If two heads are better than one, pair programming represents it in software development. This Agile Development technique was born to help developers solve problems by collaborating. Come and take a closer look at this practice.
Pair programming consists of two developers working together on the same code. This collaboration allows them to discuss what’s being worked on, find solutions, and improve the overall quality of the code. While one of the developers writes the code, the other checks it in real-time.
In this article, we will take a closer look at what pair programming is, its benefits, best practices, and tools. Shall we?
What is Pair Programming?
Although pair programming can be traced back as far as 1998, it has gained more and more popularity with the inclusion of more agile methodologies in the software development process.
Just like agile software development, pair programming is an interactive and collaborative process in which two developers work together on the same code. Originally, both developers worked on the same computer. Now, it can be done remotely as well.
Although pair programming involved two people working on the same tasks, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to take double the time. The priority is still to solve the problem as effectively as possible, and here’s where collaboration comes in handy.
Having an extra set of eyes working on the code is of great help and further increases the soundness of the product. The code will ultimately be more robust because two experts will be on it.
Martin Fowler wrote a comprehensive piece on pair programming. You can check it out here!
Benefits of pair programming
Pair programming can offer many benefits to your software development project. Let’s take a closer look at what this collaborative tool can offer.
Collaborating with someone else who has the full context of the project can help solve problems faster. Bouncing off ideas with each other can help find better and more efficient solutions.
At the same time, solving problems faster can help save time and money and boost the efficiency of the work. The faster problems are identified, the faster they can be fixed.
One of the main benefits for the team, in the long run, is cross-learning. Both developers will improve their work and learn from each other. Since both people will have different experiences and knowledge, they can continue building each other.
The task at hand will be seen from two different perspectives and will be tackled in two different ways. This process will provide a more holistic understanding of the task and also of each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Since there are two developers working on the same workstation, the code receives valuable input from both professionals. The chances of missing details, bugs, and other problems are reduced because there are two people on top of the situation.
Both developers working on the same code will be able to catch and fix errors and mistakes. Plus, brainstorming and feedback ultimately lead to an improvement in the quality of the code.
Pair programming requires both developers to communicate effectively with each other in order to profit from all the previously mentioned benefits. In this sense, communication gradually increases and improves.
Both people working on the same projects will learn how to express their ideas more clearly, practice active listening, and be better at sharing constructive feedback.
Techniques for Effective Pair Programming
There are many techniques that can be applied to ensure the effectiveness of pair programming in a software project. Different techniques may apply depending on the needs of the team and the requirements of the task at hand. Here are some of the most common ones.
This technique consists of having one of the developers be the “driver” and the other one be the “navigator.” The driver is in charge of writing the code while the navigator is responsible for providing feedback and reviewing the code.
This arrangement is not fixed, and there can be many changes along the way according to the needs of the team and the project. In most cases, roles and responsibilities switch back and forth throughout the project.
Just like the game that gives its name, this technique is all about back and forth. In ping-pong programming, one developer writes a small piece of code and then hands over control to the other developer, who will write the next piece of code based on the previous work.
This back-and-forth continues until the task is completed.
This technique is similar to driver-navigator, but here, everything happens in real time. While one of the developers writes the code, the other is actively reviewing it, provides feedback, and makes suggestions.
Since everything is happening live, both developers need to have strong communication skills. The developers need to work like a well-oiled machine in order to achieve effective collaboration.
Pair Programming Best Practices
Pair programming is meant to improve the quality of the code and keep the iterative and collaborative nature of agile development on track. However, there are a set of best practices you can follow to 10x its potential.
Set Clear Goals
The only way to have both people rowing in the same direction is to have clear goals before setting out. It is key to agree on the goals that you want to achieve during the session. Aligned goals and expectations are paramount to the success of pair programming.
Pair Two Compatible People
When it comes to choosing the right pair, you need to consider different skill sets, experience levels, and perspectives. When we talk about two compatible people, we refer to the skill sets that best complement each other.
Switch Roles Frequently
Frequent role switching allows developers to stay sharp and spot problems faster. Providing feedback and making suggestions can only be effective if both developers are familiar with the code written.
The more effective the communication, the better results you will achieve. It is key for developers to be clear and concise in the explanations, questions, descriptions, feedback, and suggestions. Without clarity, communication will be flawed, and more problems could arise.
Use Tools Effective
Technology is your ally, and leveraging the tools can help increase productivity and improve the quality of the work that is being done. Take full advantage of screen sharing, remote access tools, and everything that encourages collaboration. Check out some of the tools our team uses to work effectively!
As you can see, pair programming can take your project to the next level. Prioritize quality over quantity and make sure your code is at the utmost level with this technique. Your product will thank you for it.