15 Effective Code Review Practices for Product Engineering Teams

For product engineering teams, implementing efficient and effective code review practices is essential to ensure the delivery of high-quality software, maintainable codebases, and seamless collaboration among team members.

By adopting effective code review practices, product engineering teams can cultivate a collaborative and learning-oriented environment where code improvements are not merely a checkpoint but an opportunity for growth and continuous improvement. Emphasizing the significance of code review in the software development lifecycle, this brief will equip teams with the code review best practices to elevate their code review process and the overall quality of their products.

Mindbowser, an experienced thought leader in the tech industry with a track record of delivering top-notch solutions, understands the importance of code reviews. Through years of experience and collective insights gained from developing successful projects, we realized that high-quality code helps to deliver robust innovative solutions and enhances the overall user experience.

Related Read: The Role of User Experience in Product Engineering

We have crafted a set of best practices that can help code authors reap the benefits of the review process. Organizations can streamline their procedures by utilizing the code review best practices and establishing a structured code review process, fostering a collaborative and growth-oriented culture.

In the following sections of the article, we will share best code review practices that can help serve as a guide to code authors who submit their code for reviews. Code authors can gain insights on how to submit code reviews and incorporate review feedback through our most time-tested techniques and innovative approaches.

How Does Code Review Contribute to Successful Software Development?

code review for successful software development

Improving code quality and detecting defects

Code reviews play a vital role in early bug detection, identifying logic errors, and addressing other issues during the software development process. By catching these problems before deployment to production, code authors can prevent costly and time-consuming bugs from impacting end users.

Reviewers provide valuable feedback and suggest enhancements to code structure to improve the readability and maintainability of the code. This results in cleaner, more efficient, and well-documented code that facilitates better comprehension and maintenance of the codebase by other team members.

Promoting knowledge sharing and learning within teams

Code reviews foster knowledge sharing within the team by exposing developers to diverse coding styles, techniques, and solutions. This exposure enables them to learn from each other and embrace best practices, resulting in an overall enhancement of the team’s expertise.

Additionally, code reviews motivate developers to consistently refine their skills. The constructive feedback and suggestions from peers create a culture of learning and growth, leading to elevated competency levels across the team.

Mitigating risks and ensuring security compliance

Leveraging code reviews to establish a robust security foundation proves instrumental in detecting and reducing the risk of potential security issues or threats early in the software development process. Furthermore, code reviews serve as a valuable tool to ensure that the code is compliant with industry standards, guaranteeing that the software meets essential security and privacy requirements.

Improving overall development efficiency

Code reviews contribute to improving overall development efficiency in software development by identifying and addressing issues early in the development process, reducing the need for costly and time-consuming bug fixes later on.

Additionally, the collaborative nature of code reviews fosters knowledge sharing and continuous learning among team members, leading to a more skilled and proficient development team capable of producing higher-quality code in a more efficient manner.

15 Best Practices for Conducting Effective Code Reviews

15 best practices for effective code reviews

Here are some best practices for conducting effective code reviews:

1. Thoroughly Review Your Changes

Conduct a self-review of the code before submitting it for review. Addressing simpler issues on your own not only saves time but also prevents reviewers from highlighting minor issues. This enables them to concentrate on more complex code changes, leading to a more efficient review process.

Review your changes to identify any inconsistencies or mistakes. It also helps in finding easier ways to solve the problem at hand. Invest in code review tools such as GitHub, Bitbucket, Azure DevOps, and Crucible that facilitate the review process for code authors. These tools allow you to compare the current version of your code with the previous one, highlighting the differences for easier review.

This helps you to focus on precisely what has changed, promoting a more thorough and effective evaluation. Embracing self-review and utilizing advanced code review tools are essential steps toward achieving a collaborative and productive development environment.

2. Focus on Small Changes

As the size of the code change submitted for review increases, the value of the code review feedback diminishes. Conducting code reviews for large chunks of code can be overwhelming and time-consuming, leading to decreased attention to detail and the risk of overlooking potential errors. Moreover, feedback delays may hinder the development process.

Consider breaking down significant codebase updates into smaller, more manageable units for review. For example, code authors can submit smaller code review requests based on specific functionalities or modules when working on a new feature. Focusing on small changes during code reviews yields multiple benefits.

It ensures high-quality reviews, reduces feedback delays, and allows developers to receive timely and relevant feedback that is easier to incorporate. Additionally, this approach simplifies the identification of bugs and encourages a more modular codebase, streamlining future updates and maintenance.

