Code quality
Software Development

10 software code quality metrics that you should measure in your projects

date: 20 December 2023
reading time: 10 min

Determining the quality of software code can be daunting. What metrics should you monitor? Clear up the confusion with these 10 code quality metrics, central to creating maintainable, error-free, and efficient code.

Key takeaways

  • Code quality is vital for maintainability, faster development, fewer errors, and reducing long-term costs, and it encompasses attributes like simplicity, security, testability, and more.
  • Metrics such as Cyclomatic Complexity, Code Churn, Technical Debt Ratio, and Test Coverage provide insightful measures to evaluate and enhance code quality, reduce bugs, and improve maintainability.
  • Choosing the right code quality metrics involves understanding project specifics, setting clear priorities, and balancing both qualitative and quantitative data to effectively assess software quality.

Understanding code quality metrics

Exploring the nuances of high code quality is similar to deciphering an enigmatic code – it’s the defining element that separates the exceptional from the average in software development.

Code quality is critical for:

Yet, it’s often overlooked, leading to a maze of unpredictability that can leave companies trailing in the dust of their competitors.

Code quality metrics' attributes
Code quality metrics’ attributes

The focus is not solely on producing functional code, but rather on crafting enduring and adaptable code. The magic lies in attributes such as:

  • simplicity
  • efficiency
  • clarity
  • complexity
  • safety
  • security
  • maintainability
  • testability
  • portability
  • reusability
  • robustness

How to check your software code quality? Use these 10 metrics:

Are you keen on assessing your code’s proficiency, striving for it to be not only good but of the gold standard? Well, you’ve come to the right place.

To master the art of software quality, one must adhere to these 10 metrics. They are the guiding principles for developers, pointing the way to crafting code that is robust and resilient.

Code quality metrics
Code quality metrics

We’ll dissect each one to understand their potential to transform your code from good to great.

Cyclomatic complexity

Cyclomatic complexity is a metric that quantifies the complexity of a program’s control flow, with lower scores indicating simpler, more maintainable code. It is beneficial as it helps in identifying code sections that are potentially difficult to test and maintain, thus allowing for proactive simplification and optimisation.

This metric serves as an early warning system, flagging complex parts that may need code refactoring. It encourages developers to write more straightforward, less entangled code, which not only aids in testing but also enhances the overall readability and maintainability.

Code churn

Monitoring code churn is important because it helps identify patterns or trends that could either be beneficial or detrimental to the project’s health.

For instance, a high level of churn might suggest an active and adaptive development environment where improvements are continuously being made. Conversely, it could also signal instability and indecision, potentially leading to bugs, delays, and technical debt.

By keeping an eye on code churn, project managers and developers can gain valuable insights into the team’s workflow, the quality of contributions, and the overall progress of the project. It can aid in making informed decisions about resource allocation, prioritising refactoring efforts, or adjusting R&D strategies to ensure a more streamlined and efficient path to project completion.

Technical debt ratio

Technical debt is akin to the financial debt that can sneak up on you if you’re not careful. It measures the cost of remediation compared to the cost of new development, essentially quantifying the trade-offs made during the coding process.

A high technical debt ratio indicates that there may be more time spent on addressing issues rather than adding new features, which can hinder progress and innovation. Conversely, a lower ratio suggests that the codebase is healthier, with fewer resources required for fixing problems and more available for developing new capabilities.

Want to know more about developing great software? Look here:

Test coverage

Test coverage, often referred to as code coverage, is essentially a metric that determines the percentage of your source code that is executed while automated tests are running. It’s a way to check for any nooks or crannies that haven’t been tested, which could potentially harbour bugs.

The benefits of test coverage are manifold. It encourages developers to write more comprehensive tests, which results in more robust and reliable software. High test coverage is often associated with fewer bugs in production because it means more code has been validated to work as expected.

It also promotes better design practices; when developers write code with testing in mind, they tend to create more modular, decoupled systems that are easier to maintain and extend.

Furthermore, test coverage can be a useful indicator for the risk associated with changing a piece of code. Areas with low coverage might be more hazardous to modify, as the safety net of tests is not as extensive. This can be particularly useful in large codebases where understanding every implication of a change is challenging.

Code duplication

Code duplication occurs when the same code exists in more than one location within a software system.

While at first glance, it might seem practical to reuse blocks of code by simply copying and pasting them, this practice can lead to a multitude of maintenance challenges. It can make the codebase harder to evolve and more prone to errors, as each duplicate piece must be updated individually when changes are required.

However, in some scenarios, code duplication can be beneficial in the short term, as it allows for rapid development and deployment when working under tight deadlines. It can also be useful when experimenting with features that are still in the conceptual phase, providing a quick and dirty solution that allows for immediate feedback.

