Top 11 Code Review Best Practices to Ensure Optimum Quality


August 22, 2023

A crisp, clean code and a thorough code review are both just as important for a robust, effective software application in any custom software development service. It is these code reviews that help developers detect anomalies and offer avenues to enhance security and performance. Hence, performing a good code review is critical to the success of any application. A poor code review could directly lead to a poorly written code, directly hampering the output of the project.

Following code review, best practices can help in coming up with ideal code-writing conditions. This article emphasizes the best practices for code review that can encourage developers to give their best foot forward and hence assure a successful output. Before we venture into the best practices, let us glance through what is a code review, its salient benefits, and how is it performed.


What is a Code Review?

A code review is a systematic methodology to evaluate code, as a peer review, for optimal quality by searching for errors, logic problems, uncovered issues, and anomalies. It helps developers improve their code quality and ensure an ideal output prior to implementation. Also called a peer review, it is usually performed by team members other than the one who has written the code.

The reviewers could be from the same team or other teams, just that they must be experts in the domain. It is essential that the right choice is made as far as the code reviewer is concerned.

How do Code Review Best Practices Prove Fruitful?

Performing a code review is beneficial and following best practices surely helps big time. Here are some of the key advantages in abiding by best practices for code review:

  • Early identification of errors, anomalies, and gaps in logic
  • Ensuring complete coverage of all test cases
  • Alignment and adherence with organizational coding standards
  • Legible, clean, crisp code
  • Widespread knowledge in teams
  • Constructive feedback with responsibility and sharing
  • Seamless QA and software testing processes
  • Increased collaboration between team members
  • Good quality codebase and documentation
  • Code maintainability and knowledge sharing
  • Mentorship opportunities for developers

What Does a Code Review Process Consist Of?

Generally, a code review process comprises the following steps:

  • Preparation of the code for review
  • Selection of the reviewer for a specified set of code
  • Notifying the reviewers of their assigned job
  • Inspection of the code by assigned reviewers
  • Feedback is given by reviewers for defects, readability, etc.
  • Rework on the code based on feedback as an iterative process
  • Once finalized, merging of code with the main codebase

11 Key Code Review Best Practices to be Followed

  • Build a Robust Code Review Checklist
  • Create Code Review Standards
  • Offer Productive Opinion
  • Measure with Appropriate Metrics
  • Throw Flexible Questions
  • Limit The Rate and Speed at Which Review Is Done
  • Go In for Pair Programming
  • Create a Process for Logging Code Review and Its Resolution
  • Automate Code Review Process with Code Review Tools
  • Execute Tests Prior to Submission of Code Review
  • Stick to Confirmed Norms and Principles, Not Thoughts

Build a Robust Code Review Checklist:

Having a detailed code review checklist can be of great assistance while performing reviews since there is already a pre-listed set of functionalities that must be checked and hence you don’t miss any. These pre-determined sets of queries offer a structured way to check the quality and accuracy of code from the codebase.

Focussing on your priority list, it takes care of various areas like security, testing span, readability, reusability, architecture, performance, and maintainability.

With the checklists being followed uniformly across the teams, it becomes easy for the entire review team to check on the same grounds, ensuring a streamlined result output. These checklists must be created to check on functionalities like naming conventions, code comments, speed of execution, following best practices for code review, organizational objectives, etc.

Create Code Review Standards:

There are different code reviewers performing the code review of various components. It is essential to create a set of code review standards that is followed by the entire reviewing task force so that everyone follows the same standardized path.

Yes, there will be variations related to specific functionalities but, fundamentally, they will follow the same principles. These standards also ensure that reviewers don’t get biased by their personal preferences.

The code review standards must include standards related to programming languages, security of code, understandability, testability, code format, documentation, etc.

These standards ensure that reviewers stick to a typical format rather than deviating towards other trivial matters, wasting their time and energy on non-functional areas. It also helps them in implementing related tools that can automate code reviews.

Offer Productive Opinion:

Thanks to human nature, not everyone can take critical feedback with open arms. The reviewer who is performing the code review must be aware of the way in which the comments are being presented since it is crucial to creating a rapport with the coding team.

What matters is that that feedback must be taken with a positive spirit and required changes must be made. For that, it is important that the developers take it in the right spirit.

A productive output will assist the teams to get closer and solve the issues. Yes, there must be transparency and openness, there need not be any hesitation to convey the comments else you lose out on the integrity of the job.

However, the feedback can always be constructive and respectful, with explanations to convince the developers of the changes needed. There must not be any type of personal remark or suggestion that can hinder the sole purpose.

Measure with Appropriate Metrics:

The best way to ensure you are on the right track is to measure through relevant metrics. These figures assist you in finding out the efficacy level of your reviews and the relevance it will have on further course of action.

The metrics could include inspection rate, defect density, defect rate, review depth, review quality, review impact, lines of code, code coverage, and many more. These key metrics offer insight into the actual picture of how the code is behaving and how it will affect the performance of the entire application.

There are robust metrics-based code review tools that can work well in collecting information about code reviews and offer detailed output in terms of different parameters such as performance, accuracy, quality, effectiveness, etc.