3. Group the Related Changes

Submitting multiple changes within a single code review can overwhelm reviewers, hindering their ability to provide thorough and focused feedback. This review fatigue is aggravated by large code reviews with unrelated changes, leading to less effective feedback and longer review times.

However, grouping-related changes address this challenge effectively. Organizing changes based on relevance and purpose makes the code review more manageable for reviewers. Clear and focused reviews let reviewers grasp the context easily, resulting in more valuable feedback. Moreover, smaller and purpose-driven reviews can seamlessly integrate into the main codebase, streamlining the development process.

4. Include Descriptions

Invest time in writing descriptions providing clear and detailed explanations or summaries of the code changes being submitted for review. Descriptions in the form of comments or notes help reviewers understand the purpose, functionality, and rationale behind the code changes.

Implementing this code review best practice accelerates the code review process, enhances the feedback’s quality and value, and boosts the participation rates in code reviews. Interestingly, several studies have revealed that reviewers really appreciate code change descriptions and wish that more people include descriptions while submitting codes for reviews.

Keep the descriptions short and provide context about the problem or task the changes aim to address. This helps to give a clear picture of the issue being solved. Explain how the changes implement the solution to the problem and discuss how the changes may affect other parts of the code or functionality to alert reviewers to potential dependencies or regressions. Provide a link to resources, documentation, or tickets.

5. Execute Tests for Thorough Analysis

Run tests to verify your code changes before submitting them for review. Submitting codes for review that don’t work as expected can be embarrassing and also hampers the reviewers’ and code author’s productivity. Testing the code ensures that the changes that need to be reviewed are tested and validated thoroughly. This correlated with decreased production defects, showcasing the importance of test-driven code reviews.

Incorporate automated unit tests that automatically run during the code review process. Conduct regression tests to ensure the changes do not adversely affect existing functionality. For critical components or performance-sensitive changes, execute performance tests during code reviews.

6. Automate Code Reviews

The difference between manual code review and automated code review is that manual code reviews are lengthy code review cycles, especially in large-scale projects or teams with limited resources. Conducting code reviews manually might lead to delays in the development process and the potential oversight of certain issues.

Automating code review using code analysis tools like Codegrip helps streamline the review process, accelerate feedback cycles, and ensure consistent code quality across the codebase. Automated tools can quickly scan the code for common issues, allowing reviewers to focus on more complex aspects of the code.

Codegrip dashboard

Codegrip Dashboard

Employing style checkers, syntax analyzers, and other automated tools, such as static analysis tools, can enhance code quality. By doing so, you ensure that code reviewers can focus on providing valuable feedback rather than spending time commenting on issues that can be automatically identified. This streamlines the code review process and facilitates more meaningful collaboration among team members.

Use automated lines that check the code for adherence to coding conventions and best practices. Employ code formatting tools that automatically format the code to maintain a consistent style. Include automated unit tests that run during the code review process to validate the functionality of the code changes.

Set up Continuous Integration (CI) pipelines that run automated code reviews as part of the development workflow. CI ensures that every code change is automatically reviewed before integration.

7. Optimize the Code Review Process by Selectively Skipping Reviews

Conducting code reviews for every single code change can be time-consuming and may not be necessary for every situation. Some reviews can be skipped depending on your organizational policies. Skipping code reviews is only recommended for minor changes that have no impact on the logic, such as comments, formatting adjustments, local variable renaming, or stylistic fixes.

For more substantial changes, code reviews remain essential to maintain code quality and ensure that any potential issues are identified and addressed before deployment.

Define clear criteria and guidelines for when code reviews can be skipped. Adopt a risk-based approach to code reviews. Prioritize reviews for complex or critical code changes, while allowing for skipping reviews for low-risk or straightforward changes. Set thresholds or limits for the size or impact of code changes that trigger mandatory reviews.

Small changes that fall below the threshold can be exempted from formal reviews. While selectively skipping code reviews can bring benefits, it is essential to strike a balance and maintain a cautious approach.

8. Streamline Code Reviews with Fewer Reviewers

Select the appropriate number of reviewers for your code change. Adding too many reviewers can be problematic as each reviewer might not share equal responsibility for the review and could lead to low productivity. Involving a large number of reviewers in the code review process can lead to inefficiencies, communication challenges, and delays.

Striking the right balance with fewer, but qualified, reviewers can streamline the review process while maintaining code quality.

