Understanding the Code Review Process

Code Review is an integral process of software development that identifies bugs and defects before the testing phase. Code review is often overlooked as an ongoing practice during the development phase, but countless studies show it's the most effective quality assurance strategy. When code review is not given its proper due, unintended side effects may occur, such as meetings taking more time than intentionally planned. These unintended consequences often become reasons why code review may be met with a collective groan.

However, this can be avoided with a proper, set code review process that contains appropriate escalation procedures. This is crucial because when companies do not have a set procedure in place, they most likely don’t know the effectiveness of their code reviews, or if they are even occurring.

Regardless, if it is your first or 500th time performing a code review, there may be certain questions that you need some advising on. Instead of searching through Google for a checklist or a guide, we've decided to create one for you! Collaborator, a peer code review tool, has set out to make the code review process easier. Below we've provided 12 simple steps to guide you through the code review process. Which of these best practices is your team already doing regularly?

1
Set Early Expectations

With the developer about annotating their source code before the review

Find fewer defects by having authors read through and annotate their own code before submitting it to the team for review.

2
Determine Quantifiable Goals

Prior to code review for increased accountability

When you create transparent goals, you increase individual accountability within the team. For best results, start with external metrics instead of vague goals, such as “fixing more bugs”.

3
Have a System to Capture Metrics

So you can improve your processes

Quantifiable metrics provide the data you need to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of your team’s code review process.

4
Plan Enough Time

For a proper, slow review but no more than 60 – 90 minutes

After roughly 60 minutes, reviewers simply wear out and stop finding additional defects.

5
Peer Review Documents

So your whole team is aligned on project objectives

Conducting reviews on development artifacts like requirements, user stories, and design documents is a good way to ensure that your whole team understands the end goals of a project.

6
Take 20 Minutes Breaks

In between review sessions

Don't overwhelm yourself, it's best to inspect less than 300-500 lines of code per hour.

7
Verify that Defects Are Actually Fixed

Make sure defects are fixed, not just found

Thoroughly follow up with your defect-hunting. Remember this: if it's not corrected, it's not truly "fixed".

8
Use Code Review as a Team Building Activity

Remember: finding defects before launch is the point!

It is up to the manager to foster a positive attitude about finding defects. Code reviews offer an opportunity for all team members to correct bad habits, learn new tricks, and expand their review capabilities.

9
Don’t Be a Back Seat Coder

Have trust in your team

Your team works hard at programming. Don't make it harder by constantly watching them code and their every move during the process.

10
Do a Certain Amount of Code Review Each Day

Even if it’s not every line

If developers are aware a dedicated team will review their code daily, they will be more conscientious of their own code before declaring code-complete.

11
Use a Code Review Tool

To increase efficiency and accuracy

To fully optimize the time your team spends on code reviews, a code review tool is recommended.

12
Use Checklists

To dramatically improve results for authors and reviewers alike

Checklists such as this one remind the reviewer as well as the author to dedicate time to finding what may be missing while conducting a code review. In addition, doing so will improve their personal coding skills.

Read "The 2021 State of Code Review"