What is a Code Review?
During a Code Review, your code will be reviewed by a developer that did not work on the code. This is not about one small part of the code, but the entire project. It’s basically like an architectural report of a house: after a Code Review you’ll have a report of the state of your software and infrastructure.
The reviewers of the code often don’t work on the project themselves, making sure they can analyze the code objectively. That fresh look also is a good test whether the code is easily readable for external developers. Software development is a continuous process and never ends after going live: maintenance is detrimental to keep the software running securely and reliably. Poorly readable code is expensive to maintain and that often leads to security issues. There also is the chance the software needs to be transferred to a new development team. In that case, clean code is also very important, so that anybody can understand the code and pick up the work where the previous developers left off.
We can always zoom in on specific questions during a code review, but oftentimes we start with a checklist of the most common issues. Just that is most of the time a good indication of code quality. Besides looking at the code, we also often look at the infrastructure that is running the project. Ultimately, we’ll give some advice based on our analysis: for example, to revise the infrastructure, to upgrade certain components or to redevelop (a part of) the project to make it future-ready and scalable.
When to do a code review?
A code review is mostly needed when you want to know what you’re dealing with. That’s always a good idea if the code is being transferred to a new development team. That way you’ll know beforehand about any hidden defects and recommendations for further development. For a new development team it’s often impossible to accurately estimate how long it will take to develop some new features before the code has been analyzed.
Sometimes, we also get requests when it’s doubted whether the quality meets the promises by the development team. Particularly for organizations that don’t have any software development expertise in their team, this might help to deal with uncertainty or conflicts.
Luckily, a code review can also be something positive. When a company or startup launches a new digital product, they often start with an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) that’s developed at high speed and low cost in order to launch as quickly as possible. Nothing wrong with that, but that usually creates technical debt: developers take shortcuts, choosing speed over quality. If in the best case the product is a hit, and your user base is growing, it is useful to analyze what parts of the codebase should be improved in order to scale well. That way you’ll prevent the product from going down due to its own success.
Is it worth it?
Of course a code review takes time (and therefore money). However, in some cases a code review will pay for itself, such as with larger projects or when a project is growing very rapidly. In other cases getting your code checked is simply a necessity, for example in conflicts with the development team or when the code is transferred to a new team.
In the long term, a code review is mainly a tool for risk management. By knowing the weaknesses in your code base, you can act on them in a timely manner: because of the analysis, you know where to perform preventive maintenance and where you’re still good for a while.
Just like an architectural report of your house, a code review might not seem to add much value right away. However, if you can prevent a leakage or wood rot, you’ll be happy you got it checked. Based on the review, you can make an informed decision about the next development steps.
Are you about to make a big decision? For example, do you want to start with a new development partner? Or are you considering changing your proposition around in such a way it will influence your software? Check this page for more information on how we might help you out with a code review!