6 Best Practices for Code Review

Mar 27, 2023 | Test Automation Insights

students in a computer lab

Code development is an ever-growing field. To keep up, development teams are exploring the payoffs of investing in ongoing code reviews. They’re finding that a proper code review can speed up development, improve code quality, and build a team with better communication skills and more confidence in its work.  

What Is a Code Review? How Does It Work?

A code review occurs when developers submit changes for their team to analyze. They initiate a pull request before they merge the source branch they are working on into the code base. The code review request should begin a well-defined plan of systematic scrutiny of the new code. 

What will code review do for your company? Each situation is unique. Humans are the best for this task, so everything depends on how well you develop your review process.

Code Review Best Practices

To be effective, the code review process should adhere to the best code review practices for your organizational structure. No matter which of the many methods of code review your organization uses, drawing from a set of proven general principles is helpful.

Here are six best practices to consider as you develop your code review process.

Limit Your Review to Less Than 400 Lines of Code at a Time

Working for long periods on the same detailed activity at high concentration levels weakens focus. Reducing the amount of code needing to be addressed at once will help. 

Examining longer code sections can result in fatigue, which leads to missing errors and potential issues. Keeping blocks of code to review to 400 lines or less helps ensure the reviewer catches all or most of the mistakes. 

Keeping the code blocks short also helps you feel more confident in your work. In addition, you and other team members will experience more success as you have more opportunities to improve the code.

Don’t Review a Piece of Code for Too Long in One Go

In addition to limiting the amount of code, you will want to limit the time you spend analyzing each section of code. Working on the same task for too long decreases efficiency. After a certain point, putting in more time only results in diminishing returns.

Many people underestimate their fatigue, but a decline in performance usually appears after about an hour of intense mental exercise. To avoid this, shorten individual sessions while increasing frequency. Divide the time into smaller chunks of about an hour and add breaks in between.

After you finish about 60 minutes of analyzing code, move on to other duties while someone rotates into the reviewer role. A fresh set of eyes helps ensure the efficiency level remains high.

Go at Your Own Pace, Don’t Rush

While humans are good at designing creative solutions that improve code, as previously noted, humans still have limitations.

Avoid rushing through code to finish the review process faster. It will likely cost you more time having to readdress hastily reviewed sections than it will if you take your time during the first review. Accuracy takes priority over speed in this phase. Get your team to focus, and then slowly work on increasing speed.

A reasonable goal for your review team is about 500 lines per hour. This figure fits nicely with the first two best practices to help you design a review process that gets the most from each team member. The result is better code with fewer debugging hours.

Make Sure the Feedback on Code Backs You Up

One of the keys to success with code reviews is having an established process for immediately evaluating feedback for accuracy. An experienced developer should structure how critiques should be handled. 

For example, competition between individual team members should never become aggressive or condescending. A junior developer should feel confident enough to share suggestions for improvements on code written by a senior developer. The goal is to instill an atmosphere of positive communication and teamwork. 

Use Peer Reviews

You don’t want to jump into a significant code review project before your team has had a chance to practice. Instead, develop your review process by conducting peer code reviews on a smaller scale. This will offer more freedom to work out crucial details, like establishing the communication channels you want your team to use. 

Some feel that in-person code review sessions are the most effective, but it isn’t always possible. Pair programming, or teaming two developers together for a project, is easy to implement and expand with digital communication tools.

Using current code collaboration tools, forums, or email helps you get used to having your work reviewed while also learning to analyze the work of others effectively. By participating in both roles, you can improve your skills in both annotating and designing code. 

Electronic communication also makes it easier to include team members who work on different aspects of the project. Bringing fresh perspectives and a broader view of the task at hand often provides an incentive for the team to improve. Team leadership should always strive to build a spirit of continuous improvement.

Use Automation for Source Codes

There are some tasks that computers perform far better than humans. A static analysis that checks source code line-by-line against a set of guidelines is one of those activities.

You want your team to spend time on the creative aspects of solving high-level problems rather than correcting syntax and logical errors. Instead of drowning in mundane coding details, your development team should focus on broader, more complex problems.

Don’t Go at Code Review Alone

Ranorex is here with an easy framework of automation tools for any platform. Streamline repetitive tasks and improve your development speed. Give your team the advantage of quickly building tests, analyzing reports, and compiling a thorough document review. When you choose Ranorex, your code development speed and accuracy will increase, giving you more time to conduct thorough code reviews.

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