Include only those reviewers who possess the relevant expertise and knowledge in the codebase and the specific changes being reviewed. Organize teams into smaller, focused groups based on specific modules or areas of expertise. Each group can handle reviews related to their domain.

Establish a rotation system for code reviews among qualified team members, ensuring each member participates regularly while preventing review fatigue. Designate a lead reviewer for each code change who takes responsibility for coordinating the review process and consolidating feedback.

9. Clarify Expectations

Code reviews can be more effective when reviewers and developers have a clear understanding of what is expected during the review process. Ambiguity in expectations may lead to miscommunication and hinder the code review’s overall impact. Explicitly setting expectations helped reviewers prioritize their tasks and expedite the review process.

Before starting a code review, you should have a clear idea of what you want to achieve and what you expect from the reviewer and the author. Set expectations for the estimated duration of the code review. Define the scope of the code review, indicating which parts of the code are under review and any specific areas that require close attention.

Clarify the frequency of code reviews, whether they are conducted per feature, per sprint, or after a significant code change.

Clarifying expectations for both code authors and reviewers ensures that the code review process is productive, constructive, and aligned with the team’s goals. Clear expectations help establish a shared understanding of the review’s purpose and outcomes, leading to more meaningful feedback and actionable improvements.

10. Include Experienced Reviewers

The effectiveness of code reviews heavily depends on the expertise and experience of the reviewers. Without experienced reviewers, the review process might lack valuable insights and miss potential issues, reducing the overall impact of the review. The higher error detection rate significantly contributed to improved code quality.

Select reviewers with domain-specific knowledge relevant to the code changes. Encourage experienced developers to mentor and guide less experienced team members during code reviews. Involve senior developers or technical leads in critical or complex code reviews.

Encourage cross-team code reviews, allowing developers from different teams or projects to participate. Including experienced reviewers in the code review process enhances the depth and quality of feedback provided to developers. These seasoned professionals can offer valuable guidance, identify subtle issues, and ensure that code changes align with best practices and coding standards.

11. Promote Learning

Ensure to include junior reviewers for code reviews as it promotes training and learning. Consider adding reviewers who might not be familiar with the code, but could benefit from the knowledge shared during the review process. Code reviews offer valuable learning opportunities that can be overlooked if not deliberately encouraged.

Without a focus on promoting learning, developers may miss out on gaining new insights, adopting best practices, and advancing their skills.

Encourage reviewers to provide constructive feedback that includes explanations of best practices, alternative approaches, and potential areas for improvement. Organize knowledge-sharing sessions for discussing or presenting findings from the process. Experienced members can help provide mentoring to junior members.

12. Notify Relevant Stakeholders

Sending notifications to key stakeholders such as managers, team members, or team leads about the ongoing review process is beneficial to ensure transparency during the development process. Often sending unnecessary notifications to people, who might not be directly involved in the code reviews can lead to chaos as reviewers might spend unnecessary time understanding if the code review is actually relevant to them.

Identify stakeholders that need to be notified by making a conscious decision and set the expectations to let them know whether they need to review the code or just be notified about the review status. Use tools that can assign appropriate roles to the stakeholders and send automated notifications in the form of emails or messages.

Limit the recipients of notifications to those who can actually benefit from the information regarding the code review process.

13. Provide Advance Request

Scheduling code reviews effectively is helpful to avoid any potential delays in the development process. Unplanned review requests could be overwhelming to the reviewers as they might not get sufficient time to review the code thoroughly.

Informing the reviewers through advance review requests, helps them to manage their schedule accordingly and allocate dedicated review time for the upcoming code reviews. Plan regular code review schedules while working on complex features or within a large team.

Specify the dates and timelines of the code review to avoid delays in reviews. Explore the possibility of creating review queues so that reviewers can pick up the code reviews based on their availability. Set up a review process that can help both coders and reviewers as the process becomes more predictable.

Planning and setting up process code reviews also helps in case of urgent code reviews that require immediate attention, so that critical codes can be quickly reviewed.

14. Embrace Feedback for Continuous Improvement

Receiving review feedback with unexpected comments or suggestions can make people tense and they might view it in a negative way. Teams might resist feedback and avoid incorporating suggestions, hindering the continuous improvement process.

Embracing feedback received in a positive way to improve the code quality, welcoming it as constructive criticism that helps individuals to collaborate within the team, helps to foster a culture of continuous improvement. A study revealed, a 20% improvement in code quality in the teams who embraced feedback positively, higher team morale, and increased job satisfaction.

