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How to reduce technical debt by using code review tools

Every software developer is followed by something lurking in the shadows. It’s a thing they don’t think about often, but then it creeps up to them when they least expect it — technical debt. It’s kind of like a debt you have to pay your landlord, but then without anyone threatening to kick you out of your apartment — instead, you end up with messy code.

It’s very easy to accrue technical debt, as it’s all about making a decision to postpone writing efficient, clean code that adheres to quality standards. It’s easy to ship an unpolished product today and fix it later, but that’s not necessarily the best way to go. Yes, you don’t have to deal with it right now, but at a later time, it might be much harder to fix — you’ll have to get back into the mindset you were in before, and that might end up costing more time than you’ve won by postponing it — which means you’ll end up with interest payments during future development.

That’s why at Codacy, we’re big supporters of paying off technical debt as quickly as possible. Lucky for you, we’ve built just the right tool to do it with. We’re going to show you exactly how you can use code review tools to deal with your technical debt before you drown in it.

Identifying problems as soon as they arise

There are different kinds of technical debt, and they come from different places. Some of it is deliberate — it’s the kind that you knowingly end up with, because you’ve done something the quick and easy way instead of following guidelines and good practices. Other times, however, it can stem from an accidental decision you don’t notice immediately. It might be a quick and easy fix, but because you didn’t spot the problem in the first place there’s nothing you can do.

By using an automated code review tool, you can catch these issues right when they arise. Using various checks for code quality, alerting you when something is found and pointing out exactly where you’ve slipped up in the code. This way, you can quickly make amends before it quietly slips into your technical debt, only to reappear right when it’s most inconvenient.

Changing the perception of code quality

As we’ve seen while doing research for our ebook about code reviews, less senior employees often struggle with technical debt. This could be for all kinds of reasons, but one of the most plausible is that new developers haven’t yet struggled with a serious accumulation of technical debt. As senior developers know, this can end up being a serious time drain down the road — meaning they would rather get rid of it straight away.

Using an automated code review tool can help change the perception of code quality — especially for beginning developers. Because they’re just getting started, they might be more focused on shipping working code than being perfectionistic about quality standards. A code review tool, however, forces them to pay attention to the mistakes they’ve made and helps understanding how they’ve made them in the first place. Also, supervisors can easily take a look at the team’s performance and the project’s quality evolution by looking at the provided dashboards. This helps them get better control over the people that aren’t paying attention to code quality, creating a bigger sense of awareness for code quality across the entire team, as they all learn to face the consequences of ignoring quality standards.

Higher code quality leads to less time spent working on technical debt

One thing is clear — when using the right code review tools, you’ll end up with higher code quality. Something that’s less obvious, though, is that you’ll also end up spending less time managing technical debt. Our research has pointed out when people ship better, higher-quality code, they end up spending less time fixing bugs or working on technical debt — instead, they use this time building new features for their product.

More specifically, the higher people rated the quality of their code, the time spent on bug fixing decreases almost logarithmically. Companies with the highest code quality scores spend 81% of their time developing new features, and almost none on dealing with technical debt.

Crackdown on technical debt with Codacy

It doesn’t matter if you want to identify problems at an early stage, change your development team’s perception of code quality or aim to write better code so people spend less time working on technical debt — Codacy does it all. Loved by developers around the world, it has a host of powerful features to save you time on code reviews. Quickly identify analysis issues, check your code coverage and do much more all from an easy-to-use dashboard created with the modern developer in mind. Getting started is easy — just use your GitHub, Bitbucket or Google account to sign up and try our free trial today.


Codacy is used by thousands of developers to analyze billions of lines of code every day!

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Best PracticesSoftware Development

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