Good code is what makes a software great. Whether you are a programmer or a software development team lead, you are probably well aware of the advantages of a well-executed code review. The benefits definitely outweigh the tediousness of this process as code reviews can create an environment and culture of feedback, collaboration, and innovation.
Most team leaders find code reviews nerve-wracking, so let’s start off with the best practices for running code reviews.
Best Practices for Running a Code Review
Set clear goals
Code reviews can have many purposes, and you don’t want to begin the process with your reviewers clueless on what type of review they are getting into. You save time by communicating your goals and expectations at the beginning, and letting the team know what to look for during the whole process.
Make the process a positive experience
A code review can be stressful in itself, so make things lighter by avoiding playing the blame game. When there are errors caught during the process, it would help not to dwell so much on who introduced the error, but rather, appreciate that it was detected after all. Do your best to foster a positive culture in this process so your employees do not end up dreading every code review.
Use automation tools
Rely on technological advances in making your code reviews less time-consuming. After all, more time in code reviews means less time programming. Tools that can filter out issues in codes by running them against coding rules can give your reviewers a headstart on the process, and let them focus on errors and issues that tools are unable to find.
To further organize your code review process, it would be best to learn from industry giants on how they do it. There are templates that can help you pick the best reviewers, effectively write code review comments, and handle pushback in feedback sessions, and many more.
Now let’s proceed to the best practices for code reviewers themselves.
Best Practices for Doing a Code Review
Review with the end in mind
By end, we just mean what you are looking for in a code review. Keeping key things in mind while doing the review can help you focus on the right things. Design, functionality, structure, complexity, and style are just some of the key components to look after during a code review. It helps to look at the codes critically by keeping questions in mind such as, “Do I know what the code does?,” “Is the code aligned with regulations?” and “Is it functioning the way it is supposed to?”
Take it easy, take breaks
Your attention to detail is crucial to the success of this process, so make sure that you don’t let it wear out. Set a time limit for yourself, say 50 minutes at a time. Every after 50 minutes, take a break — relax your eyes, hydrate, and do some stretching. This gives your brain an opportunity to reset. Aside from setting a time limit, set a maximum number of lines of code in every review, as well. Make sure that review sessions only involve fewer than 400 lines at a time.
Give clear and helpful feedback
Keep in mind that the goal of a code review is collaboration, and not competition. Also note that it is still best to give your feedback in person to ensure that tone and motive are not misinterpreted. Don’t forget to include praises when you give constructive feedback. At the end of the day, it is in the company’s best interest that developers see the code review process as an avenue for learning rather than nitpicking.
Written by Mary Johnson, of Slab