Code Quality: What It Is and How To Measure It (With Tips)

Updated February 3, 2023

Person sitting at computer and reviewing code on multiple monitors.

Programmers and developers use code quality to determine how high the quality of a code set, program or software is. You may use a code quality test to see if a product is consistent, functioning correctly and ready for audiences to use. If you're interested in understanding how well your code functions or testing if it's easy to understand, consider learning how to perform a code quality test.

In this article, we define code quality, explain why it's important, provide a detailed guide on how to measure it and review tips for improving code quality.

What is code quality?

Code quality is a measurement of how high or low the value of a specific set of code, program or software is. Typically, a code is high quality if the lines of code are easy to interpret and if the developer documented the code. High-quality code often meets these common parameters:

  • Functional

  • Consistent

  • Easy to understand

  • Meets clients' needs

  • Testable

  • Reusable

  • Free of bugs and errors

  • Secure

  • Well documented

Related: What Is Quality Assurance? (With Skills, Qualities and Jobs)

Why is code quality important?

Generating high-quality code ultimately enhances the end user's experience. Focusing on creating quality code can also help consumers understand the safety and reliability of the software or program they're using.

As low-quality code can affect the user's experience, it's important to write a high-quality code that functions properly. When a developer writes low-quality code, it can create issues with security, code errors and functionality. Here are some additional reasons code quality is important: 

  • Enhances code readability: Readability is important because it leads to higher rates of understanding among other developers. A code that's easy to read is also easy to improve.

  • Improves the level of program sustainability: Program sustainability measures how long a code can survive with minimal changes. High-quality code can last for years, making it more sustainable.

  • Increases transferability: Transferring code from one platform to another is a complicated process. It's much easier for developers to transfer high-quality code, as they only need to make minimal changes.

  • Lowers costs related to program or software: When software lasts for a long time with few errors, it can save a company money. Instead of paying for additional time to rewrite low-quality code, the company can rely on the original, high-quality source code.

Related: What Is Source Code in Programming? (Definition and Example)

How to measure code quality

Measuring your code quality allows you to launch and maintain quality software or programs that work well for your clients and users. Here are some steps you can follow to measure code quality effectively:

1. Measure the code's reliability

To test the code quality of a code, program or software, you can measure its reliability. Reliability is a software's ability to function without failing over a set amount of time. When testing reliability, potential errors or faults in the code may appear. These errors might make the system fail within a certain amount of time, so measuring reliability can help you determine your program's success.

You may also see how reliable your code is by running a static analyzer. This process runs an analysis of a program without actually running the program, to identify any defects or faults in the code. Then, you may revise the code to fix these errors to increase the overall quality.

Related: Q&A: What Is Coding?

2. Determine the code's complexity level

To determine how high the code's quality is, consider how complex it is. You can use several types of measurements to determine the level of complexity present in the code depending on what you want to measure.

For example, cyclomatic complexity, which measures how stable a program is, determines how many independent paths run through a certain set of code. The lower the number of linearly independent paths, the higher the quality of the code, as it's more complex. 

Related: Programming vs. Coding: What's the Difference?

3. Test the code's portability

Determining a code's portability is another critical element to test. Portability shows if and how well other users can use the programs or software in other environments. You can determine if a code is portable by using different methods to test it out elsewhere, such as using the program or software on multiple devices. You can also test your code on several platforms, use different browsers or program openers and adhere to some type of coding standard for your work.

Related: Learn How To Code for Success in Your Career

4. Assess the code's reusability level

It's helpful when code is reusable, so it's functional for other work. You can measure your code's reusability to determine its quality. Reusability refers to whether you or others can repurpose your code in the future for other programs or projects. You can use a static analyzer to see how many interdependencies the code has to determine its reusability level. Interdependencies are elements that can only function if another element also functions.

Related: How To Find Coding Jobs in 4 Steps (With Benefits)

5. Measure the program's testability level

You can measure your code's quality by reviewing its testability, which shows how well the code, program or software can support any testing efforts conducted on it. You may measure the code's testability by running tests on the code to see how many tests it takes to identify errors or faults present in the code. The size of the program and the level of complexity in the code can affect the number of tests it takes to locate any present errors.

Related: 11 Methods for Software Testing Projects

6. Use a code-checking tool

Another method you can use to improve the quality of your code is using a code-checking tool. These tools automatically scan your code, using a set of best practices and common techniques to suggest edits or improvements. You can double-check code as you write it, so the finished product is clean and high-quality.

Related: 44 Coding Terms To Know (With Definitions)

Tips for improving code quality

After testing your code quality, you may find areas you could improve the code to make the end user's experience as positive as possible. Consider these tips for improving the code quality of your code base:

Follow coding best practices

It's helpful to align your code with any coding best practices that you know. This may help ensure your code sets meet general coding standards and guidelines. Aligning your code with best practices can also increase the reusability and maintainability of the code, since it uses common coding techniques. This allows others to perform maintenance to the code if required. Some best practices include:

  • Improving old code periodically

  • Reducing complex code

  • Following standard coding techniques

Related: What Are Best Practices? (With Examples in Different Fields)

Simplify the code

Consider simplifying the code used in the code set for the software or program. For instance, if the original code is more complex and difficult to read, you might change it to read as simply as possible. Simplifying the code makes it easier for code-reading machines and users to read and interpret it.

When a code is simpler, it might also be easier to resolve any future issues that arise. If the code is easy to understand, it may require less expertise to change it, meaning others can update it as well.

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