Don't let bad code slip through the cracks! Our 10 best practices for code review will have you feeling like a coding superhero!
10 Code Review Best Practices
Implementing a structured procedure for manual code reviews can ensure the quality and security of your software. Given the potential for errors during the code creation process, having a set of fresh expert eyes to scan your code can help reveal flaws initially unnoticed by programmers.
Apart from improving code performance and clarity, code review services can also help learn from solutions and foster better teamwork to advance the organization’s general approach to tooling and collaboration. When carried out properly code reviews can contribute to high-quality codes, improve communication and knowledge sharing about the codebase, and reduce the number of errors reaching QA.
However, despite all its advantages, code reviews can turn out to be difficult to organize. According to research by SmartBear, 55% of software developers are dissatisfied with their existing code review procedures.
This necessitates looking at and adopting code review best practices to generate more output and value and produce secure, high-quality code in lesser time. Here is a compilation of ten code review best practices that your organization must deploy to realize the benefits of code review.
#1 Cover a Few Key Areas In Your Code Review
When it comes to code review best practices, there are some basic areas of concern that should be covered first. For instance, the code should be easy to understand and must adhere to the coding standards and guidelines. Check for any duplication and issues with scalability and security.
Next, focus on the functionality of the code. Ensure that new features add value to the process overall, and do not create inconsistencies anywhere else. Also look at the readability, code syntax, and formatting to ensure that the code is clear, concise, and standards-compliant. Checking design principles is equally important to ensure that the code is properly planned and organized.
The code should also ideally be either self-documenting or well-documented to ensure a seamless review process. Finally, it is important to adjudge the debuggability, testability, and configurability parameters of the code in light of possible changes in the future. You may use a checklist to ensure that you cover all these key areas in the code review process.
#2 Ensure the Right Tone for the Review
The tone of the code review can have a lasting impact on the team, so make sure that the reviews are neither aggressive nor too negative to bring down their morale. Keep in mind that strong language can make people defensive and start argumentative conversations. On the other hand, a positive and professional attitude reflected in the code review can promote a more welcoming working environment.
With the right tone for the code review, you can help establish an atmosphere where workers are more receptive to constructive criticism. Such code reviews spark meaningful, outcome-driven dialogues, help nurture good ideas, and are generally upbeat.
#3 Add Comments When Creating the Source Code
Sections of the code should be annotated using non-functional comments by developers in the source code itself, explaining the purpose of a code block. This practice makes it easier for the review team to understand choices or changes by developers.
When properly implemented, comments should allow reviewers to comprehend the aim and approach of the entire code sequence. Such annotations can guide reviewers through modifications, flows, and the rationale behind each code alteration. Also, establishing and following a style guide improves readability for the entire source code.
#4 Set Down a Process for Requesting and Approving Changes
Once a review is completed, the reviewer either marks the review as accepted, blocks it with modification requests, or does not set a status at all, leaving it as “not yet approved”. Code review best practices revolve around setting down a process for both change requests and approval.
For instance, changes should not be approved while there are still open-ended queries. Additionally, comments or queries that are relevant and not obstructing the process should be clearly designated as such.
Reviewers must also be clear when they approve a modification, for instance by providing a thumbs-up comment. When asking for a follow-up, the code review must be equally clear, using the right tools or protocol to do so. They can prevent time-consuming and expensive team member communication in this way.
#5 Keep New Team Members in Mind
For most people, starting at a new company is intimidating. Add to this the fact that different organizations and teams have different ways of examining work, and programming or formatting the codebase. The best approach is to give extra care to ensure that new employees have a positive experience during their first few reviews.
Start by acknowledging that the person might not be conversant with all the coding requirements or other areas of code. Such evaluations make an extra effort to clarify alternate strategies and direct the reader to the appropriate rules. The tone should always be upbeat and supportive, effectively extending a warm welcome to the new team member.
#6 Limit the Number of Review Sessions
Developers should only evaluate 200 to 400 lines of code (LOC) at a time, according to research on a Cisco systems programming team. Above 400 LOC, the brain’s capacity for effective information processing drops, making it harder to detect mistakes.
In actuality, a review of 200–400 LOC lasting 60–90 minutes should uncover 70–90% of the defects. Hence, if there were 10 faults in the code, a thorough review would discover seven to nine of them. According to several studies, only including two active reviewers is the optimum approach for code reviews. 75% of all code modifications at Google are reviewed by just one reviewer.
#7 Leverage the Power of Automation for Faster Outcomes
While adhering to the best practices for code reviews, try to automate as much as you can to reduce the time consumed in the process. You may use style checkers, grammar checkers, and other automated techniques like static analysis tools to enhance the process. Automation also helps reviewers focus entirely on providing insightful input, without wasting time on tasks that can be identified automatically.
#8 Keep Interoperability and Cross-Time Zones in Mind
When reviewers are not working in the same time zone, the process can become even more challenging to complete. Where possible, try to take into consideration the time zone difference and try co-working during overlapping office hours. Reviewers may offer to chat directly or conduct a video conference to discuss adjustments for reviews that have a lot of comments to discuss. In case the code reviews are frequently encountering broader time zone issues, it is best to search for a systemic fix outside the code review framework.
#9 Assign Well-Defined Metrics for Code Reviews
It is important to determine how you will evaluate the success of the code review by establishing a few specific objectives and metrics beforehand. Start with external metrics and apply SMART criteria to gain a quantified picture of how your code is progressing.
Watching internal process metrics is also beneficial, including the Inspection Rate for speed, the Defect Rate, and Density for the number of bugs, etc. A metrics-driven code review tool collects data automatically, ensuring the objectivity and accuracy of your data.
#10 Conduct a Security Code Review
Another code review best practice is to conduct a secure code review to detect whether the application or nearby code blocks are compromised by the code’s intrinsic flaws. A secure code review can also help find logical mistakes related to an application’s operation. The developer must be able to build the code in an environment that protects it against outside attacks, which may otherwise result in data loss, intellectual property theft, or other negative outcomes.
Improve Your Code Reviews One Step at a Time
Even after endless iterations of code optimization and improvement, developers may still miss some bugs or security flaws. They can make sure their code is thoroughly tested before releasing it to production by putting in place a code review process to ensure high-quality, secure code.
Code review best practices combine automation, manual peer review stages, and secure code review practices. Improve your code reviews by paying attention to the specifics, but also start taking a broad view of the modifications. Forward-thinking companies that promote investing in process and tool upgrades to enhance code reviews can maximize their advantages in the process.