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Best practices for Reviewing Code

Best Practices For Reviewing Code

 

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What is Code Review?

Code review is a software quality assurance process in which software’s source code is analyzed manually by a team or by using an automated code review tool. The motive is purely, to find bugs, resolve errors, and for most times, improving code quality. Reviewing the codebase makes sure that every software or new feature developed within the company is of high quality. Code review is an essential process that every software company must follow, so we researched the best practices for reviewing code.

Did You Know?

On average developers spend over 17 hours per week dealing with maintenance issues like debugging and refactoring, and about a quarter of that time is spent fixing bad code. That’s nearly $300B in lost productivity every year. 

-According to a research conducted by Stripe in partnership with Harris Poll

 

Top 9 Practices for Reviewing Code

Let’s dive into the best practices for performing an effective code review. A code review process differs from team to team; it’s an approach that needs little changes according to the projects and members getting involved. We have listed below 9 points to keep in mind while analyzing your code.

 

1. Set goals and standards

Before implementing a code review process, it is imperative to decide important metrics and define unambiguous goals. Goals include acceptable coding standards in the company. Having set standards makes sure that each software product developed in the company meets the companies standards.

2. Communicate Goals and Expectations

Communication of goals and expectations is essential. Not conveying goals and expectations with everyone in the team can lead to ambiguity regarding the result. Knowing what is expected from a developer makes it easier for them to complete a task.

3. Define a Code Review Process

Now that the goals and expectations are set and communicated with everyone it is time to define a code review process. Having a defined code review process will help everyone stay on track and decrease the time spent on technical debt

4. Use a code review checklist

A good code review requires a well-defined checklist. This checklist can be used by the reviewer to make sure nothing is missed out.

Recommended Read: The Ultimate Code Review Checklist

5. Authors should annotate source code before the review

Annotation can be a useful tool throughout the software development cycle and also for the reviewer. It helps the code reviewer understand the code better and what each block of code does. We encourage developers to add annotations to their code but do not overdo it.

6. Review for no more than 60 minutes at a time

It is a well-known fact that a person’s efficiency can deplete if they try to work continuously for hours without taking a break. The same concept applies when trying to review code. It is not recommended to perform code reviews for more than 60 minutes. Research has stated that post the 60 minutes mark the reviewer’s efficiency can deplete can some of the defects may go unnoticed.

7. Establish a process for fixing defects found

Fixing the defects post a code review process is an ultimate goal. Having a defined process to fix the defects will make sure that it is done in the most effective way and with the least technical debt.

8. Foster a positive code review culture

In many companies, code reviews are used to evaluate the developer’s performance. But code reviews should be used for more than that. It should be used to develop an environment of learning. Rather than just telling them their mistakes it should be seen that they learn how to solve them and make sure these are not repeated.

9. Automate to Save Time

Automated Code Review tools like Codegrip are great assets for every software company. Tools like these can help reduce code review times to a few seconds. They can scan the entire codebase in less than a minute and find defects and also provide solutions for them.

Reviwing code is only a matter of seconds with codegrip. Detect all bugs and vulnerabilities with a click of a button.

 

Best Code Review Technique

Every company has its own process of performing code review but we look into four of the best and most code review techniques. 

1. Instant Code Reviewing Technique

The most direct form of reviewing code is the Instant Code review technique. 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.

 

 2. Ad-hoc (synchronous) 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.

 

3. 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 constantly 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.

 

4. Tool Based Code Reviewing Technique

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 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 refer 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.

 

Here’s a video of how you can review your code using Codegrip

 

An 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 estimated 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.

 

Want to get accurate code review results? Sign up now and get instant code review reports for Free!

 

Conclusion

Code review has remained 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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Comments

  • Pranav mandhare

    January 9, 2020

    Well curated Content. The best practices are very apt for every software company. I loved that you also had an audio and video version of the blog.

    reply

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