7 Code Review Best Practices in 2024: Elevate Software Quality

Published: 26 March 2024

Getting a good code review process up and running can be tricky, especially across teams in larger enterprise organizations. 

But, done right, it can make a huge difference to development productivity and developer experience.

In recent articles, we touched on the importance of code quality in 2024 as a competitive advantage. Beyond that, we looked at integrating code reviews into the DevOps cycle. Today we will look a little closer at some of the hallmarks of an effective review process. Here are seven code review best practices to help elevate your software quality in 2024.

Define Clear Goals (and Metrics)

Those involved must begin the code review process confident in their understanding of its objectives and of the guidelines by which they are to carry it out.

Whether inspecting for maintainability, security issues, or code quality, code review must be driven by an overarching objective. At its core, this objective should improve software quality, optimize the development cycle, or encourage developer collaboration.

As an example, consider Google’s guiding standard for code reviews: 

In general, reviewers should favor approving a CL once it is in a state where it definitely improves the overall code health of the system being worked on, even if the CL isn’t perfect.
It is key that progress toward such objectives can be measured with the right metrics and that reviewers can track them and unlock relevant insights.

Keep Reviews Short and Focused

Studies have shown that reviewing too many lines of code (LoC) in any session can negatively impact the chance of detecting bugs. Reviewers most often identify issues within the first 200 lines, with the detection rate dropping significantly beyond 400 lines.
Be sure to break the code review process down into smaller, manageable chunks of 200 to 400 Lines. This helps reviewers concentrate on specific areas, reduces review fatigue, and ensures a thorough examination of each line of code.

Automate Where Possible

The human element of code review is irreplaceable. Therefore, ensure that the valuable time of an experienced developer during a thorough review focuses on tasks that only a human can excel at.
Make use of tools that automate certain code review tasks. These include style violations, syntax errors, and potential security vulnerabilities.

By adopting automated tools to undertake static analysis, you can ensure that when it comes under human review, there can be maximum focus on the code’s most complex and critical aspects.

Encourage Constructive Feedback

Foster a code review culture where feedback is constructive and respectful, focusing on improving the code rather than criticizing the author.

Encourage reviewers to provide specific suggestions for improvement and highlight the code’s positive and negative aspects. Feedback and suggestions should always be supported by data gathered during the review process.
It is key to have a platform like Team Lead Dashboard to unlock data-driven insights from the development and review process. This can then inform constructive feedback sessions.

Rotate Reviewers

One of the big benefits of code review is the opportunity it offers for learning. To achieve this, it is important not to let elements of the review process become siloed or overly reliant on specific developers. Instead, we want to share the wealth of knowledge on offer.

Rotate reviewers regularly to distribute knowledge and ensure that multiple team members are familiar with different parts of the codebase. This includes bringing less experienced developers into the process to aid their development and understanding of what code quality means.
This rotation will help prevent bottlenecks and ensure that code reviews are not dependent on a single individual.

Use Checklists

Develop a checklist tailored to your team’s requirements and coding standards. This allows for a structured and repeatable approach in the code review process. 

A checklist can cover essential elements such as readability, reusability, and security.

It can ensure consistency across multiple iterations through the DevOps cycle. It also helps minimize bias and variation in the review procedure of different developers and teams

Follow Up and Take Action

After the review and feedback sessions, ensure that all the issues identified are addressed promptly. 

Any ambiguity around feedback should be clarified so that the code writer can understand and carry that learning into future efforts.
To put these best practices into action, it is critical to equip your team with the right tools to collaborate on code reviews, as well as to track progress and gain insight to improve going forward.

Click here to see how BlueOptima can help optimize your review process today in 2024.

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