Keep your code clean and simple

by | Jan 29, 2021

clean code

“Keep it simple, stupid”

Always write code that you’ll be able to understand in six months time when you’ve moved on to bigger and better things. If you have to be clever, leave yourself clues. It’s less likely to break this week, and when it breaks in 6 months time, you’ll be able to pick up the pieces again. The gotcha here is that you need to be pretty experienced to write simple code. Don’t sweat it too
much, just make sure that when you come back to fix it later, you left enough comments to understand what the hell you were thinking at the time!

Reduce, reuse, recycle

The more you re-use a piece of code, the less overall code you have to worry about. But be careful! If something in your code library doesn’t quite fit, resist the urge to add modifications and options to make it more general-purpose. All too often the price of extra flexibility is unnecessary complexity. It’s okay to have two similar things.

As Voltaire put it, “le mieux est l’ennemi du bien”: perfect is the enemy of good.

Keep your core PHP and your HTML separate

As you program, you’ll quickly find out that you’ve got at least two different kinds of code going on: code that puts things on the screen, and … everything else. Put everything that isn’t displaying code in a separate file (or files).
Template systems do this for you, and MVC-style frameworksmicro-frameworks go even further, but even if you’re not using them, remember to keep “what it does” separate from “how it looks”.

It’ll be easier to change how your site looks, and much easier to reuse code you wrote. Finding database code half-way through an HTML page is a sure sign that you’re doing it wrong.

Swallow your pride

Don’t be afraid to use other people’s code. Some tasks sound simple on the surface, but turn out to require years of experience and special knowledge (HTML filtering, for example). Find an open-source project that has tackled that problem and use their code. The less code you write, the less you have to maintain and document, and the easier your code is to understand. Just make
sure you keep an eye on the projects you use and make sure you stay up to date.

Write code that’s clear enough to serve as documentation

Documentation systems have gotten really, really clever in recent years:
you can write special comments to automate testing, or to generate gorgeous (and useful) developer documents, but whether or not you use those tools, add comments sparingly to define stages of processing or any code that’s complex enough to need a second glance. Most especially, whenever you do something weird and froopy, write a comment to say why. You’ll thank yourself later.

Ignore 90% of the database functions in PHP

There’re hundreds of the bloody things! PDO is safe, flexible, and fast. It probably talks to the database you use, and you only
need to learn it once, not once per database. PDO’s support for prepared statements will make your code tidier, and you get better security as a perk.
Read more…

Learn to code object-oriented PHP

Some people find it hard to wrap their heads around object-oriented programming, but others find it’s actually easier. Learning to code OO can make your code a lot neater and more comprehensible, and it’s definitely worth learning it sooner rather than later. You won’t find many modern PHP projects that don’t make use of OO somehow.

Trust your source control

Don’t leave huge chunks of code commented out. Your old code is all in your source repository, so you can remove it. When you come back to your code later, you won’t be left wondering if you commented it out because you were debugging,
or because it was broken, or useless.

Related Articles

Using prepared statements in PHP

Using prepared statements in PHP

Whether you're reading from, or writing to a database, using prepared statements are easy, convenient, and secure. So what are they? About these examples The examples here are all for PHP's built-in database layer, PDO, but many other database layers also support...

Thou shalt always(ish) use UTF-8 in PHP

Thou shalt always(ish) use UTF-8 in PHP

Character sets are a mystery to many native-English coders, and if you're not aware of them then you'll occasionally find that things break, or go weird. Unicode was designed to replace all existing character sets with a single universal one. This article explains how...

Escaping your output in PHP

Escaping your output in PHP

Output escaping happens when you tell your PHP script to output some content, usually to a web page, but also to other servers, or XML files, or even the command-line. Every kind of output needs to be escaped differently, which means PHP never does it automatically....