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Why code reviews make better code teams

Many see coding as a task completed by a lone individual. In reality, the entry of code might be something done by one programmer, but it’s often a part of a larger team project. Regardless, having code reviews is one way to create cohesion between a team and keep projects moving forward smoothly. So what is a code review and how does it help a project move forward?

Here are some of the ways code reviews may better code teams:

What is a Code Review? For those that don’t know, a code review is what the name implies: reviewing someone’s code to ensure that it does what’s intended. This is similar to having peer editing meetings for writers. The group comes together to look over one another’s code for mistakes and opportunities for improvement. There are many who think that code reviews aren’t necessary, but even the most successful coders can make mistakes that they don’t catch themselves. The introduction of code checking technology and resources like Stackify has strengthened the naysayers’ resolve, but while solo programmers might not feel the need for code review, it has other benefits in a team environment.

Learning Opportunities Code reviews create learning opportunities for all involved. New programmers might learn something from experienced programmers who have picked up a few tricks during their career. Alternatively, new programmers might be able to offer insights regarding new innovations and ideas to those who have fallen into habits. In most cases, a junior coder is going to learn more from an experienced coder rather than the other way around. However, sharing knowledge benefits everyone involved. Code reviews give senior programmers an opportunity to develop their mentoring skills and broaden their horizons.

Streamlined Code Code reviews help bring a group of different coding styles together and add some standardization. For example, if you use different coding languages, there’s no right or wrong way to code. You’re ultimately reaching the same destination by taking different paths. However, through code reviews, you might be able to find a shortcut to that solution by learning from someone else’s coding style. Creating similarities between coding styles helps create cleaner code throughout a larger project and makes it easier to solve problems. This ties back into the learning opportunities you can garner from code reviews.

Makes the Workload Easier If you have one coder working on a specific part of a project without review, that coder will have the best understanding of that aspect of the project. Thus, when that area needs to be expanded upon, the one coder will have the best capability to develop the code further. Eventually, too much will become reliant on the single coder and if that person has to leave the project, it will take time for replacements to get into a rhythm. By having code reviews, everyone gets a glimpse of the individual team members’ styles. As a result, if anyone needs help or someone needs to take over, it becomes easier to put someone else in place to pick up the slack.

Team Bonding Coding implications aside, having team meetings creates stronger bonds throughout the team. The code review acts as a starting point for building a rapport with team members and finding ways to work better together. This is why various industries use peer review protocols in the workplace and on special projects. Through these opportunities to bond and get to know each other better, you get a better understanding of each person’s strengths and weaknesses. You find where you fit in the team dynamic and can use this knowledge to improve the project overall.

Psychological Impacts of Competition and Collaboration Coders are proud of what they accomplish, and when put in a team setting, often feel the implications of competition over collaboration. Knowing that their code will be reviewed in an upcoming meeting, coders will put their best foot forward to create beautiful code that earns the respect of their team and challenges them. There are a lot of studies about how competition and collaboration impact someone psychologically, but the key takeaway is that it motivates them and drives them to do better, be more efficient, and hang their pride on a project or task. The challenge is finding a healthy balance between collaboration and competition to have an effective team dynamic.

Cost and Time Savings The earlier a problem is detected, the easier it will be to correct the issue and keep the project on track. Code reviews provide ample opportunity to find molehills before they become mountains. This ultimately translates into a reduction in delays and saving time, as well as keeping on budget and saving costs during development. Those who dislike code reviews would argue that dedicating time to these sessions slows a project and costs more in the short-term. While this might have merit in a smaller, short-term project, a larger project with many moving parts and a team of dedicated coders will always benefit from a code review.

How to Have an Effective Code Review Like any meeting, it’s important to incorporate structure to stay on top of the goals. For code reviews to be assets rather than liabilities, they should set a line limit for each review. Both the coders and reviewers should stick to that code limit and have a review before moving on. It’s also important to ensure the team puts in the same quality of work as they would without a reviewer. Meetings should be held in a constructive manner that promotes respect with protocols for finding and correcting bugs. By having procedures and metrics in place, a code review can be a valuable way to make a better coding team.

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