There’s good code and there’s bad code. Bad coding can create slow, unmaintainable systems. Systems constructed with good coding practices can be fast, secure, reliable, and flexible. Theorists have produced long, boring books on the subject of ideal code and how it’s written—but what does all of this mean for normal business people? If you hire a code snob (if such a thing exists) will it really give you better results?
The simple answer is yes(ish). There are many benefits to good code and drawbacks to bad code. I’ll list some in a moment, but first we need to back up and think about the bigger pictures: user experience and cost.
When the average person visits your website, you have a matter of seconds to convince them that you have what they want. If you don’t get their attention and keep it, they’re gone and they won’t come back. This being the case, do you really want them spending the first 3 to 4 seconds waiting for your site to load? From a user experience perspective, good code is essential.
Fact of life: professional developers cost more than freelancers—just like an experienced architect would charge more than a teenager to help build your shed. So is the architect worth the extra money? That depends if you’re building a shed, a boathouse, a house, an apartment complex, or a skyscraper. Trust me, you do not want to hire a teenager to blueprint your next million-dollar investment.
Another element of cost is maintenance. When you buy a car, you do so with the understanding that you have to maintain it. You may have to occasionally fork over a couple hundred bucks for new tires, new parts, and repairs. If you buy a clunker, you’re going to have higher maintenance costs. The same rule applies with programming, perhaps more so.
So now that we’ve got some perspective, let’s look at some ways that quality coding can affect your decision making.
Good code runs faster. Faster site, fewer bounces, more new business.
Bad code fails. Often epically.
Good code is more flexible. It’s easier to manage and change its functionality later on.
Bad code is a nightmare to maintain. Users are unhappy, you’re unhappy, we’re unhappy. [sobs]
Good code will last longer. You’ll have to replace bad code every few years. You don’t want to rebuild your project over and over.
So what do you do? Listen your developer! If he sounds like he’s building a castle in a swamp, be prepared to pay for castles 2, 3 and 4. Or come talk to us.