What is Code Refactoring? Why Should You Consider It?

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What is Code Refactoring? Why Should You Consider It?
anamika

Anamika Kalwan
Last updated on June 16, 2024

    Are you seeking different ways to enhance your code? Well, the following post is definitely worth your time. Have you ever come across the term code refactoring? If not, let me explain to you what exactly code refactoring is and how it can turn out to be beneficial.

    Why Code Refactoring?

    Now, first of all, tell me something: how do you get started with a development project?

    First, you gather all the basic requirements and then decide upon what features and functionalities are supposed to be implemented, etc. And with time passing, you keep experimenting by adding new codes and modifying them just to come up with a better solution. In fact, in case of any bugs or issues found, you also travel back and forth to tweak the codes a bit.

    Yeah, so this is the basic drill you keep doing as a software developer , right?

    Wrong! Don’t you find something fishy? Have you wondered what the code looks like? Here, you haven’t thought about improving the code or restructuring it?

    I mean, there are chances of duplication in terms of code or when you try to incorporate too many parameters, some longer methods/functions, large classes, or non-intuitive variable names, and the worst of all is when you place the code incorrectly, etc.

    These small issues lead to larger goof-ups or losses. This is popularly known as a code smell. Code smell can result in poor readability, longer debugging time, and, worst of all, it might take a hell of time to maintain the project, especially in the long run.

    Unfortunately, developers, irrespective of their experience, tend to follow these practices so that they can accomplish the project within the given deadline. They might add or change the existing code but never try to improve it, and this definitely leads to software decay.

    So what to do? How do we not let this decay happen? This is where code refactoring comes into play.

    What is Code Refactoring?

    Code refactoring refers to enhancing the software code in such a way that it certainly enhances the applications' overall performance, scalability, and security. A refactored code is easy to debug and maintain and saves you from immense technical losses in the future.

    So basically, code refactoring involves restructuring the entire code internally in such a way that it doesn’t affect an application’s external behavior or functionality. The primary aim is to make code more clean, neat, efficient, and easy to maintain.

    It is important to note that code refactoring is not similar to code rewriting. When you rewrite the code, the code’s behavior changes internally as well as externally. However, this is not the case with code refactoring.

    Code refactoring does not benefit end users. It only aids software developers in making their code simpler, better, more efficient, and easy to understand.

    Why is Code Refactoring Needed?

    • Enhanced efficiency and readability by taking care of all dependencies and complexities
    • Easy to maintain and reusable code
    • Cleaner code
    • Finding bugs and vulnerabilities in no time

    Importance of Code Refactoring

    When should one consider code refactoring?

    Well, first and foremost, if you don’t want to face situations such as duplicate code, bad classifications, or any kind of programming discrepancies such as myriad patches, you need to consider code refactoring.

    Apart from this further, we would like to shed some light on certain situations when code refactoring must be taken into account.

    #1 Get Rid of the Code Smell

    The first and foremost reason to consider code refactoring is to get rid of the code smell or code rot. When you are working with different-level experienced or skilled programmers , you will find that each one has a different coding style. Sometimes, they end up introducing some ugly coding hacks in order to accomplish the project in the given time.

    As a result, the chances of code rot increases. Code rot is basically said when the code seems to be clumsy, chaotic, and loses integrity. Several parameters or factors, such as duplicated code, unnecessary dependencies, and unused variables, result in such a situation.

    Therefore, code refactoring must be considered in the very first place. This results in getting rid of unnecessary bugs and errors.

    #2 Cost-Effective Approach

    Well, you may not agree with me in the first place, but when you tend to see the big picture, you will find that code refactoring definitely saves ample time and money.

    Enhanced code increases clarity and readability, making it easy for other developers to understand and interpret. This means you no longer have to waste time explaining the code to your software development teams or colleagues, which eventually saves a lot of development time.

    #3 Enhance the Performance of the Application

    The next reason to opt for code refactoring practice is to enhance the overall performance of the application.

    Now, can you tell me what kind of applications tend to run at a faster rate? The ones that do not comprise unnecessary classes, functions, variables, methods, or any such mess.

    This surely makes an application run at a faster pace and increases the overall performance of the code. In the end, this surely leads to a better customer experience.

    In addition to this, finding bugs, errors, and issues becomes pretty easy. All you need to do is simply test the application, and you are done.

    Above all these aspects, code refactoring results in reduced technical debt. You see, when you launch an application, after a while, you may find the software not responding properly due to not being updated regularly. This definitely increases your technical debt, and you soon get thrown out of the league.

    As a result, code refactoring is the only solution or approach that can save you from such bottlenecks. Moreover, it definitely keeps the code updated and saves from huge losses.

    Best Code Refactoring Techniques

    Now, I suppose you have understood the significance of incorporating code refactoring in your day-to-day programming schedule. It is time to consider some of the best techniques and approaches to do so.

    #1 Red-Green-Refactor

    Most of the custom software development teams tend to choose this code refactoring technique in particular.

    • Red - Wait! Think about what exactly needs to be developed. This is the very first phase to take into account. When you are writing a corresponding code in case, if the tested functionality is not in existence, then the test is destined to fail. Therefore, it’s Red! You should stop right there.
    • Green - Can the development approach pass the basic testing? This is the second phase, where the intended functionality corresponds to the test seamlessly. Basically, here, it’s all about passing the test and turning it into green.
    • Refactor - Implementing improvements or new functionalities. Last but certainly not least is to refactor both codes and the test. Make sure to pay attention to the tests and make necessary enhancements.

    This is one of the most popular Test Driven Development (TDD) cycles, which is all about improving the quality of the code.

    #2 Preparatory Refactoring

    The next code refactoring technique to consider is preparatory refactoring. Now, this method is all about paying down the technical debts that have accumulated over time.

    For example, let’s say you begin developing a new feature, and suddenly you realize that the code you are working on is not structured properly. This makes adding new features or improvising them pretty difficult.

    This is the time when you have to restructure the code to introduce new features. When the refactoring takes place before the actual development begins, it is known as preparatory refactoring . As the name implies, it’s preparing your existing code for better development.

    One of the most interesting explanations given by Jessica Ker on preparatory refactoring says

    “It’s like I want to go 100 miles east, but instead of just traipsing through the woods, I’m going to drive 20 miles north to the highway, and then I’m going to go 100 miles east at three times the speed I could have if I just went straight there. When people are pushing you to just go straight there, sometimes you need to say, ‘Wait, I need to check the map and find the quickest route.’ The preparatory refactoring does that for me.”

    #3 Refactoring by Abstraction

    Lastly comes refactoring by abstraction. This method is probably used when large portions of refactoring need to be conducted. Several aspects, such as class inheritances, hierarchy, and extraction, are included here. Basically, use this method when you want to reduce duplications in the software code.

    Here, the pull-up and push-down method is pretty much considered. The pull-up is about pulling or extracting common code parts of the classes to superclasses just to minimize the chances of code duplication. The push-down method is used when specific code parts are derived from superclasses into subclasses.

    Final Words

    Basically, code refactoring is something that might not be able to provide you with immediate or obvious benefits, but it definitely plays an important role in any successful development project. In the end, you will have an improved code, leading to more productivity and efficiency. Lastly, some code refactoring checklists to consider are:

    • Keeping refactoring small
    • Taking one step at a time
    • Add relevant test cases
    • Using relevant tools for refactoring automation
    • No scope for duplication
    • Easy to maintain

    So, are you ready to take small steps for the big win? It is time to change the approach for better programming and development.

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