In the past few years, remote work has surged, due largely to evolving technologies and, more recently, necessitated by global events. Among the sectors most affected is web development, with many teams now fully remote.
The shift to remote work brings a range of challenges in maintaining code quality. Below, we’ll explore strategies to manage and improve code quality in a remote web development environment.
Why Code Quality Matters
Before diving into the strategies, it’s important to understand why code quality matters.
“Code quality” refers to the adherence of written code to certain standards and practices that make it understandable, maintainable, and efficient.
High-quality code reduces the possibility of errors or bugs; it also makes future modifications easier. That’s essential in a remote environment — if developers are not physically together, it becomes even more necessary for code to be clear and understandable.
Conducting code reviews is one of the most effective methods of maintaining and improving upon code quality — and they’re even more critical in a remote environment. They involve the systematic examination of a fellow developer’s code to check for adherence to coding standards and potential improvements.
Tools like GitHub or Bitbucket provide excellent platforms for code reviews. They allow developers to comment on and discuss specific parts of the code to help improve on it and build a culture of learning. Regularly scheduled code reviews should be an integral part of any remote web development team’s practices.
Coding Standards and Linters
Coding standards help maintain code quality by providing a set of guidelines for developers to follow. This includes naming conventions, indentation rules, and the use of comments. In a remote environment — where direct communication might be limited — having a consistent coding style can significantly reduce misunderstandings and increase efficiency.
Linters are tools that automate the process of checking for adherence to coding standards. They analyze code for potential errors and enforce coding styles. They can even suggest improvements. Using linters in your development workflow can help ensure that all code adheres to your team’s standards, regardless of where the developer is located.
Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD)
CI/CD is a development practice where programming developers integrate code into a shared repository several times a day. Each instance of integration is verified by an automated build, allowing teams to detect problems early.
In a remote environment, CI/CD can help ensure that code quality is maintained. Automated tests can run every time new code is integrated, checking for bugs or issues. If the tests fail, the team is alerted immediately, preventing problematic code from affecting the main codebase.
High-quality documentation is crucial for understanding the purpose and functionality of the code, especially in a remote environment. Clear and up-to-date documentation reduces the learning curve for new team members and aids in understanding the code’s logic.
Documentation should include an overview of the application, a detailed explanation of how different components interact, and specific examples of usage. Look to tools like Confluence or ReadTheDocs to create and manage documentation in a remote setting.
Communication and Collaboration Tools
Effective communication is essential in managing and improving code quality in a remote environment; tools like Slack or Google Meet can provide a platform for this. Regular meetings should be held to discuss code quality and address any issues. This measure helps keep team members on the same page and ensures that code quality standards are maintained.
Continuous Learning and Training
The web development community is constantly evolving, and so should your team’s knowledge. Encourage and empower your team members to continuously learn the latest best practices and technologies to improve their skills and enhance overall code quality.
Engaging Specialist Help
While the strategies mentioned above can significantly enhance code quality, there may be instances where certain projects require expertise in a specific language or infrastructure that may not be within the existing team’s skillset. This is where the hiring of professional help comes into play.
If your project is built on a WordPress platform, look for a PHP specialist. And for data-heavy applications, an SQL expert could be what you need. Engaging specialist developers or consultants with these necessary skills not only brings in the needed expertise but can also provide an external perspective on the codebase.
These specialists can audit your code, identify potential weak points, and suggest and implement improvements. Their proficiency in the specific language could help with complex functionality and scalability concerns in web development projects.
Hiring specialists is particularly beneficial in a remote work setting, as the location is no longer a barrier to accessing top talent.
Sourcing Qualified Programmers
There are various platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, or Toptal, where you can find freelance developers specializing in almost any language or technology, including PHP freelancers for your PHP-related web development projects. Alternatively, there are numerous software consultancies that can provide the needed expertise on a project basis.
It’s important, though, to ensure that the engagement process is well-managed. Clear communication of your objectives and timelines is essential to ensuring that the specialist can effectively contribute to improving your code quality.
Remember that the goal of hiring professional help should not just be to fix immediate problems. Instead, try to leverage their knowledge and experience to upskill your existing team. Encourage them to share best practices, conduct code reviews, or even provide training sessions. This way, your team can continue to maintain and improve code quality long after the engagement has ended.
Pair programming involves two programmers working together at one workstation. One — the driver — writes the code, while the other — the observer — reviews each line as it is typed in. The two programmers switch roles frequently.
In a remote environment, pair programming can be facilitated through screen-sharing tools and communication platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. This process reduces coding errors and improves team cohesion.
Project Management Tools
Project management tools are invaluable in a remote setting. Tools like Jira or Asana can help teams track and manage tasks effectively. By keeping a clear overview of the project status, teams can better anticipate potential issues and address them proactively, which in turn can improve the quality of the final code.
Automated testing is another crucial practice for maintaining code quality. By writing tests that run automatically, developers can catch errors and bugs before they become problematic. Automated tests can be run at different stages of the development process, ensuring that any new code doesn’t break existing functionality.
There are different types of automated tests you can implement, including unit, integration, and end-to-end tests. A combination of these can help ensure that your code is thoroughly tested and works as expected.
Coding at Scale and Quality
Maintaining and improving code quality in a remote web development environment can be challenging, but with the right strategies and tools, it is entirely feasible. By incorporating practices such as code reviews, maintaining coding standards, using linters, implementing CI/CD, providing thorough documentation, employing effective communication tools, and encouraging continuous learning, you can ensure that your team consistently produces high-quality code.
The shift to remote work does not have to compromise code quality. Instead, it can be an opportunity to leverage modern tools and practices to enhance your team’s performance and output. The key is to adapt to the changes and continuously strive to improve your processes, keeping code quality at the forefront of your efforts.
|This article is part of Buildremote’s contributor series. Occasionally, we’ll share other people’s ideas about running a remote company. If you have a topic you’d like to pitch for Buildremote, send us an idea here.