Throw Flexible Questions:

Asking flexible queries based on code snippets offers the convenience of thinking realistically and logically to come up with factual answers rather than getting rigidly tied to facts. Developers find it easy and seamless to answer with creativity and independence, not taking it as a blame or error.

It increases the stage of more positive discussion, mentoring, and sharing of knowledge, giving it a total positive output. It facilitates developers to discuss newer ways to solve issues and thereby increase their knowledge bank, be it freshers or experienced developers.

Limit The Rate and Speed at Which Review Is Done:

You, as a code reviewer, would wish to run through the code speedily and come out with all possible errors, as quickly as possible. But that doesn’t serve the purpose. It may boomerang on the results. Proven facts suggest that the inspection rate should be under 500 lines of code per hour. In case you go in for more, the defect density is sure to drop. A slower pace for code review proves more effective.

It is also suggested not to sit for review for more than 60 minutes at a stretch. After about an hour, productivity may start wavering leading to inaccuracies. Taking a short break can help regain freshness and thereby assure better results. It is better not to rush your review since offering quality output is much more important than finishing off the review quickly.

Go In for Pair Programming:

Pair programming is an innovative style of code review best practices, in which there are two developers who collaborate in real-time with one of them writing the code and the other reviewing it. It becomes easy for the developers to share their knowledge and come up with a solution together, with high-quality output. It also creates a collaborative workspace for them to function together.

Pair programming offers benefits such as solving complicated issues, transfer of knowledge, sharing of ideas and expertise, identifying errors and anomalies early in time and increase the communication between team members.

It also assists in avoiding information silos by smooth collaboration between developers and code reviewers.

Create a Process for Logging Code Review and Its Resolution:

Performing code reviews is highly important but that is not it. As a best practice for code review, the main crux lies in collecting all the pointers that have arisen in the code review, documenting them well, and taking appropriate steps to resolve them. Leaving the later portion of the code review process mismanaged will not get you good results.

The core code review process team members must work on a systematic process to fix the anomalies that arise during code review. Automated code review tools could work best to do all of it together, through an appropriate defect tracking system. The process must gel in sync with the project’s overall scope and objectives, to ensure a collaborative environment.

Automate Code Review Process with Code Review Tools:

Automation is the key to an effective code review process. It can be done by implementing a robust code review tool. Automated static analytics tools, syntax checkers, style checkers, etc. must be leveraged to avail faster and more authentic reviews with automatic log reports, analysis of review comments, and a further line of action.

Select an appropriate code review tool based on your requirements – a tool that can offer smooth usage with good performance, integration with plug-ins, CI/CD tools, code editing, and review features, templates for comments, third-party integration with other tools, and tracking of the entire feedback cycle. Some of the commonly used code review tools are Bitbucket, GitHub, GitLab, Gerrit, etc.

Execute Tests Prior to Submission of Code Review:

As a key code review best practice, code reviewers must ensure that they themselves, test their piece of code that is reviewed before they hand over the code further for execution. It is imperative that the feedback that you are offering, is valid and the change you are asking for, is feasible.

Simply reviewing the code and writing comments doesn’t suffice to ensure realistic feedback. It must be well tried and tested before it reaches the developer for changes. This shows you are sincere, and you appreciate the efforts put in by the developers in making the changes in the code. This impression can increase productivity levels and bring out the finesse in the code reviews.

Stick to Confirmed Norms and Principles, Not Thoughts:

Since code reviews involve technical skills and non-technical skills, it becomes important for code reviewers to understand the difference between standardized principles and opinions. All developers do have their own opinions but when it comes to writing code, they must rely on and leverage the standard principles that have been defined for code review.

Developers and code reviewers could have their own thought processes and can surely convey those to each other. But when it comes to decision-making, they all must follow the pre-defined and standard norms that have been mutually agree upon. Their individual perceptions must not hinder the way to an accurate and reliable code review.

Some Quick Tips as Best Practices for Code Review
  • Aim for small, doable changes first
  • Don’t have too many reviewers
  • Offer a description to all reviews
  • Have a mixed panel of novices and experienced reviewers
  • Perform reviews daily
  • Keep in mind the geographic time zones
  • Stay respectful, grateful, and polite in your feedback
  • Give feedback in a timely and organized manner
  • Take it up as a team activity, rather than individual
  • Never include any caste, religion, or creed bias while a review
Wrapping Up

Maintaining and managing the health efficacy of the entire codebase is extremely important and there is no better way to do so, other than following the above-mentioned code review best practices. Doing so is sure to lead your project to success and enhance your productivity and profitability.

These best practices for code review come in handy and are appropriate for projects and applications of varied sizes and segments, be it any type of technology, infrastructure, or architecture involved.

As an experienced custom software development and testing company, SPEC INDIA offers sophisticated and exhaustive development and software testing services, with a committed and competent team. Our primary focus is to ensure enhanced quality at each junction of the project, target almost zero Post Delivery Defects, and achieve utmost customer satisfaction with consistent analysis and even-handed assessment.

Reach out to us for any kind of custom software development needs, we can surely help!

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