Code Refactoring: Meaning, Purpose, Benefits

What is code refactoring?

Code refactoring is a process of application code’s editing and cleaning up behind the scenes which optimize its internal structure, but without changing its external behavior and functionalities. Still, this is an inherent part of any project development. However, the necessity of code refactoring may not be really obvious for external observers.

Why your application needs refactoring

Still curious why code refactoring is so important? There are some main reasons to include this activity in your project.

Maintainability and Extensibility

The main goal of code refactoring is to make code more maintainable and extendable. Updates and upgrades added to the application are a continuous and essential process. So the existing code should make this process possible. For instance, integration of some functionalities may not be taken into account when designing initial architecture, so new features may require these changes in overall development approach and code as well.

Readability

This benefit is tightly connected with the previous one. The code that is easy to read reduces the developer’s efforts for its understanding. Moreover, such code refactoring makes Quality Assurance and bugs identification processes much smoother. It doesn’t remove bugs indeed, but this helps to prevent them in the future.

Performance

Another potential purpose of code refactoring is performance improvement. So refactoring may enable an application to perform faster or use fewer server capacities. This is the benefit that might be really tangible for end users right after code refactoring.

Costs saving

In the long perspective refactoring activities should lead to cost reduction according to the benefits noticed above. Refactoring contributes to the occurrence of reusable design elements that may be simply used for new features in the future. Well-structured and organized code doesn’t require much time for knowledge transfer if proceeding with development or support by another developer. Moreover, code refactoring favors bugs’ prevention which implies time and costs saving.

Consequences of Technical Debt

Lack of refactoring can result in accumulating technical debt (also known as tech or code dept) — the results when development teams take actions to expedite the delivery of a piece of functionality or a project which later needs to be refactored. In other words, it’s the result of prioritizing speedy delivery over perfect code. The longer you don’t care about the minor issues along the way, the more likely they will grow into major complexities.

  • knowledge transfer to new developers joining the project is more inefficient;
  • estimates are inaccurate which result in missed deadlines;
  • the client is locked with a software development provider which may hardly be changed.

When refactoring should be considered

Although the benefits of refactoring may appear only in a long perspective, this should be considered as soon as possible in order not to increase technical debt.

  • Duplication of code portions is frequently used in an application;
  • The opportunities of existing application should be increased;
  • Lots of featuring conditional operators used in a code.
  • The dependencies are minimal which simplifies maintenance;
  • Performance is close to optimal without unnecessary optimizations;
  • Clean code contains no duplication and minimizes the number of entities such as classes, methods, functions, and so on.

When refactoring is unnecessary

There may occur cases when an application needs to be completely rewritten from the start and it is much more cost- and time-efficient to simply start from scratch so that refactoring is not necessary. This may happen when code is completely unreadable, impossible to maintain or extend with new features, too outdated. In other words refactoring was not performed on time which caused these crucial issues and now it seems like efforts dedicated to the correction of failures and further refactoring outweighs the effort dedicated to the application’s full redevelopment.

Tips and Tricks

There are some best practices that can help to make refactoring reasonable and effective:

The bottom line

Refactoring is an essential part of each project. In order to understand its necessity easier, one can think of code refactoring as keeping an office desk clean and organized. When you keep order, you’re less stressed because everything is just easier to find and operate. On the other hand, a desk with odd stuff can lead to a chaotic and stressful environment.

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SumatoSoft

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