Code Review is one of key tools for teams dealing in software development. It ensures that changes introduced to the codebase won’t break things instead of improving them. Here’s how to approach the review process to make the most out of it.
Code Review itself is pretty self-explanatory: it’s a process during which your peers, coming from inside your team, take a look at the code and look for any potential problems. That’s why it’s also called Peer Code Review. This quality control method is used by a lot of software development teams, and for a good reason: it works. Not just by ironing out all the rough edges, but also by making the team members better understand each other. We will discuss it in more detail below.
So, how to make a great process even better?
Rule #1: Assemble the review team
First of all, remember that everyone’s work is worth reviewing, and that every dev team member should get a chance to review someone else’s code. Having an architect looking at an engineer’s work may result in great feedback. However, to make sure any Code Review is comprehensive, you’ll need more than just one reviewer.
Rule #2: Prepare a framework
You have your review team assembled. Now, in order to ensure that your Code Review is consistent, you should establish some kind of a framework to work within. Determine the goals of your review, the methodology, the criteria. Inform the reviewers about them. You have to be certain that everyone is looking for the right things. Speaking of which…
Rule #3: Look for the right things
If you simply take a look at the code, it might seem okay, but it’s all too easy to glance over tiny details that make a difference. Or the other way around: it’s possible to focus on the details and not notice that they don’t add up in the context of the big picture.
When it comes to typos etc., these kinds of flaws can be found automatically. That’s actually a commendable practice: auto-testing the code before you even ask for review.
Peer Code Review is handy when you need to judge the overall structure of the code, its design, its functionality. It’s good to ask yourself: does this code perform its primary function within the app well enough? Or: is it even clear what that function is?
Rule #4: Don’t sweat over it too much
You might have the best intentions and involve yourself immensely in the review process, but the truth is – with every passing quarter your attention drops and your thoughts start to wander. After an hour of code reviewing, you’ll almost certainly miss something.
Solution? Take breaks. Regenerate. Choose frequent but shorter reviews over a full day of slouching over the code. Or, limit yourself by the number of lines you’re going to review at a single time. 300 is good. 400 is cutting it close. As a rule of thumb, don’t go over 400.
Rule #5: Don’t be harsh on the other person
It’s easy to criticize, but hard to give constructive criticism. When you give any feedback, never assume the other person made a mistake because of their lack of knowledge. Do your best to avoid sounding preachy. Ask instead of telling. It’s good to not just point out the flaws, but also acknowledge the good things. Your review should motivate other software developers instead of discouraging them.
Rule #6: Take the easy way where it won’t hurt you
The purpose of Code Review is to use the unique viewpoint of another person to improve a piece of code. That’s why this process is not automated. We’ve mentioned this before: you ask your peers for opinions on the aspects of code that can be viewed subjectively. And sure, they can find problems with technical details, but that’s not the primary goal. Having this in mind, feel free to use tools like static analyzers to avoid having to manually go over the code looking for technicalities.
Rule #7: Consider this a chance to work on your internal culture
Any cooperation is a great way to develop your work culture. Since Peer Code Review will most likely become a regular event at your software development house, you can use it to nurture your relationships and promote good practices. To achieve this, you need to focus on motivating and of finding solutions instead of criticizing and finding out who’s guilty. If you neglect this, you risk turning Code Reviews, one of the most useful tools software developers can get, into events hated and feared by your crew.
What if you work with an external software development house?
Enrolling an external team to take care of your projects is a great way to save money, and Code Review can be your litmus paper when trying to assess a potential partner. It’s a good sign if the review process is part of your candidate’s workflow. Ask about it—it will not only ensure a higher quality of work, but also be a sign that this software house has experience in management and keeps up to date with best practices.
We at fireup.pro consider code review as one of the most important parts of our web and mobile software development services. If you want to receive a high-quality product with a clean, readable, and maintainable code, contact our experts and learn how to make the best use of code review in your next project.