In this modern age of digitalization, businesses are striving to develop robust and efficient software solutions. It’s the code that works behind the scenes powering these solutions. The code is an intricate web of complexities. Hence, making changes to it is risky and difficult.
You are not alone if you are having doubts about allocating time and budget to code refactoring in your custom software development project. Although some deem it necessary, many software programmers leverage this strategic move to improve the health of their software which ultimately provides sustainable business growth.
This article discusses the concept of code refactoring, why it is important when you have to do it, and how you can do it.
What is Code Refactoring?
Code refactoring refers to the process of making changes to the structure of an existing code base without affecting its external behavior. When you find some issues or problems in your code that make it confusing or produce errors, you have to fix them right?
Well, fixing them would not have any impact on how your app or particular functionality was supposed to behave. But it will significantly improve the way they work. Well, that’s code refactoring for you.
It is one of the most common software development practices especially when you are implementing agile best practices. Continuous improvement is the core philosophy of agile methodologies, and code refactoring serves it well. Its implementation is carried out through various iterations. It helps keep your code as clear as possible.
There is no doubt that every software solution has a high business value. Applying code refactoring ensures that it has a high technical value as well. Most companies are focused on providing a multitude of features to increase their business value
But if they all don’t work effectively then what’s the point anyway? A poorly coded app or functionality will affect your product cycle negatively. And that would demand a rewriting of the code which would be more challenging, overwhelming and not to mention costly in comparison to code refactoring during the development process.
So next, we discuss why you need code refactoring.
Why Do You Need Code Refactoring?
There are several reasons why code refactoring is necessary:
1. To Speed Up The Development Process
The developers must be capable of understanding the logic behind the code by reading it quickly. But it isn’t possible if the code is very ambiguous. Code refactoring helps in removing that ambiguity from the code.
A significant speed boost is ensured no matter if you are launching a new product or just making a few changes to an existing application. This advantage can relieve the team working under tight schedules or time pressure.
2. To Get Your Team On The Same Page
The development team consists of various people with different skill sets. It also happens that during the process, some people leave the job and others are hired. New developers onboarding the team have to first understand the code before they start working on it.
If code refactoring is not done, then your code will look like a piece of a puzzle. New members may need more time to understand the code, its purpose, and how it works.
It’s better to have a clear code in your hand, it makes things easy. Therefore, code refactoring is considered an essential practice during software development.
3. Because it is an Easy Fix
Your ongoing processes will not be interrupted or affected because of refactoring. Only the developers will know that some work is being done. The clients wouldn’t know about it. Moreover, you do not need a large budget or make many preparations to implement refactoring.
Having code smells indicates that your code has some serious issues in it. You can use code refactoring as a preventive measure to avoid them.
It also allows you to target specific sections or parts of the code that are experiencing issues. So, you don’t have to restructure the entire codebase of the software.
4. It Makes Scaling Easier
When you have good code readability then it is easy to scale, and innovate with software development. More importantly, you won’t be wasting any of your time in onboarding or explaining the code. That’s additional cost savings!
It is observed that teams working with refactored code are more prone to faster scaling and innovations.
Because refactoring reduces the complexities in the code so you can work beyond the complexities of your code. Less complexity also means your app works seamlessly.
5. To Avoid Code Rot
A development team consists of various developers and each of them would have different coding styles. Each works on their own assigned part of the codebase and adds it to the main codebase.
Developers often have to imply quick solutions in case of tight schedules or high-priority development tasks. These code hacks might be correct but they sometimes make your code look ugly. And when such code hacks and different coding styles are brought together in a single codebase, it becomes an entangled web of complexities.
And when you don’t refactor such a codebase, your code might start to rot. After all, by definition code rot is the situation when your code gets all cluttered up and loses its integrity. It also includes unused variables, unnecessary dependencies, duplicated code, and many more parameters.
That is why you need to imply code refactoring early and often in your development process to avoid errors and bugs creeping into your app.
6. To Save Development Effort and Costs in The Future
Developers in both the present and future can understand well-written and clear code easily.
You don’t have to waste time explaining what the code means and what it does or provide any special training to your team before updating the code with new features or making necessary repairs.
A readable code streamlines your development and maintenance process along with saving your valuable time and money.
7. To Improve The Application Performance
Refactored code offers better speed and performance. If the app is integrated with third parties then it will ensure that all the dependencies are well-maintained and the app doesn’t bloat.
Refactoring the code also makes sure that every app transaction and throughput has the desired response time. This ought to elevate the customer experience.
When to Refactor Your Software’s Code?
- In case of technical debt: When it takes you longer to complete certain tasks in comparison to the time they took during project launch. If the complexity level of the task has remained unchanged then it’s a sure sign of accumulated technical debt. This tells us that your codebase has some architectural failures and other confusing bits of code that need to be refactored.
- In the case of scaling: When your product works fine but at the time of adding a new feature or functionality, it takes longer than expected. Also upon its implementation, the new features don’t work well. This says that you have to refactor your code before scaling.
- In case of not being able to read or understand your code: Different developers have different coding styles. You can’t expect them to understand each other’s coding styles. When different coding styles come together under a single code base, it ought to become messy. So, to make your code readable, you have to refactor it.
- In case of reducing the support and upgrade costs: It is beneficial for businesses to save costs wherever they can. Maintaining and updating an app is a tedious and difficult task. But it becomes easier if you are working with a well-structured code. It is cost-beneficial in the long term.
Code Refactoring Best Practices
In this section, we discuss how you can conduct code refactoring in the best possible way. If you have adopted Agile or have experience with Agile development, then you would know that code refactoring is a common practice.
- Move one step at a time: Doing everything at once is a recipe for disaster. You have to take one task at a time and make micro-modifications that don’t affect the functionality of the app.
- Test: Code refactoring must be followed up with the tests to ensure that making changes does not end up introducing new bugs to the code.
- Refactoring should not add new functionality: Don’t mistake code refactoring with a modification process where you can add new features and functionalities to the app. Code refactoring is about making your code more cleaner and readable. It helps implement all the functions quickly and easily.
- Plan your work and focus on progress: Eventually, even a good code will become obsolete. So this process is never complete. You have to see to it that you are maintained and refactored frequently.
Now that you are all done with code refactoring, how do you determine whether it was successful? Use the checklist given below to verify if your code is clean.
- Apart from you, other developers that are working on the project or will work on the project in the future, must easily read and understand the code. It can be achieved by creating simple and clearer structures for methods, and classes and naming or improving the algorithms.
- There is no duplication in your code. The chances for errors rise with the use of duplications and the number of changes you make to the code.
- Your code must have as minimal moving parts as possible. Having fewer elements means easy maintenance and less cleanup.
- Your code must pass all the tests. Even a dirty code would pass most tests but not all.
- Your code must also be easy to maintain. You shouldn’t be spending more of your time in maintaining or improving your code.
Investing in code refactoring is one of the most important technical decisions you have to make. It’s a strategic move that has a long-lasting impact on both your software as well as your business.
Skipping on code refactoring may seem like a benefit but it is short term. But you have to understand what kind of values code refactoring brings in the form of cost saving, extensibility, and maintainability.
Running after the short-term benefits of saving initial cost and time spent on code refactoring can push you down the rabbit hole where you would need considerable resources to get out from.
Finding out if you need code refactoring and doing it the right way can help you make the most out of your software solution which is beneficial for both developers as well as business owners.