Coding Standards Best Practices and How to Uphold Them

In the embedded software sector, a unique feature of code is that it’s designed to perform a specific function and is written for particular devices. This unique and dedicated functionality means that embedded systems are often used in medical and safety-critical contexts, which means that errors and security issues need to be as minimal as possible.

Upholding good programming practices is one of the best ways to ensure that embedded software, and any kind of software, is as efficient, reliable and error-free as possible. In this article, we explain the benefits of following coding standards best practices and highlight the main ones that all embedded software engineers should know.

What are Coding Standards Best Practices?

Coding standards are a set of rules that are set out for developers and programmers to follow when they’re writing code. They provide a framework of instructions that should be followed no matter the kind of software being developed, outlining basic practices to ensure good quality code across all industries.

Without official coding best practices, the ways that people write code would differ a lot, which could lead to a range of problems. Having a set of good programming practices sets out basic things that all programmers need to do when writing code, creating consistency and helping to uphold high standards.

Writing Code

Why Are Coding Best Practices Important?

As we’ve just touched upon, standardised coding conventions help to prevent a range of issues with software and applications, as well as make it easier for developers to write code that can be worked on by other people. Here are some more of the main reasons why software development best practices are important.

Improved Code Quality

One of the main reasons for good coding practices is that it massively helps to improve code quality. When there’s a set of guidelines outlining clear ways to make code better, all of the code that follows these guidelines will be of the same high standard. Following these principles of coding also reduces the number of simple errors that are made, which again improves the overall quality of code being written everywhere.

Reduced Costs

Following a set of coding principles helps to reduce the number of errors and bugs that are present in a piece of software. This in turn can help to reduce production and maintenance costs because less time is spent having to run tests and fix issues, as well as improving code readability which decreases the time it takes to spot errors. When code is written to a high standard, it’s also easier to reuse, which again can save time and reduce overall production costs.

Ensured Compliance

Code standards are created to ensure that programmers are compliant with regulations relating to safety and quality. Certain programming languages will have specific coding practices that link to compliance in the industry sector that the software is for, so following the guidelines is important as a way to ensure that developers don’t face issues like fines or sanctions in the future if their code isn’t compliant.

Computer Code

Easier Collaboration

When every software developer is working with the same coding standards best practices, the code that they’re all producing will be similar. This makes collaboration easier, as everyone should be following the style and formatting rules, documenting their process in the same way, and making their code readable. Therefore, any developer should be able to look at another person’s code and not only understand it but also be able to continue working on it.

Secure Code

A key feature of good programming practices is taking steps to ensure that code is as secure as possible. By using approaches that limit the likelihood of errors, and also implementing procedures that can easily highlight potential security issues, code is safer and adheres to recommended practices that ensure higher levels of security overall.

Efficient Development

Finally, following the best practices in software development helps to make the whole development process more efficient, which is not only better from a cost perspective but also from a productivity point of view. By using methods and approaches that minimise errors, streamline testing and debugging, and ensure high-quality software, projects progress much more efficiently without as many unexpected challenges or scenarios.

Nighttime Coding

9 Key Coding Best Practices

Whilst there are many common themes among coding standards best practices, there’s no universal set of principles that apply to every kind of project and programming language. Instead, coding best practices are often tailored to an industry, type of software or even a company, with subtle differences that link to the purpose of the code in question.

However, the majority of coding standards have many of the same principles, which we’ll explain below.

Naming Conventions

Naming conventions are an important part of ensuring that code is readable. Local and global variables, contents, classes and functions should all be given meaningful and descriptive names that make it easy to understand their purpose and avoid confusion when it comes to refining and checking the code.

Depending on the programming language you’re using, CamelCase or snake_case should be used. Names should be kept concise and consistent throughout all of the code, using the same themes.

Code Readability

Another good software engineering practice is to ensure readability throughout your code. This not only means that the code is easy to understand, but also that it optimises space by being concise. You can make your code as neat and readable as possible by using the naming conventions we’ve discussed above, keeping functions short and avoiding long lines of code, trying to avoid too many levels of nesting, and segmenting code blocks in the same section into paragraphs.

Code Comments and Documentation

Comments on code act as explanations and context for functions and statements. These comments should explain the algorithm and the logic applied and make it clear to any other developer what’s happening in the code and the ideas that went into it. Documentation is another way of ensuring that your code is easy to understand and that there are clear explanations about the process you followed as you were developing it.

Standardise Headers for Different Modules

In the same line as naming conventions, standardising headers is another really important part of good programming practices. The code you’re writing will be much easier to understand and also to maintain if each module has headers that follow the same standard format.

The header format that you choose should include the following:

  • The project that the program belongs to
  • The name of the module
  • The author of the module
  • A summary of the module’s purpose
  • Any functions that are supported in the module
  • Any variables that are accessed in the module
  • The history of revisions made to the code

Code Headers

Uphold Industry Coding Standards

As we’ve already briefly touched upon, there are different requirements for code in different industries when it comes to things like safety and quality standards. Therefore, it’s important to check the specific coding standards that apply to the type of software that you’re developing to ensure that the finished product will be compliant with relevant regulations and meet user and business requirements. An example of this is MISRA C, which is a set of guidelines for coding software for electronic devices in the automotive industry.

Code Reusability

Being able to reuse code is a major benefit in software development. Not only is it a massive help in saving time, but it can also help to improve the overall standard of a program by replicating high-quality code throughout, instead of having various qualities of code performing the same function.

You can reuse code to perform the same function in a piece of software, or you can adapt it slightly to perform a similar function. To ensure that this can be done successfully, you first need to check that the code is versatile, compatible with different hardware, and (obviously) free of errors. Once code has been approved for its suitability, it can be added to a utility module or shared library.


Indentation is a key aspect of formatting that is used to improve the readability of code. It’s one of the most important software engineering best practices because it helps to ensure that code is organised and easy to read, as well as contributing to the overall aesthetic.

There’s no standardised way to indent code; some programmers use two spaces and others prefer four. Consistency throughout the code is the most important thing, as with any formatting practice. Other good practices include indenting at the beginning and end of each program block, nested blocks need to be spaced and indented, and new lines should be used when a brace starts.


Testing ensures that software is functional and secure, so is an important part of the best coding practices. To do this properly, unit and integration test cases should be selected and prepared before you actually start writing the new code, so that it’s ready for testing as soon as it’s needed. You should also use automated testing to continuously validate your code and ensure its functionality, which can be done with a range of different tools.

Error Handling

Error handling is an essential part of software development, and therefore the proper implementation of this is one of the coding standards best practices. Designing appropriate error messages that communicate issues and highlight failures will help to identify problems early and provide direction for fixing them. Over time, an efficient error-handling approach will help to reduce the number of errors in your code.

Code Parameters


The majority of software development best practices are relatively easy to uphold once you know them, as they revolve around formatting standards which will become second nature once you’ve been using them in your code development for a while. In the embedded systems sector, these practices are especially important to ensure that your code is serving its intended purpose and minimising the likelihood of errors, which are key features of embedded software.

If you’re an embedded software developer looking for your next job opportunity, KO2 is a specialist recruitment agency that can help you find your perfect role. Take a look at our current job openings or get in touch to speak to the team directly about what you’re looking for.

Chris Oddy

Chris Oddy

About the Author

Chris is an award-winning recruitment consultant who has specialised in the electronics and embedded systems sector since 2008. Chris is passionate about technology and customer service.


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