Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Optimizing For Readability

How does one measure the readability of a given piece of code? What makes this especially challenging is that developers all have their own unique preferences and style when it comes to reading and writing source code. But readability isn't necessarily the same thing as coding style. Readability should trump style preference.

There are certain aspects of code that make it readable. For instance, meaningful variable names aren't that hard to come up with and make a world of difference when someone else needs to read your code. Adding some space rather than cramming constructs together will always increase readability. At the same time, however, conciseness is always a readability enhancement.

Simple things add up in the long run. There are only larger structural pieces of code that affect code readability. For instance, the location of a class, the modularity affects the difficulty of locating things. These are larger concepts that are more closely related to style than readability. Readability in this context refers to what the developer can see on the screen at any given time.