A code smell is any weakness in the source code that indicates a deeper problem. Ignoring a  detected smell code may lead to poor readability, extended troubleshooting time, or trouble maintaining a project in the future.

Some developers ignore code smells when rushing to complete a project before the deadline or because they lack deeper knowledge of the entire project. That results in them adding and changing the source code without improving it.

One of the ways to solve or prevent such issues is code refactoring.

Code refactoring is the process aimed at making the code more efficient and sustainable. This helps save money since it is more affordable to clean up the code now than to fix more serious errors later.

Code refactoring doesn’t remove existing bugs, but it does prevent them in the future.

In this article, we will answer a few questions:

  • What is refactoring?
  • Why is refactoring your code important?
  • What practices should you employ when refactoring your code?

Code Refactoring – What Exactly Is It?

Code Refactoring - What Exactly Is It?

Software aging is the decaying of software over time due to the things mentioned above. Code refactoring fixes or prevents that decay from occurring.

Code refactoring is a process of restructuring existing computer code without changing its external behavior. The aim is to improve the design, structure, and/or implementation of the software without affecting its functionality.

Refactoring is used to improve the system’s maintainability, performance, scalability, and security, among other things. When done correctly, it can enable developers to expose hidden bugs or areas in which the system is vulnerable.

Refactoring should never be confused with rewriting the code. The main difference m is that, contrary to refactoring, rewriting does affect the system’s behavior.

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Code Refactoring – When Is It Needed?

There are a few good reasons for refactoring your code. We present the top seven.

Keeping Your Code Clean

As mentioned at the outset, refactoring helps you spot code smells. Some examples may include duplicate code, excess of parameters, comments, and so on.

These decrease the code’s readability and slow down development or increase the risk of bugs and failures in the future.

When that happens, the repair of a damaged code is long and expensive. Thus, a code smell is a driver for refactoring.

Improving the System’s Performance

Removing unneeded classes, functions, variables, and methods through refactoring makes your software run faster and smoother.

Every time the code is refreshed or updated, the software’s performance improves. A responsive system eliminates the risk of complaints from customers while elevating user experience.

Resolving the Technical Debt

Resolving the Technical Debt

Technical debt is a metaphor that treats the cruft as a debt. The interest payments of that debt being the extra effort these changes require.

Tech debt is a result of prioritizing speedy delivery over perfect code. It occurs when developers expedite delivery by compromising the quality of the code. It is dangerous since a badly written code may cause the failure of the whole system.

Refactoring introduces needed fixes as a way to solve the code debt.

Making It Easier to Add New Features

It is opportune to refactor the code whenever a new feature is added. Taking an additional day for this will accelerate the introduction of new features and will regularly remove technical debt.

Saving Time and Money

Trying to understand a poorly written code requires a lot of time to understand and even more to clean up and upgrade. A refactored code is clear and expedites the implementation of new features.

If the disorderly code already caused damage, more time and money must be invested to find and fix the problems.

Removing Duplicate Code

Removing Duplicate Code

When several developers team up to work on one project without good communication, they may repeat a code that has already been written. This, in itself, is not only a waste of time but also complicates the codebase.

Refactoring gets rid of duplications and removes all other unnecessary parts slowing down the software’s performance and decreasing its functionality.

Increasing the Security

A codebase could be compared to a tree while refactoring would be trimming and removing unnecessary, unhealthy branches and twigs. Then, your code is “trimmed”, or comprehensible. An optimized code enables you to find and fix any parts of the system where the security could be compromised.

Useful Tips for Code Refactoring

Here are some tips to follow when attempting to refactor your code:

Ensure the Check-In Is Cleaner than the Check-Out

Always remember that every code deteriorates over time. Any time changes are made in the code, try to spot any parts in the surrounding code that may need upgrading. This way, a cleaner code is ensured when checking out from version control.

Pay Attention to Your Infrastructure

Pay Attention to Your Infrastructure

The first thing to do is to take inventory of the codebase. Identify and classify reusable parts of the code as true components and modules.

A component is a fundamental block, possibly general-purpose, that can be tested independently from any related products or projects.

A module is a cohesive group of code that performs a complex primary function without outside interference and can be used in many products.

Making a clear distinction between components and modules will help with determining how to best proceed with the refactoring process.

Make a Careful Plan and Timeline for the Refactoring Process

Be certain of what exactly you want to be accomplished. This may be to perform a full cleanup of the code or only edit some things to improve readability.

Determining the goal will help in scheduling enough time for the refactoring project to be done properly.

Choose Meaningful Names for Methods and Variables

Having meaningful names within your code will eliminate the need for needless comments. Clear names will make the functionality of each method and variable evident.

Code Refactoring – When Don’t You Need it?

Code Refactoring - When Don’t You Need it?

Refactoring does not change the external behavior or affect the functionality of the software. Its purpose is to clean, clarify, and structure the code to ultimately prevent more serious issues.

At times, however, it may be necessary to completely revamp the application. When that happens, refactoring is not required. Instead,  a complete rebuild of the code is then needed.

Refactoring code that doesn’t contain all the necessary test coverage may lead to more issues.

If you work with legacy code without all the needed tests, you cannot be sure that the code you are refactoring works.

If unsure of how the updates made will affect the code, it can become damaged instead of improved. It is recommended to postpone refactoring for a later time.

If you are on a tight schedule,  you may leave refactoring for later since it can be more time-consuming than expected.

Ending thoughts on why refactoring your code is important

In short, code refactoring is the process of cleaning and optimizing the structure of a code without affecting its external behavior (software’s functionality).

It can be a simple job (like adding or removing comments, getting rid of static variables, or adding correct indentation) or a complex and time-consuming project, especially when dealing with complicated legacy codes.

Either way, code refactoring is necessary to stay clear of serious code rot. Code rot is a consequence of duplicate code, wrong classifications, and other programming inconsistencies.

It may also be the result of having multiple developers working on the same project and writing in individual styles, thus adding to the incoherence in the coding script.

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