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Coding Style Guidelines: Increasing Code Quality

One of the easiest things that you can do to improve the quality of the source code produced by your team, and better yet your organization, is to adopt a simple set of coding standards. Extreme Programmers (XPers) understand that this is so important to do that “Coding Standards” is one of the core practices of XP. This page provides links to web pages and to good books which you can use to base your own coding standards on.


Are Developers Actually Following Guidelines?

For the most part, things could be better (then again, they could be a lot worse too). As you can see in Figure 1, which depicts results from the 2009 IT Project Management and Governance Survey, a little more than half of respondents indicated that the developers on their IT teams were following some sort of coding conventions, although only 19% were following enterprise/corporate conventions. When it specifically comes to agile teams the situation isn’t much better. As you can see in Figure 2, which depicts results from the 2010 How Agile Are You? Survey, 58% of respondents on “agile teams” indicated that development guidelines/standards existing and 54% (of the total) indicated that they were following the conventions. That survey didn’t explore whether they were team-level or enterprise-level conventions.

Figure 1. Development team’s approach to following coding conventions.


Figure 2. Organization and governance strategies adopted by agile teams.





C++ Coding Standards Elements of C# Style Elements of Java Style Oracle PL/SQL Best Practices Perl Best Practices  Practical Guidelines for VB and C# Smalltalk With Style Web Standards Solutions Elements of UML Style 



  • Remember Ambler’s Rule of Standards: Industry standards are better than corporate standards, corporate standards are better than team standards, team standards are better than personal standards which are better than no standards at all.
  • Having said that, you should tailor your guidelines/standards to meet your own needs.
  • Base guidelines on practice, not theory.
  • The most successful guidelines are often adopted on a grass roots basis, they are not inflicted on developers from above.