Code Refactoring: Meaning, Benefits and Practices
The technique of rearranging code without affecting its original functionality is known as refactoring. Refactoring’s purpose is to improve internal code by making many modest changes that do not affect the code’s exterior behavior.
Refactoring code is done by computer programmers and software developers to improve the design, structure, and implementation of software. Refactoring increases code readability while decreasing complications. Refactoring can also assist software engineers in locating faults or vulnerabilities in their code.
The refactoring process involves numerous minor changes to a program’s source code. For example, one technique to refactoring is to enhance the structure of source code at one point and then progressively extend the same modifications to all appropriate references throughout the program. The thought process is that all of the modest, behavior-preserving modifications to a body of code add up. These adjustments keep the software’s original behavior and do not change it.
In his book Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code, Martin Fowler, considered the father of refactoring, consolidated many best practices from across the software development industry into a specific list of refactorings and described methods to implement them.
A few remarks on code
The most popular definition of clean code is that it is simple to understand and modify. Code is never written once and then forgotten. It is critical for everybody who uses the code to be able to work on it efficiently.
The term “dirty code” refers to code that is difficult to maintain and update. It usually refers to code that was added or altered late in the development process owing to time constraints.
Legacy code is code that was passed down from a previous owner or an earlier version of the software. It could possibly be a code that you don’t understand and that is difficult to update.
Remember that. We’ll get back to this later. And now for the main course: refactoring.
Why is refactoring code important?
All programmers must follow the same rule: the code must be short, well-structured, and clear to the developers who will be working with it. Even after a successful software development project, the system must be improved in order to give new features and solutions. It frequently leads to code complexity since the upgrades are applied in a way that makes updates more difficult. Source code reworking can help to improve the code’s maintainability and readability. It can also aid in the avoidance of standardization issues created by the large number of developers providing their own code. Furthermore, reworking reduces the amount of technical debt that developers build as a result of failing to capitalize on opportunities to improve the code. Technical debt is the cost a company will incur in the future as a result of opting for a simpler, faster, but less reliable option today. Any compromise you make in the present to release products or features faster will result in a greater volume of work to do in the future.
What does refactoring accomplish?
Refactoring makes code better by:
- By resolving dependencies and complications, we can be more efficient.
- Increase efficiency and readability to make it more manageable or reusable.
- Cleaner, which makes it easier to read and understand.
- It is easier for software developers to identify and remedy problems or vulnerabilities in code.
The code is modified without affecting the program’s functionality. Simple refactorings, such as renaming a function or variable across an entire code base, are supported by many basic editing environments.
When is it appropriate to refactor code?
Refactoring can be done after a product has been delivered, before adding updates and new features to existing code, or as part of the day-to-day development process.
When the process is carried out after deployment, it is usually carried out before developers move on to the next project. An organization may be able to rework more code at this point in the software delivery lifecycle because engineers are more available and have more time to work on the necessary source code changes.
However, reworking should be done before adding updates or new features to old code.Refactoring at this point makes it easier for developers to build on top of existing code since they are going back and simplifying it, making it easier to read and comprehend.
When a company understands the refactoring process well, it may make it a regular practice. When a developer needs to add something to a code base, they can examine the existing code to determine if it is structured in a way that makes adding new code simple. If not, the developer may refactor the existing code. Once the new code is added, the developer can refactor the existing code to make it more clear.
When is it not necessary to refactor?
It is often preferable to forego restructuring and instead launch a new product. If you intend to rebuild the app from the ground up, starting from scratch is the best alternative. It avoids the need for refactoring, which can be time-consuming while maintaining the same state.
Another scenario is that if you don’t have tests to verify that restructuring has altered the code, you shouldn’t refactor it.
What are the advantages of refactoring?
Refactoring has the following advantages:
- Because the purpose is to simplify code and minimize complications, it makes it easier to understand and read.
- Improves maintainability and makes it easier to identify bugs and make additional modifications.
- Encourages a deeper grasp of coding. Developers must consider how their code will interact with existing code in the code base.
- The emphasis remains solely on functionality. The original project does not lose scope by not changing the code’s original functionality.
What are the difficulties of refactoring?
However, difficulties do arise as a result of the process. Some examples are:
- If a development team is in a hurry and refactoring is not prepared for, the process will take longer.
- Refactoring can cause delays and extra work if there are no clear objectives.
- Refactoring, which is designed to tidy up code and make it less complex, cannot address software issues on its own.
Techniques for refactoring code
Different refactoring strategies can be used by organizations in different situations. Here are a few examples:
- Red and green. This popular refactoring method in Agile development consists of three parts. First, the developers assess what needs to be built; second, they ensure that their project passes testing; and finally, they rework the code to improve it.
- This technique focuses on reducing code complexity by removing unneeded parts.
- Changing the appearance of items. This method generates new classes while relocating functionality between old and new data classes.
- This method divides code into smaller chunks and then moves those chunks to a different method. A call to the new method replaces fragmented code.
- Refactoring through abstraction. This method decreases the amount of redundant code. When there is a big quantity of code to be refactored, this is done.
- This methodology uses numerous refactoring methods, including extraction and inline, to streamline code and minimize duplications.
Best techniques for code refactoring
The following are some best practices for refactoring:
- Prepare for refactoring. Otherwise, it may be tough to find time for the time-consuming practice.
- First, refactor. To reduce technical debt, developers should do this before adding changes or new features to existing code.
- Refactor in modest increments. This provides input to developers early in the process, allowing them to identify potential flaws as well as add business needs.
- Set specific goals. Early in the code reworking process, developers should define the project scope and goals. As refactoring is intended to be a sort of housekeeping rather than an opportunity to change functionality or features, this helps to avoid delays and needless labor.
- Test frequently. This assists in ensuring that refactored changes do not introduce new bugs.
- Whenever feasible, automate. Automation tools make refactoring easier and faster, resulting in increased efficiency.
- Separately address software flaws. Refactoring is not intended to fix software problems. Debugging and troubleshooting should be done independently.
- Recognize the code. Examine the code to learn about its processes, methods, objects, variables, and other components.
- Refactor, patch, and update on a regular basis. When refactoring may address a substantial issue without requiring too much time and effort, it generates the highest return on investment.
- Concentrate on code deduplication. Duplication complicates code, increasing its footprint and squandering system resources.
Concentrate on the process rather than on perfection
The truth is that you will never be completely satisfied with the results of code refactoring. Even so, it’s critical to begin thinking about the process as an ongoing maintenance project. It will necessitate that you clean and organize the code on a regular basis.
Refactoring is a procedure that involves revising the source code of the code. It makes no new features or changes to the underlying system. It’s a practice that helps maintain the code running smoothly and without errors. Another advantage of refactoring is that it allows developers to focus on the details that will drive the solution’s implementation rather than just the code itself.
You can get rid of outdated software applications and improve their overall functionality using proper refactoring techniques without compromising their current state.