Put Development Standards In Place At Your Shop

Before beginning any application development consider implementing programming and database standards with your team. Using development standards allows all programmers to know what is expected of them and how to create new applications from scratch. Standards help developers move from one project to another without having to learn a different style of programming because it was created by another programmer.

There are many reasons programming standards are created. Many years ago when mainframes were in vogue, every shop had programming standards. In fact, they used to teach programming standards in college. Now, standards are all but forgotten or just never learned by the younger generation. Microsoft does have a set of programming standards for C# and Visual Basic. These are an excellent place to start, and I would like to encourage all programmers today to adopt some sort of standards as an important first step in application development.

Creating standards does not limit your creativity as most programmers seem to think. Programming standards help you focus your creativity where it is really needed. You concentrate on the business problem you are trying to solve, instead of having to always think about what name to give a method or variable. As a corollary, consider the Windows and Mac operating environments where most programs written have a consistent look and feel. This is why users like using Windows or Macs, because they do not have to learn everything about how a new program works. They already know how to use most of the features in each program. Utilizing standards in your programming, you keep the programmer’s “look and feel” consistent. You will spend less time figuring out what the variables are or how many indents a programmer used, and you can focus more on the logic of the program.

The use of standards lead to reduced maintenance costs as well, due to consistency in each program. You can move from one project to another very easily, even one someone else wrote, and immediately read and understand the code. Programming standards help programmers create a consistent structure, code style, variable names, and methods names within all applications. Standards also help programmers create code that is unambiguous, easy to read, and easy to maintain by other developers.

The standards documents you should have in place at your shop are Visual Studio Setup, C# or Visual Basic Programming Standards, SQL Server Object Naming Standards and Database Development Standards. The rules set forth in these documents are guidelines, so feel free to modify these to suit your own organizations’ needs.

  • The Visual Studio Setup document is used to ensure each programmer configures their Visual Studio the same as everyone else in the shop. Especially important is the Tab setting so everyone uses the same tab indent. If different programmers use different tabs and they get changed, this can wreak havoc on your source control.
  • The C# or Visual Basic Programming Standards document will set forth variable and method naming, class naming, file naming, control naming and many other standards.
  • The SQL Server Object Naming Standards document describes how to name tables, stored procedures, views, and other database objects. You should also describe how SQL keywords and functions in your SQL statements are cased.
  • The Database Development Standards document describes your database design philosophy. Your philosophy may include things such as how you create primary keys, the use of clustered indexes, standard fields for each table, how to handle concurrency, and whether or not to use dynamic SQL or stored procedures.

You can find examples of all of these standards documents at my website: http://www.pdsa.com/download/StandardsDocuments.zip

We have definitely found that having programming standards in place at our shop has been a positive thing. I hope they work equally as well for you.

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