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June 5, 2024 - 6 minutes

The Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback in Code Reviews: A Developer's Perspective

Feedback can be quite the challenge, but here’s the ultimate guide.

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You know that feedback is incredibly useful; hearing where you can improve or giving your own tips and tricks to colleagues or friends can help introduce you to new ideas and create overall better projects. And when we’re talking about giving and receiving feedback in the web development field, specifically with code, it’s important to understand both why code reviews are so essential and how feedback can help you advance as a professional. 

That being said, feedback can sometimes be hard to receive. And on top of that, knowing how to give constructive feedback that’s well received and actually helpful is a challenge in and of itself. But learning how to master the code review process is an essential part of being a developer.

In this article, we’ll dive into the art of giving and receiving feedback that you’re prepared for your next code review, as well as discussing feedback itself and why it’s so valuable–and tough to master. 

Ready? Let’s get right to it. 

The Importance of Feedback

We’ve all been there: you complete what you feel is an incredible project that’s flawless and ready for market. But a coworker or supervisor takes a look at it and has some notes that end up completely bringing you down: maybe it wasn’t that great after all. Learning how to value constructive criticism and feedback in general is a challenge and something that doesn’t come naturally to lots of people. 

It is incredibly valuable, however, and that’s why understanding the value of feedback is the first step: 

  • Feedback can help you improve: criticism doesn’t mean that you’re bad at your job or need to change the way you do things; especially in coding where you’re deeply intertwined in your own work, it can be hard to take a step back and identify errors on your own. With someone else there to check things over, you may be able to deliver a superior final result. 

  • Feedback also helps you pinpoint where you’re excelling: feedback has the reputation of being negative or only dealing with things you need to change, but in reality, it also encapsulates the positive aspects of your work and is a great way to receive positive affirmation for the hard work you’ve completed. 

  • Feedback can help motivate you: it can sometimes be hard to commit to improving or honing your skills because you aren’t sure exactly where you should focus your efforts, but with feedback about where exactly you can improve, your motivation will soar. 

  • Feedback helps peer relationships: when feedback channels are opened in a safe and constructive manner, it helps build strong and positive peer relationships, even among different teams. 

What is a Code Review? 

It’s pretty self explanatory: code reviews are when two or more people review code that at least one of them did not write to check for bugs or other issues, often looking at small parts in detail to properly evaluate it. Depending on your experience level and the scope of the project, you might work closely with just one other developer, or tackle the team review as a team. 

Apart from the obvious benefit of detecting any issues and a set of fresh eyes reviewing the work, code reviews are popular because: 

  • They help developers learn: there’s no better way to learn than by working with other developers with skills that differ from yours and when you sit down for a code review, you’ll be able to learn from their comments and feedback, making you an overall better developer. 

  • They help ensure your code is the best it can be: after hours of working on it, fresh eyes are sometimes sorely needed to check for any issues in the code and ensure it meets all project guidelines. With code reviews, you have this final check to make sure nothing slipped you by.

Now that you know why code reviews are so valuable, let’s dive right into the keys for both giving and receiving feedback in the programming sphere, helping you make the most of your next code review. 

Giving feedback in a code review 

Giving feedback may seem like the easier side of the feedback exchange, but properly giving feedback is an art and you’ll have to hone your skills over time to ensure you’re able to provide valuable feedback to your peers. In your next code review, try to keep the following in mind:

  • Prioritize being respectful: first and foremost, you must be respectful when reviewing someone else’s work; remember that they’ve put a lot of time and effort into their project and even if you see errors that you wouldn’t have written yourself, you need to always be respectful, throughout the entire feedback process.

  • Remember you’re critiquing the code and not the author: although it can be challenging to separate the code from the author, remember that you’re there to give feedback on the code and not your peer. Your comments and feedback should be directly related to the code itself, not your peer’s abilities or personality. 

  • Include positive feedback as well: it can be easy to start listing off changes you would make, but make sure to praise your peers for their quality work as well to help boost their morale. And if you see that they’re having a tough time being receptive to criticism, try to soften your words and include a compliment. 

  • Be as specific as possible: the most helpful feedback is actionable and gives the receiver steps to take to improve their work; when making suggestions or giving overall feedback, be as specific as possible so that the original author knows exactly what they should fix–and how. 

Receiving feedback in a code review 

We’ve made it to the good stuff: how to receive feedback in a code review and ensure that you take the comments constructively, allowing you to become a better developer. Let’s check it out: 

  • Keep an open mind: no one likes receiving criticism and we all dream of being told ‘hey, everything is perfect! Great job!’, but this isn’t a realistic expectation to have as you head into every code review. Remember that code reviews exist to help you see things you may have missed and ultimately deliver a superior final product–which is a good thing! 

  • Don’t take criticism personally: just as you wouldn’t want someone else to assume your feedback is a personal attack, don’t take it as one when you’re on the receiving end of feedback! Your peers are just trying to help and this is an incredibly effective learning opportunity that can help elevate your career.

  • Ask questions: the feedback you receive in a code review should be actionable steps that you can take to improve your code; this means that it’s important you understand the code and how to implement the changes that were indicated. Don’t be afraid to ask follow up questions to fully understand their suggestions. 

  • Dedicate time to implementing your peers’ suggestions: you definitely don’t have to take every suggestion listed, but take time after the code review to reflect on what you’ve learned and what you think should be implemented, thanking your team for their time and advice.

Feedback doesn’t have to be a scary experience; in fact, it’s incredibly valuable and should be treated as such. The next time you head into a code review, keep these tips and tricks in mind and you’ll be well on your way to becoming the next great designer. 

If you’re interested in diving further into programming and becoming a developer yourself, consider Ironhack’s Web Development Bootcamp, where you’ll learn the necessary skills to enter the workforce as a programmer in just a matter of months. 

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