustworthiness of the programmers and the level of inaccuracy/mistakes diminishes.
  • The overall ratio of committing mistakes gets limited as standards maintain a controlled environment with high level of behavioral consistency.
  • Personal eccentricity and quirky styles of individual analysts gets checked when working in a standard setup with all of them having to follow common standards and guidelines for the project – this contributes to increased ownership, better productivity and collective responsibility for the project.
  • Coding standards are not success recipes but does create an environment which allows greater flexibility and smooth functioning of the project.
  • Coding standards also has a role in diminishing the overall cost of the project by simplifying learning and re-learning of the project tasks during after-delivery maintenance or improvement. People who have not been instrumental in developing the particular codes can easily understand and learn the tasks. Also, after a long time duration, it would not be difficult to grasp and re-learn the codes if the entire project has adhered to a common standard. Setting a coding standard ensures that the code author need not be necessarily present during the maintenance and enhancement phase of software development project.


So What Needs to be Done?

Project coding standard depends upon the coding standards of the programming language(s) used in the particular project. Thus the project coding standard acts as an extension and not as a countermand of the general coding standards or the language coding standards. If at any point of time, there happens to be a conflict, the project standard should be deemed correct. It is advisable to refrain from making comprehensive project wise alterations in the project coding standard with different projects so as to maintain consistency and allow reuse of codes from one project to another with little variations. This would be extremely beneficial with respect to saving time and maintaining consistency.

Focus should be to maintain a consistent coding standard across the project. In case of a change, care should be taken to conform to the existing code style and not just follow a new or any personal style in the middle of the project.

An all-inclusive coding convention includes all aspects of code construction. Developers should strive to remain uniform by implementing a uniform standard but also practicality of the situation and implementation should go hand in hand. The overall source code should depict synchronization as if a single developer wrote its entirety in one sitting. Following uniform coding standards for the project is viable only if it has been implemented from the project inception to project completion phase. The standard should be set at the beginning of the project to establish harmony among all the developers associated with the project. When the software project implements existing source code or when post delivery maintenance and enhancements are done, the code standard should be capable of explaining how to manage with the existing code base.

Enforcing coding standard directly affects coding technique which affects the readability of source code and code maintainability. So it will be easier for all the developers to understand the software system and make changes, add features and functionality, fix bugs later if coding follows a uniform standard. The quality of coding is positively affected by enforcing a coding standard for project which again impacts the quality of software that is being developed in terms of its performance. Aligning to uniform coding standard when coupled with good coding technique and regular code reviews helps develop a system which is highly readable and easy to maintain.

Areas Addressed By Coding Standards

  • Layout and commenting of the classes, modules, routines and the codes with the routines
  • Name of the variables
  • Names of function and general operations like getting and setting values within class
  • Highest number of routines within classes
  • Code-level implementation of design standards for memory administration, error handling, string storage etc
  • Degree of complexity to be allowed with limitation on the usage of Goto statements, logical test, loop nesting etc.
  • Defining the versions of tools and libraries to be used
  • Standards for use of the tools and libraries
  • Naming standards for source code files
  • Defining the directory structure of the source code for developers system, build machines, and source code control tools
  • Source code file contents
  • Defining the ways (example comments) to indicate incorrect or incomplete code


Organizations should strive to maintain consistency of coding standards from project to project using the same programming language. The only variation could be the implementation of each project’s unique design approach. The coding standards should be short and crisp and normally implemented through code reviews. Code reviews help to detect errors and synchronizes all the source code with the project’s coding standard.

The major contribution of setting the coding standards towards a project is its ability to develop project standards or organizational standard source code which can be replicated against all projects using the same programming language. This increase readability and maintainability of the code and establishes uniformity and consistency in programming practice.


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