Best Code Review Practices

How do you run code reviews? Code reviews are vital and enhance the quality of code. They are responsible for the stability and reliability of the code. Moreover, they build and foster relationship among team members. Following are some of the tips for code reviews.

1.   Have a Basic Understanding of What to Search in the Code

To begin with, you should have a basic idea about what you are looking for. Ideally, you should look for major aspects like the following.

  • What structure has the programmer followed?
  • How is the logic building so far?
  • What style has been used?
  • How is the code performing?
  • How are the test results?
  • How readable is the code?
  • Does it look maintainable?
  • Is it ticking up all the boxes for the functionality?

You can also perform static analysis or other automated checks to evaluate the logic and structure of your code. However, some things are best reviewed from a pure manual check like functionality and design.

Moreover, you also have to consider the following questions for the code.

  • Are you able to understand how the code works and what does it do?
  • Is the code following the client requirement?
  • Are all modules and functions running as expected?

2.   Take 60-90 Minutes for a Review

You should avoid spending too much time for reviewing a codebase in a single sitting. This is because after a 60-minute time interval, a code reviewer naturally begins sensing tiredness and does not have the same physical and mental strength to pick out defects from the code. Such state is supported by proofs from other studies as well. It is a common fact that whenever human beings commit themselves to an activity which needs special attention, their performance begins to experience a dip after 60 minutes. By following this time period, a reviewer can at best review around 300 to 600 lines of code.

3.   Assess 400 Lines of Code at Max

According to a code review by Cisco, for best results, developers should conduct a code review which extends from 200 to 400 LOC (lines of code) at a time. After this time period, the capability to identify bugs begins to wither way. Considering an average review stretches up to 1.5 hours, you can get a yield in between 70-90%. This means that if there were 10 faults in the code, then you maybe successful to find at least 9 of them.

4.   Make Sure Authors Annotate Source Code

It is possible that authors of the code can remove almost all of the flaws from the code before a review is required. This can be done if it is mandatory for the developers to re-check their code, thus making reviews end faster while the code quality remains unaffected as well.

Before the review, authors can use annotation in their code. With annotations the reviewer can them go through all the modifications, see what to look first and assess the methods and reasons for all the changes in the code. Thus, these notes are not merely code comments but they serve as a guide to the reviewers.

Since authors have to re-assess and explain their modifications while annotating the code, therefore it can help to show different flaws in the code prior to the beginning of the review. As a result, the review achieves a greater level of efficiency.

5.   Setup Quantifiable Metrics

In the beginning, you have to come up with the goals for the code review and brainstorm how to assess the effectiveness of the code. After certain goals are defined, it can help to reflect better whether or not the peer review is providing the required results.

You can use external metrics like “cut upon the defects from development by 50%” or “decrease support calls by 15%”. Therefore, you can get a better picture of how well your code is performing from an external outlook. Moreover, a quantifiable measurement is wiser rather than having an unclear objective to “resolve more bugs”.

It must be noted that the results of the external metrics are not realized too early. For instance, there will be no changes to the support calls till the release of the new version and users can use the software. Therefore, you should also judge internal process metrics for getting the number of defects, study the points which cause issues, and get an idea about how much time is being spent by your developer on reviewing their code. Some of the internal code review metrics are the following.

  • Inspection rate: It is measured in kLOC (thousands of lines of code) per work hour and represents the time required for reviewing the code.
  • Defect rate: It is measured in number of defects discovered for each hour. It represents the process to discover defects
  • Defect density: It is measured in number of defects for each kLOC. It represents the number of defects which are discovered in a code.

6.   Create Checklists

Checklists are vital for the reviews due to the fact that help the reviewer to keep tasks in mind. They are a good option to evaluate those components which might be forgotten by you. They are not only effective for reviewers but they can also aid the developers.

One of the tough defects to highlight is omission as it is obviously tough to identify a piece of code which was never added. A checklist is one of the best ways to address this issue. With checklist both the reviewers and author can verify that the errors have been resolved, the arguments in the function are tested to run with invalid values, and the required unit tests are generated.

Another good idea is to use a personal checklist. Each developer often repeated the same errors in their code. If the creation of personal checklist is enforced then it can help the reviewers.



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