Imagine this: you're working on a project with your team, and your teammate just submitted a pull request. They seem confident that their code is solid, but when you start reviewing it, you're left scratching your head. The dreaded "No description" message haunts you, and the commit messages are a chaotic mess. It's hard to tell what they have actually changed. Sound familiar? We've all been there.
Pull request templates are the secret sauce that can make code reviews painless and efficient. With a well-designed PR template, you can ensure that your pull requests contain all the necessary information for the reviewer to understand your changes and provide feedback quickly. In this post, we'll guide you through the process of creating an effective PR template. By the end of this post, you'll be a pull request template master, and your teammates will thank you for it. So, let's dive in!
GitHub Templates: Your Code Review's Best Friend
A pull request template is essentially a markdown file that includes pre-defined sections for providing relevant information about your changes. When you create a pull request using a template, GitHub automatically fills in these sections with the information you provide, making it a breeze for reviewers to grasp the context of your changes and offer constructive feedback.
GitHub pull request templates bring several advantages to the table:
- Consistency: By using a template, all pull requests will have the same format and contain the same information. This consistency makes it easier for reviewers to understand and evaluate the changes.
- Clarity: The template provides guidelines on what information should be included in the pull request, such as a clear and concise description of the changes. This clarity ensures that pull requests are easy to understand, reducing confusion and ambiguity.
- Efficiency: By including a checklist of tasks that should be completed before submitting the pull request, developers can ensure that all necessary steps are taken. This checklist minimizes the back-and-forth between reviewers and contributors, saving time and effort.
- Onboarding: Templates are helpful for new developers joining a team by providing a clear and consistent format for submitting pull requests. It eases their transition and helps them align with the team's processes.
Steps to Create an Effective Template
To create a pull request template, you'll need to add a new file named
PULL_REQUEST_TEMPLATE.md to your repository's
.github directory. This markdown-formatted template should outline the information you want developers to provide in their pull requests.
Once you push this template file to the default branch (usually
master), GitHub will automatically use it as the default template for new pull requests. It's as simple as that!
A well-designed pull request template can include any information that helps reviewers understand proposed changes. Here are a few examples of what a GitHub pull request template might include:
- Short description: A brief summary of the changes and the problem they solve with all necessary links - Jira tickets, Slack discussions, etc. Generally, you want to answer the question “Why are the changes needed?” with the least amount of syllables.
- Changes Made: A detailed description of the changes, including the problem addressed, the approach taken to solve it, and any known issues or limitations.
- Related issues: A link to any related issues or bugs that the pull request addresses, connecting the code's context with the problem it solves.
- Testing instructions: Instructions on how to test the changes made in the pull request, helping reviewers validate the code.
- Special notes for your reviewer: If there are any specific instructions or considerations you want to highlight for the reviewer, include them in this section.
- Screenshots: If the changes are visual, including screenshots or GIFs can help reviewers understand them more easily.
- Checklist: A list of tasks that should be completed before submitting the pull request, such as running tests, code review, and updating documentation.
By including a checklist at the end, you ensure that all necessary tasks are completed before submitting the pull request. This helps prevent errors and ensures a smoother review process.
Here's an example of what a basic pull request template might look like:
## Summary <!-- Provide a concise summary "Why are the changes needed"? Include any relevant links, such as Jira tickets, Slack discussions, or design documents. --> ## Changes Made <!-- Describe the specific changes that have been made in this pull request. Provide details on the approach taken to address the problem and any notable implementation details. --> ## Checklist - [ ] I have added comments to code in hard-to-understand areas - [ ] I have made corresponding changes to the documentation - [ ] My changes generate no new warnings - [ ] I have added tests that prove my fix is effective or that my feature works - [ ] Any dependent changes have been merged and published in downstream modules <!-- Optional Sections --> <details> <summary><strong>Expand for optional sections</strong></summary> ## Screenshots <!-- If the changes are visual, including screenshots or GIFs can help reviewers understand them more easily. --> ## Related issues <!-- A link to any related issues or bugs that the pull request addresses, connecting the code's context with the problem it solves. --> ## Testing instructions <!-- Instructions on how to test the changes made in the pull request, helping reviewers validate the code. --> ## Special notes for your reviewer <!-- If there are any specific instructions or considerations you want to highlight for the reviewer, include them in this section. --> </details> <!-- End of Optional Sections -->
Remember, this is just an example, and you can customize the template to fit your project or organization's specific needs.
Best Practices for Pull Request Templates
Creating an effective pull request template requires some planning and attention to detail. Follow these best practices to create templates that help your team efficiently review your code:
- Use clear and concise language: Make your pull request template easy to read and understand. Use simple and straightforward language to describe the changes, provide context and motivation, and include relevant links or documentation.
- Provide context and motivation: Explain why you're making these changes and provide any relevant background information. This helps reviewers better understand the purpose of the changes and provide more meaningful feedback.
- Include relevant links and documentation: If your changes relate to existing issues or documentation, include links to these resources in your pull request template. This helps reviewers quickly access the information they need to review your changes effectively.
- Use a consistent format: Use a consistent format for your pull request template to help reviewers understand your changes quickly. This includes standard sections and headings, as well as consistent formatting and language.
- Include a checklist: Add a checklist at the end of your pull request template to ensure all necessary tasks are completed before submission. This can include checking that all tests pass, that the code follows coding standards, that documentation is up-to-date, and that commit messages are clear and concise.
- Keep it up-to-date: Regularly update your pull request template to reflect any changes in the project or team's workflow. Ensure that your template is always up-to-date and aligns with the current requirements for submitting pull requests.
By following these best practices, you can create effective pull request templates that streamline the code review process, improve communication among team members, and maintain consistency and quality in code changes.
GitHub pull request templates provide a simple yet effective way to streamline the code review process and ensure that your team's code is of the highest quality. By providing clear and concise information upfront, you can reduce confusion and misunderstandings during the review process, which can save you time and ensure that your changes are merged quickly.
If you are new to pull request templates, don't be afraid to experiment with different templates and customize them to fit your team's needs. There are many resources available online to help you get started, including GitHub's official documentation and community forums.