Decoding “Best Practices”: A Closer Look at Misconceptions in Software Development
Many software development engineers have probably heard or even used the term “best practices” when discussing methodologies in their field.
This ubiquitous term is perceived as a silver bullet, the ultimate solution to various problems that might emerge during software development. However, there is a growing need to address this term’s misconception, primarily because it is often misused as a synonym for “recommended practices”.
Comprehending the fundamental difference between “best practices” and “recommended practices” is crucial.
- A “best practice” implies an unrivalled approach that’s been tested and proven to be superior in all contexts and situations. The term “best”, by definition, suggests something that cannot be bettered. It carries the weight of finality and universality.
- On the other hand, “recommended practices” are strategies or methodologies that are generally advised to be used in most situations due to their effectiveness in most scenarios. Still, they may not be suitable in every case. These practices are typically formulated based on past experiences, successes, and industry wisdom.
Let’s consider, for example, the practice of Test-Driven Development (TDD). TDD is a popular and often recommended practice in software development. Many would even label it a “best practice”. However, while TDD has numerous benefits, it may not be the most effective or efficient method for specific situations or projects, and the software development team might need to consider another approach, such as Behaviour-Driven Development (BDD) instead.
By labelling any practice as the “best,” we may unintentionally discourage developers from considering other, possibly more suitable methods. A particular project’s unique needs and constraints may require a different approach. Thus, labelling as a “recommended” practice rather than a “best” practice would be more accurate and helpful.
The software development field is dynamic and evolves rapidly, with new tools, methodologies, and philosophies emerging regularly. It is, therefore, imperative to consider the context before deciding on a practice to follow. Just because a method has worked well in one context does not guarantee it will be the optimal solution in another.
Let’s strive to shift the discourse in our industry from “best practices” to “recommended practices”. While seemingly minor, this change in terminology carries a profound shift in mindset. It encourages critical thinking, flexibility, and a willingness to adapt — a fundamental trait in a field as fluid as software development.
In conclusion, it’s time to retire the term “best practices” in favour of the more accurate “recommended practices”. This will lead to a better understanding of the diverse methodologies in software development and foster an environment that encourages innovation and creativity, which will undeniably propel our industry forward.