When I first started working almost 3 years ago, I couldn’t see the need to include anything in the description of my pull requests. I had felt that the title is enough. In some cases, this is true. But in other cases, a Fix broken ABC feature sounds vague to code reviewers. Being provided at least some context about the pull request can be helpful.
In this article, I’ll be sharing 3 tips on opening effective pull requests.
1. Describe why you made the changes
Describing our changes is a great way to provide the context of the pull request (and commit). It can be helpful now and in the future. Here are reasons why. 👇
- The reviewer can view the pull request from a certain angle, providing potentially better suggestions
- Tracking down bugs in the future are easier as we would have an idea as to why certain changes were made
2. Keep the pull request small
When a pull request is big, the reviewer can feel overloaded with information. When this happens, it can affect how the reviewer views the correlation between a piece of code with another and worse, a sneaky bug can slip through. But when exactly can a pull request be considered as big?
We can use this study as a guide and follow our instincts because pull requests are unique.
A SmartBear study of a Cisco Systems programming team revealed that developers should review no more than 200 to 400 lines of code (LOC) at a time. The brain can only effectively process so much information at a time; beyond 400 LOC, the ability to find defects diminishes.
How should we decide to keep our pull requests small? Ask ourselves this question whenever we think about fixing a bug or implementing another feature altogether.
Can this be done separately? If yes, then do in a separate pull request.
3. Write a changelog
Unlike my first two tips, this is rather insignificant. Before I started describing my changes, I tend to just include a changelog to give the reviewer an idea of what to expect. Nowadays, the changelog acts as an addition to my description. A changelog could look like this.
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Thanks for reading! ✌️