What is Refactoring and Why You Need It?

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Not a single large and long-term project can do without refactoring. In this blog post, you’ll find the answers to the most common questions concerning code refactoring meaning and find out whether it is worth paying attention to while developing your software. Stay tuned!

What is refactoring?

Let's start with the obvious question - what is refactoring?

In software development, this means changing code without changing its current behavior. It mostly looks like some small transformations. Every piece of the system should work as before to prevent its failure.

So, now we know the refactoring definition, but why change the already written code? There are several reasons for it, let’s describe them.

Why is there a need to refactor the project?

Technologies and approaches are constantly evolving and improving. Projects that have existed for a long time face the fact that the technologies used since the start of the project have become obsolete, which leads to the complication of developing new functionality and bug fixing. “Code smell” of a program can also lead to the need for refactoring. It violates code writing principles and fundamentals that decrease code quality - large classes and methods, “god objects”, contrived complexity, code duplicating, etc. Another reason is 3rd party libraries - many of them cease to be maintained by creators, which, in perspective, can cause incompatibility issues with other updated dependencies. For example, when a new OS is released in Android development, the target SDK version has to be updated, which can lead to incompatibility with the dependencies used in the project.

Solving all these problems for an ongoing project that requires the creation of new features sounds unrealistic. However, it is possible to do this if you correctly understand the refactoring meaning and organize it.

How to allocate refactoring priorities?

To properly organize refactoring, it is necessary to prioritize it correctly. The highest priority is the code that has problems (f.e. outdated 3rd-party dependencies or “code smell”) and regularly produces bugs at the current moment.

It is better to start such a practice by refactoring components that do not depend on each other. In addition, it will help divide the process into smaller steps.

Go from smaller parts to bigger ones - for instance, start with refactoring of methods and then move up to the classes. Following this, you will gradually increase code stability. It is worth noting that modern IDEs have automatic refactoring support that can be helpful for the smallest tasks. They can suggest and make some code improvements (for example, change functional operators, visibility modifiers, and variables naming due to conventions)

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Define how to organize components refactoring. We recommend dividing it by application flow. For example, you should restructure authentication flow and payments flow separately. It will be easier for a developer to focus on one flow and test behavior afterward. Developers can prepare automatic unit tests to ensure app behavior is not changed. Refactoring looks excellent in theory, but it requires time and resources that may not be available on an ongoing project.

Let's figure out how to solve this issue.

How to combine refactoring with the process of developing new functionality?

Quite often, the refactoring meaning is underestimated, and the focus is on developing new functionality. Even when there is an understanding of its benefits, not all customers are ready to spend time on it that could be spent on new features. However, there is a solution for this case.

Divide the refactoring task into as many subtasks as possible. Define the basic functionality necessary for all tasks and do it first. It will help to parallelize the tasks. They will be independent of each other and can be released separately. It is quite a significant advantage as you do not need to finish all tasks before releasing them, and they can be released along with new features.

If new functionality is constantly being developed, you can perform refactoring tasks when the new functionality tasks have already been completed or when some other factors block the developers (for example, waiting for design changes or back-end updates). So, refactoring will not impact development speed and release process of any new feature. In addition, software engineers can work on refactoring tasks during technical sprints.

There are still some scenarios when such a process may not be suitable that you should keep in mind. For example, if a project has not been released yet and has strict deadlines. In this case, postponing the refactoring until the stable release will be better. Sometimes if a project is relatively small, it can be easier and time-saving to rewrite it from scratch. Also, if the app is not expanding, such a code restructuring may be redundant.

How much time does it take to refactor the project?

Time depends on the number and type of components that need to be restructured. However, in general, this procedure will not affect the speed of development if it is organized correctly, as we described in the previous paragraphs.

Refactoring results

We described what refactoring is and how to organize it. Now, let’s finally talk about its benefits. So, referring to the refactoring definition, application behavior will not be changed. But you will achieve code stability and readability and reduce the number of bugs. Also, since up-to-date technologies and approaches will be used in the project, the code will be easier to expand. It may seem not so important, but the total effect of all of these modifications is significant. It can increase the speed of new functionality development and better teamwork quality.

Conclusion

Refactoring is a necessary layer of work that helps to improve the developer’s results and makes the development process more manageable and less stressful. So, code refactoring meaning is vital.

We at Axon strive to create scalable software projects. As industry leaders, we pay a lot of attention to the correctness and cleanliness of the code. Our dedicated teams provide all the services needed for any-size business in various industries!

Get in touch with our team if you want to share your idea and get a free consultation from our software engineers.

Axon Development Group
September 23, 2022
Software Development

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