A comic on the struggles of a code reviewer while reviewing bad code.

Best practices for Reviewing Code

Best Practices For Reviewing Code

According to The State of Code Review, 90% of tech leaders say that code quality is the best reason for doing code reviews. Beyond that, it’s a method for improving the ways teams collaborate, including team-wide knowledge sharing, mentoring less experienced developers, and increasing the frequency of collaboration. We couldn’t agree more, so we have researched the best practices for reviewing code to figure out which one is the most effective for your code.


Code Review is the best method for improving code quality.

Code review is a software quality assurance process in which software’s source code gets checked manually by a team of people or by using an automated code review tool. The motive is pure, to find bugs, resolve errors, and for most times, improving code quality. While working together on examining code, every team member can put up smarter solutions that would improve the general performance of the software. The basic process of manually reviewing code is that the author of code and head of the project sit down together reviewing lines of code. More the reviewers, the better the code review process is as developers have different expertise and missing glitches become a less likely chance. Collaborative reviews not only enhance the software itself but also the level of the team’s expertise.

The code review process differs from team to team; it’s an approach that needs little changes according to the projects and members getting involved. But we look into four of the best practices for reviewing code to know more about how this approach works and what does the tech industry thinks about it.

Instant Code Reviewing Technique

The most direct form of reviewing code is the Instant Code review Process. In this, the developer is writing code while the reviewer sits beside reading the code simultaneously and correcting it on the go. Also known as pair programming, this process is best suited for highly complex programs where two minds can solve the problem much quicker and efficiently.

While this process looks favorable for companies but in reality, the time and workforce needed by this technique make it unfavorable. Two or more people working on code together means less average lines per developer. Interruption for corrections also halts the flow of work for the author of the code and the learning curve for a developer hinders if constant support or solution is presented right away by a reviewer for a complex problem.

 Ad-hoc Code Reviewing Technique

Also known as “Over the Shoulder” code-review process. It is the most commonly used process with around 75% of companies participating in ad-hoc reviews. In this type of synchronous method, the coder produces the code and then asks the reviewer to review the code. The reviewer joins the coder at the screen, reviews the code while discussing it, over the shoulder. It is implemented wisely because it is informal and spontaneous. The process is successful only if the reviewer is available at the time or it disrupts the coder’s speed. 

Three team members checking the code quality.

This method has a high probability of missing errors and glitches as most of the time, the reviewer lacks the knowledge of the goal of the task. Immediate review missed to bring out better results as a team would have in their refinement sessions together with tasks discussed upfront. The ad-hoc review usually results in only a developer knowing the goal of the project. The major problem of this process is forced context-switching. Imagine working on a complex software yourself, and then being called by your junior member for an ad-hoc review. You would have to leave your station immediately to review the code of your co-worker. Having to leave your work suddenly can create exhaustion and frustration.

Meeting Based Code Reviewing Technique

This is the least commonly used process with only 44% using it once a month. In meeting based code review, coders complete their work and a meeting is called. The whole tech team sits, commenting and attempting to improve the code together. It is a temporary process as it is highly unlikely to perform on a constant basis considering the amount of time, loss of workforce for the time, decreased efficiency and inability to get the whole team together.

A team performing meeting based code review process

Meeting based code reviews make sense only when the whole team is inexperienced with the code review process. It involves assembling the entire team in a room, sharing ideas and solving problems for a few times. This helps every team member to understand the process much clearer. With just over half of the companies using this, this process is not adequate as a code quality assurance standard.


Tool Based Code Reviewing Process

This process is not done by a team together, at least not on the same screen. It is also called an asynchronous code review. In this, once the code gets finished, the coder makes it available for others to review. The reviewer will review the code on their screen commenting, or even amending the errors in the codes. Then notifying the coder who on her agenda will improve it. When there are no changes, the code is marked with no comments for improvements and the software gets approved. 

Tool based code review eliminates the major problem in the above two processes, direct dependencies. With both coders and reviewers working on their schedule, it also eliminates forced context switching. But just like any other method has its downsides, the tool-based technique has many review loops which take a lot of time just like meeting based processes.

Discussing these three processes, we realize that there’s a need for a method that can make the use of Tool Based Code Review and remove the indirect dependency to get faster results. The solution to this is Automated Code Review Tools.

Sceenshot of Codegrips graphical user interface

60% of Developers are using automated tools; 49% are using it at least weekly.

Automated Code Review Tools are tools prepared by tech community experts and reviewers who love using tool-based techniques but need the quickness of the ad-hoc technique. We will make reference to our tool, CodeGrip to explain how these tools work. CodeGrip connects directly to your repositories like GitHub or BitBucket and lets you import your repository. It analyses your code line by line, finding out error markers such as incorrect lines, duplicity, security issues, and displaying it collectively for a project and separately for all files as well.

Automated code review eliminates the manual reviewer role in the process. CodeGrip also provides the developer with a suggestive engine that shows the suggestions to amend code line by line. Codegrip also shows the estimate time to correct the code, allowing the developers to schedule work accordingly. This process is faster, more efficient, and even highly feasible at any time of period.

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Code review has remained as the trusted code quality practice for the past few years. It seems to continue for years to come. But issues like lack of time and manpower call for the rise in the use of Automated Code Review tools. They’re more powerful, easier to use and in case of CodeGrip highly affordable too.

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