Computer programming, also known as coding can be understood as the activity of designing, writing, testing and modifying computer programming language in order to achieve a desired and predictable outcome(s).
Computer programming has changed over time, however the following characteristics remain the most relevant to what is considered important for programming today:
- Efficiency/performance: the amount of system resources a program consumes (processor time, memory space, slow devices such as disks, network bandwidth and to some extent even user interaction): the less, the better. This also includes correct disposal of some resources, such as cleaning up temporary files and lack of memory leaks.
- Reliability: how often the results of a program are correct. This depends on conceptual correctness of algorithms, and minimization of programming mistakes, such as mistakes in resource management (e.g., buffer overflows and race conditions) and logic errors (such as division by zero or off-by-one errors).
- Robustness: how well a program anticipates problems not due to programmer error. This includes situations such as incorrect, inappropriate or corrupt data, unavailability of needed resources such as memory, operating system services and network connections, and user error.
- Usability: the ergonomics of a program: the ease with which a person can use the program for its intended purpose, or in some cases even unanticipated purposes. Such issues can make or break its success even regardless of other issues. This involves a wide range of textual, graphical and sometimes hardware elements that improve the clarity, intuitiveness, cohesiveness and completeness of a program's user interface.
- Portability: the range of computer hardware and operating system platforms on which the source code of a program can be compiled/interpreted and run. This depends on differences in the programming facilities provided by the different platforms, including hardware and operating system resources, expected behaviour of the hardware and operating system, and availability of platform specific compilers (and sometimes libraries) for the language of the source code
- Maintainability: the ease with which a program can be modified by its present or future developers in order to make improvements or customizations, fix bugs and security holes, or adapt it to new environments. Good practices during initial development make the difference in this regard. This quality may not be directly apparent to the end user but it can significantly affect the fate of a program over the long term.
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