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Is Your Developer Actually Fast?
How the pros set up projects for future success
It's common in the software development industry to hear that speed is everything. A fast developer, it is believed, can churn out code and produce features at a pace that leaves their peers behind. But how fast is your developer truly? Are they just sprinting ahead to create a mountain of challenges down the road or are they truly pushing your project forward in a sustainable way?
The unfortunate reality is that messy, poorly documented code can create an intricate web of maintenance challenges that can significantly slow down a project over time. The ability to read, understand, modify, or adjust code are key factors in determining the true speed of a developer. Let's examine these aspects in detail.
Ramp-up Time for a New Developer
Imagine you have a system written by a single developer, and now you need to bring another developer onboard. The new developer needs to navigate through the code, understand the existing architecture, identify the relationships among different components, and grasp the business logic the original developer embedded into the system.
In an ideal situation, the new developer would rely heavily on well-written documentation to understand the system. However, if the original developer prioritized speed over documentation and cleanliness, the newcomer will spend a considerable amount of time trying to decipher the system before they can even begin making productive contributions. In extreme cases, the ramp-up time can take weeks, even months.
Readability and Understanding
Clean, well-documented code is like a well-written novel. It's easy to follow, the characters (or in this case, variables and functions) are properly named, and the plot (the program logic) makes sense from beginning to end. Poorly written code, on the other hand, is like a poorly written novel. It's hard to follow, characters randomly come and go, and the plot is full of inconsistencies and unexpected turns.
A "fast" developer who neglects code readability and understandability in favor of quickly churning out code can create a scenario where even they struggle to understand their work after a few weeks. Future maintenance and bug fixes on such code can turn into a time-consuming and frustrating endeavor, thus slowing down the overall project.
Complexity and Testability
Complex code is hard to understand, hard to modify, and even harder to test. If a developer creates a complex system in the name of speed, it might work fine initially. However, the more features are added, the more complex the code becomes, and the harder it is to ensure everything still works as intended.
Highly complex code is also a testing nightmare. Writing tests for complex, intertwined systems is time-consuming and often results in fragile tests that break with every minor change. A developer who writes complex code quickly may be inadvertently creating a system that will slow down with every new feature and every bug found.
While speed is a valuable trait in a developer, it should never come at the cost of readability, understandability, and maintainability. The true speed of a developer isn't just how quickly they can produce code, but also how well they set up the project for future success. So before you praise your developer for their speed, take a moment to evaluate the quality of the code they produce. You may find that what initially seems fast can become a major speed bump down the line.