Being a developer how do you start working on a new project…??
Firstly you gather some basic requirements and then based on the requirement you start implementing the feature one by one. As you progress with your project and learn more about it, you keep adding and changing the code in your codebase. Later you also change the code to fix the bug and edge cases.
But what happens after a couple of days or months…? How your code looks like…?? Is it complicated? Is it hard to understand?
If yes then definitely you didn’t pay attention to improve your code or to restructure your code. You might have written some duplicate code without looking at the existing code or you may have written some longer methods/functions, large classes, too many parameters, non-intuitive variable names, code placement, etc. All these bad practices lead to a deeper problem which is known as a code smell.
Code smell leads to many problems in your code such as poor readability, longer debugging time, or difficulty in maintaining the project for a longer time. Most often developers follow these bad practices due to the deadline pressure or due to the lack of depth about the entire product. They keep adding and changing the code, but most of the time they forget to improve in the code.
Software decays overtime when all the above things happen. This phenomenon is known as software aging. Code refactoring is one of the solutions to solve all the above problems or to prevent these kinds of issues.
Now the question is…what exactly is it? Why developers pay attention to code refactoring and what’s the benefit of it in software development.…let’s discuss that in detail.
What is Code Refactoring?
In software development, a lot of developers do not fix the things in an application unless it’s not broken. After all, it just spending some extra hours on something which has no problem yet. But do we need to wait for the problem to arise in the development process…? Can’t we just update or improve the software before it’s old or create any problem in the future…?
Code refactoring is all about it. We update or improve the internal structure of the code before it becomes messy and create any problem in the future. We restructure the code without changing the external behavior or functionality of the application. You make tiny changes in the source code but you keep in mind that the functionality remains the same.
Don’t consider code refactoring as rewriting the code. Rewriting the code changes the behavior of the code but refactoring doesn’t.
For customers, code refactoring doesn’t matter at all. They do not bother about it because it’s not going to benefit them in the short term. For customers, the application remains the same as it was made earlier. They don’t find any changes in the application so they also don’t bother about paying money for this process.
The main idea behind code refactoring is making the inefficient and over-complicated code to more efficient, simpler, cleaner, and easier to understand. Code refactoring makes the entire application more efficient, secure, fast, maintainable, and scalable. It also helps developers to find the hidden bugs and vulnerabilities in the system.
In the code refactoring process, you eliminate all the code smell problems. It involves removing the duplicate code, large classes, and long methods. You follow some best practices that include rename method, encapsulated field, extracts class, introduces assertion, pushdown methods, etc. You make code reusable and you remove all the unnecessary declared variables and unnecessary code from the application.
All the above best practices make your code cleaner and later it becomes easier for anyone to upgrade, implement, or change some functionality in the system.
“Refactoring is a disciplined technique for restructuring an existing body of code, altering its internal structure without changing its external behavior.”
Why Code Refactoring is Important in Software Development?
Take the example of your kitchen in your house. What will happen if you do not clean the dishes today and leave it for tomorrow? Maybe it’s not a problem for you from morning to evening but the next day your kitchen will be a real mess and you may become frustrated in cleaning up the entire mess. A similar thing happens in software development when you do not pay attention to cleaning up the mess in your code while building the functionality one by one in your entire application.
In the Agile software development approach when teams are involved in developing some application the code is managed by many programmers. To implement some new features or to extend the functionality of the code every member needs to understand the code and this is possible if the code is clean, simple, and easy to understand. Nobody loves to work on some messy code that is not continuously updated or improved as the feature grows in the system.
Refactoring the code becomes mandatory for the sake of other members of the team. A refactored code eliminates all the code smell problem and the code becomes much more clean and easy to understand. Debugging becomes easier because of small functions and proper placement.
Let’s discuss some of the major importance or benefits of code refactoring in software development…
1. To Keep Your Code Clean
Code refactoring removes all the notion of code smell and makes your code cleaner and easier to understand. You remove redundant code, unnecessary variables, too many parameters, longer methods, longer classes, too many conditions or unnecessary loops, etc. You clean up all the mess from your code and you eliminate all the defects before it makes real damage.
When your code is simpler, cleaner, and easier to understand, it becomes easier to work with. Also, it becomes easier to extend some features or debug the code. Code refactoring also helps in understanding some unfamiliar software. By refactoring the code you can test your application and understand what each part of the program does and how the entire application is built. This helps in understanding the project in a better way.
2. To Improve The Performance of The Application
An application that doesn’t have unnecessary classes, functions, variables, methods, or any other mess, runs faster and smoother. Performance of an application increases if the code is recently refreshed or updated. Your application generates quick responses and users no longer complain about the slower performance. This leads to a better customer experience.
3. You Save Time and Money in The Future
A clean and clear code takes less time to understand and implement the new features. None of the developers loves to work or waste their time understanding some messy code. An application that is not refactored takes more time to extend or upgrade. Also, if the application is damaged due to some issues, the organization needs to spend the money on fixing the issues and the budget gets increases.
4. To Reduce the Technical Debt
The cost of any software is not finalized when you launch the first version of it. Your software may stop responding after a couple of months if you don’t make regular updates in it. You may end up with the technical debt and to reduce this debt you need to refactor the code all the time.
5. Your Code is Outdated
Often in development, we use some libraries or the framework that needs to be updated with time. When a newer version of these libraries or frameworks appears the program written in the older version may not work or it may work with some errors. If your application uses some libraries that are no longer maintained or even exist then it can create a lot of problems in the application. Your application may stop responding or you may find a lot of bugs. You need to keep your code up to date to prevent this issue.
6. Makes Bugs Easier to Be Found
It’s easy to find the bugs in an application when you understand the code and entire structure of your application. You can test the application and find the bug if you understand how things are connected and working in an application.
7. Improves the System Design
You learn new things over time when you improve the code and understand your project in a better way. You implement some feature and after a couple of months if you just pay attention to your code you will find that it can be written more simply and easily. The solution you implemented months ago can not be good today. The overall design of your application can be improved by following some best practices and refactoring your code.
A poorly designed software may be good in the short term but in the long term, it can create so many issues. To avoid the issues in the future it’s good to spend some time in code refactoring and follow the best practices instead of taking the shortcut and making some quick and cheap choices.
Code refactoring is not just about improving the code. It’s a healthy habit for any company which should be followed to avoid any major issues or bugs in the application. A project lives longer for years if it’s regularly updated or refactored. Your application runs faster and it gives a better customer experience which is important to run any kind of business. Instead of creating a big problem for yourself in the future, it’s good to invest time in the code refactoring process while building an application.