Nevertheless, it is generally advisable to avoid or refactor duplicated code to ensure a clean, maintainable, and error-free codebase in the long term.

Code Maintainability Index

The Code Maintainability Index is a valuable indicator of the ease with which software can be updated, adapted, or enhanced. It provides a quantifiable measure, typically ranging from 0 to 100, where a higher score signifies better maintainability.

This metric takes into account several aspects of the existing code, including its complexity, the volume of documentation provided, and the degree of standardisation in the coding style.

The benefits of a high Code Maintainability Index are numerous:

  • it can lead to reduced costs associated with the ongoing development and maintenance of the software, as the code is easier to understand and modify.
  • it facilitates smoother transitions when new team members join a project, as they can get up to speed more quickly due to the clarity and orderliness of the codebase.
  • a high maintainability score often correlates with fewer defects and less technical debt, as well-maintained code tends to be more robust and less prone to errors.

Code security

Code security is the practice of protecting code against unauthorised access and vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers. It involves a thorough analysis and fortification of the codebase to prevent breaches, data theft, and other malicious activities that could undermine the integrity and reputation of the software.

Code security ensures that sensitive data remains confidential, maintaining the trust of users and stakeholders. By implementing security measures such as encryption, access controls, and regular code audits, developers can create a formidable barrier against cyber threats.

Moreover, secure code is a prerequisite for compliance with industry standards and regulations, which can vary from general best practices to strict legal requirements depending on the sector.

Adherence to these standards not only avoids potential legal penalties but also signals to customers that the software is reliable and safe to use.

Read more about security in software development:

Bug rate

The bug rate is a metric that quantifies the frequency of errors or “bugs” within a software program over a specific period or per unit of code. A lower bug rate generally indicates a well-tested and stable code base, whereas a higher rate may signal the need for more rigorous testing and quality assurance processes.

It allows development teams to identify and address areas of the code that are prone to errors promptly. By doing so, they can reduce the time and resources spent on debugging and resolving issues post-release.

Additionally, a lower bug rate enhances the user experience by providing a more reliable and error-free application, which can lead to increased user satisfaction and trust in the software product.

Code standards compliance

Code standards compliance is the adherence to a set of guidelines for writing code, which can include naming conventions, formatting rules, programming practices, and architectural design principles. The aim is to ensure consistency and high quality in the codebase, making it easier for developers to read, understand, and manage the code.

Iit enhances code readability and makes the maintenance process more straightforward, as developers can quickly familiarise themselves with the coding style used throughout the project. This uniformity is especially valuable in collaborative environments where multiple developers work on the same codebase.

Coding standards often incorporate best practices that have been established to avoid common pitfalls in software development and supports the scalability of the software. As the codebase grows, having a consistent coding style and structure makes it easier to integrate new features and components without disrupting the existing system.

Documentation quality

Quality code documentation is an essential aspect of software development that serves as a comprehensive manual for the codebase. It provides developers with a clear and detailed description of the software’s functionality, architecture, and dependencies.

Good documentation can significantly reduce onboarding time for new developers and minimise the knowledge gap between team members.

For businesses, high-quality code documentation can be a game-changer. It ensures that the technical details and complexities of the software are accessible and understandable. Proper documentation can also facilitate smoother transitions when team members change, as the knowledge is preserved and easily transferable.

How to choose the right code quality metrics for your team?

When choosing code quality metrics – and software development partnership in general – you can benefit from the experience of Future Processing, a company that specialises in technology consultancy and software development solutions.

The insights and methodologies developed by our company can guide you in selecting the most relevant metrics for your project. By leveraging the knowledge of industry experts, you can align your quality assessment with best practices and tailor it to the unique needs of your software.

This approach can help ensure that the metrics you choose effectively reflect the quality of your code and support your development goals. If you have any questions, get in touch and we’ll be happy to answer them!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is cyclomatic complexity and why is it important?

Cyclomatic complexity measures the number of independent paths through a program’s source code. It’s important because it helps developers understand code complexity, impacting testing, maintenance, and debugging.

How can high code churn affect my project?

High code churn can have a negative impact on your project by causing delays and increased technical debt, indicating problems with code stability that stem from various sources.

Why should teams aim for high test coverage?

Teams should aim for high test coverage because it improves software reliability, maintainability, and reduces the likelihood of bugs in production. Testing a significant portion of the code leads to these benefits.

Is code documentation really that important?

Yes, code documentation is crucial for understanding and maintaining complex codebases, facilitating knowledge transfer, collaboration, and preventing costly misunderstandings and errors in the development process.

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