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What is Code Review and Why is it Important

Krunal Shah

Mar 16, 2020

6 min readLast Updated May 02, 2022

There was a time when developers hated code review and considered those long, detailed exercises as a waste of time. However, like every other aspect of the software development industry, the approaches to code review have dramatically evolved. Developers are now expanding their knowledge about what is code review and how they can make the best of it. With increasing competition and constant deployment of one or the other code all the time, more and more companies have now set up code reviews as a separate stage in the development process.

What is Code Review?

A code review is a systematic evaluation of the code on various parameters during the software development process. It is carried out with an intention to find and fix errors and potential bugs. During code review, a dedicated reviewer or the author’s peers examine the code to look for mistakes and inconsistencies. At the end, they provide feedback on how the code can be improved. A standardized code review process results in improving the quality of the software while also enhancing the developers’ coding skills.

Advantages of Code Review

Code review, if strategically implemented, has the potential to fast track and streamline the entire software development process owing to its essential benefits.

Code Review Eliminates Most of the Bugs

There are certain kinds of defects in a fresh code that are likely to be missed during software testing. Let’s assume there is a code that is supposed to perform two asynchronous calls to the server simultaneously. If the original code is written in a way that requires the first callback to finish first, the software would break if the sequence of the callbacks is altered. When an experienced developer reviews the original code, they are able to catch this defect at once.

If there is no code review, it is highly likely that the first callback actually finishes first during testing. The defect in the code would go unnoticed throughout the development and testing phases. When it’s time to deploy the code in a production environment, it may have to function in a different setup. The moment the second callback finishes before the first callback, your software will encounter a bug.

When someone other than the original authors of the code on boards the review process, they can look at the code from a different perspective and find loopholes that can go untested in the testing phase. This makes code review an integral part of software development.

Code Review Improves Code Readability

Considering the changing trends in the industry, the developers will certainly need to revise the original code a couple of times. They may need to add new functionalities or to eliminate the poor performing elements. If you don’t want to spend massive resources on maintenance, it is vital to write clean code, with optimum readability.

Experts in the industry agree that writing clean codes isn’t easy but developers can learn it over time with practice. If your organization lets everyone in the team have a detailed look at the codes written by others, it’s a win-win situation for all the team members. Programmers who are skilled at writing clean code can review the codes written by junior developers and offer actionable suggestions. On the other hand, junior developers can learn the art and science of clean coding by looking at the codes written by their seniors.

Eventually, with regular code review sessions, the entire organization collectively becomes better at writing readable codes. This goes a long way in reducing maintenance costs in the future.

Code Review is an Opportunity for Shared Learning

In addition to raising the entire team’s coding skills in terms of readability, you can utilize code reviews to facilitate a holistic platform for shared learning.

Many organizations make code reviews a collaborative exercise. When the entire team sits together and analyzes a code, there is a diverse range of inputs on every element. Different brains with different expertise offer feedback to further enhance the code and craft a better user experience. This is a valuable opportunity for the team members to learn from one another, especially from their senior programmers. Everyone in the team learns about the expected standards of design and development at their organization. This eliminates any mismatch in the expected code quality among different stakeholders of the project.

Moreover, peer code reviews let every team member be aware of all the projects that the team is working on. If they need to work on certain tasks of the code in the future, they won’t have to start afresh. Also, if a developer knows all the existing components of the code, they will be able to reuse some of them whenever the need arises. This saves a lot of time and resources which would otherwise be spent on writing those components all over again.

Code Review Prevents Single Point of Failure

If your organization has been able to distribute the labor efficiently and allocates different components of a system to different programmers, it improves the productivity of the organization as a whole. At any point, a developer builds one component with all their focus. They know the system inside out and can immediately solve the issues if the system encounters a bug.

What happens if there is a bug and the developer responsible for that one program isn’t available? They may be sick, they may be on a holiday or they may have switched their workplace altogether.

Development teams often struggle a lot to handle such situations. They have to start looking at the code from scratch to identify where the bug stems from. When your team is dependent solely on one person for a system, it puts the team at a high risk of a single point of failure.

If you have periodic code reviews for every program and every component your team members work on, it ensures that there is at least one other person who has a fair understanding of the code of a program. It is ideal to follow peer code review processes because they ensure that everyone in the team is aware of the codes that others are working on. When an unexpected bug occurs and the author of the code isn’t available right away, you can rely on other team members to quickly sort the problem and prevent the program from crashing.

How to Conduct Code Reviews

To have your code review processes in place, you can choose one of the following approaches:

Technology-Assisted Review

The most common practice for code review is technology assisted review. You can choose from a variety of technological tools available depending on your team size, the type of project you are working on etc. Technology assisted reviews let you integrate technology and human expertise to facilitate a robust code review process. You can review large documents accurately and efficiently with a considerably low investment of resources.

Pair Programming

Pair programming is an efficient way of programming software. Under this approach, the code doesn’t need to undergo the review process separately. When a junior developer and a senior developer work together on the same code, it enables the senior developer to mentor their juniors while also constantly reviewing the code during the programming phase itself.

Peer Review

Peer review is the simplest and most effective approach to code review. Once the code is ready, the author can schedule a meeting wherein every other programmer in the team can collectively provide feedback on the code. If there are some time constraints, you can keep the review meeting limited to the author and a few qualified senior developers. One on one feedback improves the overall code quality of the entire team in the long run.

The Bottom Line

Code reviews can yield the best results for your organization if your team collectively puts in efforts in the same direction. To make sure that your entire team is on the same page, ask them one crucial question – what is a code review and why is it important. It doesn’t matter which code review approach you adopt for your team as long as you ensure that you do have one clearly established code review system. Not only does a code review save your software from delivering bad user experience, but it also strengthens the growth of the developers as a team.

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