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Best practices to review code for startups

Best practices to review code for startups

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Amid all the chaos, startup teams still need to be self- organized, making sure that the different moving parts work in cohesion. Developers need to build code pieces that work together with each other. Hence, a standard practice has to be created within the team to follow in terms of how the code is written.

This is accomplished, in part, with code reviews. Code review helps developers find anomalies and course corrections to build the right foundation for a startup. 

What is code review?

Code review is a part of the software development lifecycle where the code is checked for quality and for following guidelines. The developer receives constructive feedback during code reviews. Sometimes peer reviewers review code, or sometimes code review is tool-assisted. Finding and correcting errors at an early stage is crucial in saving cost and time. It reduces the cost of handling, locating, and fixing bugs during the later stages of the lifecycle of the software. According to the Code Review Trends 2020 survey, 36% of the startups state that code reviews are the best way to improve code quality and speed up the development process. 

Code review is done to check line by line code for:

  • Potential issues
  • Consistency with the overall program requirement
  • The quality of comments
  • Compliance with coding standards

Specialized application programs for automated code reviewing facilitate systematic testing of source code for potential trouble areas such as buffer overflows, race conditions, memory leakage, size violations, and duplicate statements.

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What is the importance of code review?

Working in a team with multiple moving pieces can be challenging for any company. Having a standard development practice brings order to the chaos. Code review is essential to validate your code against your development practices. Here are the other major advantages of doing code review.

1. Consistent design and implementation

Consistency creates trust. It creates an environment that your users can rely upon every time. As a developer, you need to ensure consistency from the very beginning of the software journey. It is achieved by aligning the business and the user’s goals. Conceptualizing with consistency and thus delivering the experience consistent with the design is incredibly important. Code review facilitates consistency, reduces learning curves, and eliminates confusion while increasing the overall quality and user experience. 

 

2. Proactively fixing bugs and their impact

Code review facilitates an early take on bugs and coding errors before your product gets further built up, making the process efficient. This is the most obvious advantage of the code review process.

 

3. Ensuring project quality and meeting design requirements

The code review process can identify the discrepancies between scope and execution. A fresh perspective can ensure you don’t fall into the self-made scope pit. Having code scrutinized by your peers can save much time resolving the quality issues later.

 

4. Improvement in Team performance

During a code review, teams share knowledge and techniques among peers. Sharing techniques transcends seniority, where every developer can equally share, cooperate, and improve their skills. There is no improvement possible without measurement. With the benchmarks set, the developers can always measure their performance and improve. 

 

5. Building a strong foundation for your software

Designing maintainable software does not need to be an independent effort in silos. Having a code review will allow you to build maintainable software right from start. Iterative development and regular reviews help to improve quality by making code readable. A code analyzed by an automated code review tool is easy to compile and validated for use. Prevention is better (and cheaper) than cure.

Why do startups need a code review?

There are several reasons why doing a code review is a necessary part of the software development lifecycle of a startup.

The first reason is reducing future risks. While there is always the rush to release fast for a startup, Code Review can provide the necessary benchmark so that code is not completely off the mark. 

Moreover, while working together on examining the code, every team member can learn from each other and build a roadmap for the team.

Inspecting the code proactively gives your team the chance to get familiar with it and determine whether it is clean or requires any rework. During each upgrade, you don’t want to end up clearing older issues while introducing the new ones in the process. The critical thing to remember about code review is that it should be performed before your code is merged with the main olive branch.

 

Read more on how implementing an automated code review helped us achieve our quality goals.

Code review best practices for a startup

Since startups work under constraints, here are the code review best practices that can work for a startup. 

 

  1. Divide the code review into time slots:
    A developer should review no more than 400 lines of code at any given time. The brain can only effectively process so much information at a time beyond 400 lines of code, the ability to find defects diminishes. Traditionally, a 200-400 LOC review over 60 to 90 minutes should yield a 70-90% defect discovery. A lightweight, tool-assisted process is recommended to optimize your team’s timely and measure its results effectively.
  2. Decide what to look for while reviewing code based on priority and goals:
    While you are setting up a code review process, your team and the tools you are using must focus on the most critical code review elements. We recommend focusing on aspects that allow you to improve code quality like design, functionality, complexity in the early stages. Comments, Style, Consistency of the code can be formatted later if time permits.
  3. Adopt an automated code review tool:
    Automation will allow for fewer false positives. Automating the code review process increases the scalability and coverage of the review. It’s important that security testing is incorporated as early as possible in the SDLC to ensure that your application can support the growing user base and database is untouchable. With a blend of automation, you can expect much higher accuracy and effectiveness in your process.
  4. Ask teammates for help:
    One shouldn’t be afraid to ask teammates to review his/her code. An ideal approach would be to create an environment of mentorship within the team. Setting-up a meeting with your mentor to discuss code practise can be useful for all participants and  to ensure that the code review happens in a positive and uninterrupted way.
  5. Set up the bug fixing process:
    The more disciplined your team is with this process, the less you’ve had to revisit old bugs that you thought you’d moved on from. It sometimes feels time-consuming in the short run, but timely fixes make the output more reliable over time and are worth the effort.
  6. Optimize your CI/CD pipeline for quality:
    Continuous integration and continuous delivery tools (CI/CD) like Jenkins, Circle CI, and GitHub Actions help automate steps in the software development process. However, these tools cannot ensure quality. The best way to optimize a CI/CD pipeline for quality is by blocking your builds from integration if they have errors.  An automated code review tool can help you in the same. Incorporating automated code review in your CI/CD pipeline can optimize quality without endangering the production environment or creating additional technical debt.

Conclusion:

Here is the ultimate code review checklist that will help you set up your code review practices.

A man following the complete code review checklist
Adapting code reviews into your process can be a significant change. It can also be an intimidating one for some. Implementing the automated code review tool like Codegrip into a plan enhances software
development strategy.

While it is essential to have a code review process in place, it is also necessary to implement it correctly. I hope the above pointers help you in implementing and improving your code review process.

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