Clean Code Optimization: Is It Worth It?
In the world of software development, clean code is a central tenant of the craft. But when it comes to optimizing for performance, is this rule still worth following? The answer may surprise you.
The debate over clean code optimization has been going on for years. Some argue that it’s essential in order to get the most performance out of your software, while others say that modern computers are powerful enough that this kind of optimization isn’t necessary anymore. Let’s take a closer look at both sides to see which one is right in today’s world.
Proponents of clean code optimization argue that by adhering to good coding practices, such as using fewer lines and making sure everything follows a uniform style, you can dramatically improve your software’s performance. For example, one study found that by violating the first rule of clean code—which is one of its central tenants—they were able to drop from 35 cycles per shape to 24 cycles per shape without sacrificing any other quality or functionality from their program. While these results are impressive, they’re also quite niche and probably not applicable in most cases where overall performance improvements due solely to coding style are concerned.
On the other hand, opponents point out that 99% of modern applications spend more time waiting for user input than actually calculating something — meaning any improvements made through stylistic changes alone would be negligible at best and insignificant at worst because there just isn’t much room for improvement within those 0.1% calculations anyway (remember: Moore’s Law). Clean code optimizes for improving time-to-market for features rather than CPU efficiency — so if speed isn’t an issue (as it usually isn’t), then cleaning up your code might not be worth it after all if you can achieve your desired outcome with less effort and time spent elsewhere instead.
Ultimately though, this debate comes down to context — what kind of application are you writing? If it’s something like a AAA video game or high-performance calculator program then yes: go wild! Optimize every last part and make sure all your loops run as quickly as possible! However if we’re talking about more mundane applications like business websites or mobile apps then no: don’t bother trying too hard because chances are nobody will even notice any significant speed gains anyway (if there even were any).
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Author Eliza Ng