Following a good strategy to maintain code quality is essential in any project. It will increase the code maintainability and make it easier for other developers to understand the code.
Performing code reviews is one such proven strategy used by many development teams to increase code quality. However, it requires a significant amount of manual intervention, and the output is often affected based on the reviewers' expertise. Additionally, at times, there might be no one available to review your code which can end up delaying the entire workflow.
For example, with the Christmas holidays coming up, all your team members might go on vacation, and you might not find anyone to review your code except Santa. Most of you might think it is useless since Santa doesn't have the expertise.
But what if I told you there is a way to get your code reviewed by Santa? Who wouldn't like it, right?
So, in this article, I will discuss a few tips and tricks to simplify your code review process and make it possible for Santa to perform code reviews regardless of his expertise.
The Importance of the Manual Process
Identifying the code review requirements of your process and establishing a process is the first step to building a standard code review process. We can't automate everything from the word go.
First, we need to establish a manual process. Then, over time, we need to improve and fix issues in that process with the experience we gain. Once the process is well-established, we can move into automating the process.
As the first step of establishing a manual process, you must decide how many reviewers you need. The count can vary between 1 to 4 based on the project requirement. Some teams prefer to use multiple developers as reviewers to minimize human errors while other teams have a combination of experts in different areas as reviewers. For example, if your application uses cloud services, it is better to have a cloud expert as a reviewer.
Hereafter, you'll have to decide on the technical aspects considered for the review. If not, each reviewer will have a different opinion, and the review process will not have a proper standard. For example, most teams consider language syntaxes, code complexity, styles, naming conventions, business logic, and comments for their code review processes.
Once everything is finalized, you need to follow the process for a while and improve it based on your experience. If you feel like you have a solid code review process, you can start automating it.
Automate When Possible
Although we define a set of guidelines for the manual code review process, the outcome can differ based on the reviewers' understanding and is often extremely time-consuming.
Automating the code review process helps you to address both of the above issues. You can easily automate parts of the review process like linting, syntax, code complexity, naming conventions, and style conventions. Once the rules are defined, the automation tool will apply the same set of rules for every review. So, there will be no differences in the outcome, and it will only take seconds.
There are various code review/code quality automation tools available.
They allow you to maintain a constant format throughout the code.
Cloud-based code analysis tool that can detect code quality issues in more than 25 languages.
Cloud-based developer tools powered by machine earning to provide intelligent recommendations on code quality.
Furthermore, you can integrate these tools into development environments or release pipelines to make the code review process even faster. For example, developers can install linters to their code editors and fix formatting issues before making pull requests. Similarly, tools like Sonar Cloud can be configured to perform automatic code quality analysis when a developer creates a pull request.
As you can see, these tools help you to drastically reduce the human effort and expertise required for the review process. Even Santa will find that reviewing code in such a manner is far simpler than delivering presents on Christmas ;).
Build a Knowledge Base
Apart from automating, you can follow a few other steps to make the code-reviewing process easier for new reviewers. For example, building a knowledge base with issues and solutions would help developers and reviewers fine-tune their work.
For example, code complexity-related issues are significantly harder to fix than other issues we find during code reviews. Usually, we find recurring issues, and junior developers tend to make the most mistakes. If you maintain a knowledge base, junior developers can look into that list and find answers to their questions. This way, those issues won't be repetitive, and the review process can become much easier.
It is also important to give descriptive feedback to the developer about the issues you find. For example, rather than saying this is wrong or asking to change it, you can provide solutions to the issue and open a discussion with the developer. It helps both the developer and the reviewer improve their understanding.
Improve Over Time
Continuous improvement is one of the main factors of success in any process. So, you should always be open to new changes and continue to fine-tune your review process to stay on top of the rest.
For example, new versions of languages and frameworks always bring some changes to coding standards and syntaxes. So, even if you have automated the review process, you need to update the tools to ensure the rule sets are compatible with the latest language updates. If you don't adopt these changes, your review process will become obsolete and unreliable. This will significantly affect your overall code and application quality.
This article discusses how to simplify your code review process through best practices and automation. Modern automation tools have drastically reduced the manual effort and expertise required to review code.
As discussed above, you can use those tools to easily identify issues in language syntaxes, code complexity, styles, and naming conventions. So, manual code reviewers only need to review the business logic, special edge cases, and one final look at the entire code before approving the code.
I think now you understand the simplicity you can bring to the code review process and why we don't need expert technical knowledge to complete a code review process.
So, don't wait anymore. Get off your seat, and enjoy the vacation. Santa will take care of all your code reviews. Ho ho ho...
Thank you for reading.