Beautiful Code?

I remember enjoying Jeff Atwood’s (aka Coding Horror) post about “code isn’t beautiful”. It took me a while explaining to myself why people are chasing after “beautiful code” so much. Why people are so passionate finding or forming beautiful code? Should great painters talk about beautiful colors or beautiful paintbrushes? I always thought they appreciate the entire painting, created and driven from emotions, dreams, ideas, styles and yes – colors & paintbrushes. They appreciate “the all” more then the exact technicalities. Why are we trying to figure out the best paintbrush to use or the best color? Why not trying to figure out the “best all”, the best experience, the best value, the best process?

I would define Beautiful Software as a surface to allow three magic abilities to emerge:

  1. It should be easy to add new Features.
  2. It should be easy to change existing Features.
  3. It should be easy for new teammate to become productive almost immediately.

If you’re able to have these abilities in your painting, your software, then you’re probably doing something beautiful; you probably figured out the correct paintbrushes, the right colors and most important – how to use them wisely to introduce true beauty.

I am not mentioning pseudo-code, language specific or whether or not testing is worthy. There are many ways to paint beautifully, it is up to you to figure out what makes software beautiful to you and figure out the right tools and process to achieve it. Don’t hang to tight to the “perfect algorithm” or “perfect Design Pattern”. There is nothing neither perfect nor beautiful about color or paintbrush by itself.


Oren Ellenbogen