Remain receptive to suggestions and the viewpoints of the reviewer. Rather than perceiving review comments as criticism, view them as valuable opportunities for growth and enhancing code quality. Have a conversation with reviewers to discuss any suggestions or comments that need more explanation.

Acknowledge and show gratitude to individuals who actively seek feedback and to reviewers who provide valuable insights, as they significantly contribute to maintaining high code quality.

15. Express Gratitude for Valuable Code Review Contributions

Reviewers spend a significant amount of time conducting reviews and sharing review feedback. If their contributions are not appreciated, this could result in a lack of motivation and reduced participation in the review process. Acknowledging their contribution to improving the code by valuing their feedback and expressing gratitude can motivate the reviewers and help nurture a positive culture.

Recognize their contributions in team meetings, or send an appreciation email, acknowledging their effort and valuable insights. Encourage team members to communicate with reviewers about the actions taken and decisions made based on their feedback. Offer small rewards or incentives to top reviewers periodically as a token of appreciation for their dedication.

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Effective Code Review Practices with Mindbowser’s Support

Mindbowser’s expertise in code review practices elevates product engineering teams to new heights. Tailored code review guidelines ensure adherence to industry best practices and high code quality standards. Comprehensive training and mentoring empower reviewers to conduct efficient and constructive reviews, fostering a culture of continuous learning.

Mindbowser offers automation solutions to accelerate the review process, maintain code consistency, and identify potential issues. By promoting learning and collaboration during code reviews, Mindbowser cultivates a culture of trust and camaraderie, driving constant improvement in code quality and team performance.

By leveraging Mindbowser’s code review practices, product engineering teams can embark on a journey of growth and excellence. Mindbowser’s comprehensive support can help teams to confidently navigate the ever-evolving landscape of software development, delivering robust and reliable solutions that exceed industry standards and meet the highest expectations.

Content Team

This blog is from Mindbowser‘s content team – a group of individuals coming together to create pieces that you may like. If you have feedback, please drop us a message on contact@mindbowser.com

Frequently Asked Questions

How can code review practices be tailored to fit team-specific needs?

Customize the code review process based on team requirements, goals, and workflows. Define review criteria, select appropriate tools, designate reviewers with relevant expertise, and set review timelines aligned with sprint cycles or deadlines. Develop review checklists and document best practices to foster a positive and constructive code review culture that encourages knowledge sharing.

How can code reviews be conducted effectively in distributed or remote teams?

To ensure a smooth code review process for distributed teams, follow key measures:

  • Choose appropriate collaborative tools like GitHub, GitLab, or Bitbucket with built-in code review features for real-time feedback and remote collaboration.
  • Plan and establish a clear review process, defining expectations like turnaround time and review criteria.
  • Develop code review guidelines for reviewers and encourage code authors to provide context.
  • Utilize communication tools for complex reviews and record sessions for future reference.
How can code reviews be integrated into agile development without slowing down the team?

In Agile development, code reviews should be efficient and supportive, not a hindrance. Focus on critical parameters rather than exhaustive reviews for minor changes. Utilize pull requests for parallel development and set time limits for reviews. Automated code analysis tools can catch common issues, while self-reviews and peer programming can be beneficial. Use review templates tailored to your project’s requirements and schedule reviews within iterations to align with the sprint cycle.

How can automated tools improve the efficiency of code reviews?

Automated tools enhance code review efficiency by reducing manual efforts and offering valuable insights. They include static code analysis for syntax errors, style violations, and security vulnerabilities, aiding in early issue detection. Moreover, automated testing frameworks and unit tests ensure code changes don’t cause regressions or disrupt existing functionality. These tools enforce coding standards, perform security testing, visualize code differences, integrate with version control systems, track review metrics, and provide automatic notifications for pending or updated review requests.

What are effective techniques for providing constructive feedback during code reviews?

Constructive feedback fosters a positive, collaborative environment within teams, enabling code authors to improve without discouragement. Focus on specific code segments, provide context, actionable suggestions, relevant examples, constructive and neutral language, and be open to discussion.

How can code reviews align with industry standards and coding guidelines?

Establish coding standards aligned with industry best practices. Develop custom code review checklists based on these standards and relevant industry guidelines. Train reviewers on the coding guidelines and create reviewer guidelines for assessing code adherence to industry standards. Utilize established industry tools and libraries that follow coding best practices to enhance code quality and simplify the review process.

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