Code is the backbone of any business that uses a software system.
But, like all living things, code has a lifespan. The source code you write today will someday need to be refactored and rewritten because it will become outdated.
The most common mistake developers make when writing code is they don’t invest any time in refactoring activities. To write robust code, it’s essential to go back and clean up any messy code. As a result, you will end up with code that is more readable and easier to maintain.
Here are the four main benefits of refactoring:
- Refactoring improves the design of code
- Refactoring makes code easier to understand
- Refactoring finds bugs
- Refactoring makes you write code faster
This article will explain each of these refactoring benefits and offer tips on using refactoring to its full potential.
What is refactoring?
Refactoring, a term which is also sometimes called “code surgery” or “code hygiene,” is a process where you apply small step changes to your existing code to improve the internal structure. You do these changes without changing the observable external behavior. In other words, it is a way of restructuring code to make it better without affecting how it functions. This process is often used to upgrade existing code and can significantly improve its stability and quality.
When you refactor the dirty code, the program must still perform the same functions and produce the same results, but more efficiently.
For example, when the method is too long, you can use Extract Method refactoring. During this refactoring process, you can make the method smaller by extracting some blocks into separate methods. That will put the method in a consistent, simple, and better form that improves the readability and understandability and removes duplicate code.
That is why code refactoring is necessary for any long-term project.
Refactoring improves the design of code
There are many benefits of using refactoring. The biggest benefit is that it increases code quality. In addition, you can make the code conform to organizational coding standards.
As time passes by, any code base loses its initial quality. Developers who work on the code often take shortcuts while fixing bugs and implementing features without thinking about the overall code structure. Those shortcuts are also called technical debt. When software is being developed, the design evolves along with the code.
Often the resulting code is not clean but becomes messy:
- There are methods in the code, which are not required at the moment, but they are there to be used later when the requirement arises.
- There are long methods, with multiple nested if statements.
- There are long classes that violate the single responsibility principle.
- there are inheritance structures that are complicated to understand
That kind of code is difficult to debug, maintain or extend. Hence, there is a need to refactor the code to have a good design. A good design means that you have a clean code. That is code is easy to understand, extend and maintain.
Refactoring makes code easier to understand
Developing new functionality can be a hard task. But the even harder task is when you have to go to the legacy application and take care of the old code. But iterative refactoring is the best way to reduce the technical debt in the legacy code.
Refactoring makes code easier to understand and easier to work with in the future. Some of the things you do in this process are:
- Simplifying things by eliminating unnecessary complexity or features.
- Removing blocks of code that may not be necessary anymore.
- Breaking out larger classes and methods into smaller ones.
Every time you develop a new feature, you are writing the code for two readers. One is the computer. The other is the software developer who will come in the future and maintain the code. The first reader, the computer, doesn’t care about the structure of the code. It will execute code of any kind of structure without complaining about it.
However, the second reader, a future developer, might not be so forgiving. While writing code, you should be considering how it will be readable to the future developer. It is crucial to have a good structure for your code and write to communicate with other developers. To make things worse, that future developer is often you. Just think about all the times you returned to the code you wrote a few months ago and thought: “What kind of amateur wrote this? Oh, it was me.”
But by ensuring that the future developer can easily modify code, you not only reduce the workload but also improve the productivity of the development team.
Refactoring finds bugs
Refactoring is a great way to understand messy code. When you refactor, you improve your knowledge of the code. In addition, as you get more familiar with the code, you start spotting bugs. By finding those bugs, you are helping improve the code quality of your project. It’s a win-win situation.
Look, no one wants bugs. Not the development team, not the QA, not even the end-users.
Sometimes, the bugs in the legacy code might be so small and insignificant that they can go unnoticed. While there’s no such thing as a bug with no consequence, finding such a bug would be a blessing. Refactoring will reduce the number of bugs in your codebase, and when you find it, you’ll be glad it was in the refactoring stage and not in the testing stage.
Refactoring makes you write code faster
What if you could write a little more code faster?
In my experience, with larger projects, the more time you spend refactoring, the more time you’ll spend writing new code. At first, that doesn’t sound right. Refactoring takes time, and therefore you can easily conclude that it slows down the software development process. Well, it slows it down only in the short term.
As you start to accumulate the gains, you get from getting your code organized, your speed increases. The code becomes easier to change. And not only that, but you start reusing small methods, so you don’t have to write them from scratch. The classes, methods, and variables have meaningful names, so you spend less time debugging the code. Less time investigating the original code means more time writing and unit testing new code.
In conclusion, the benefits of refactoring allow your organization to save a lot of money and time during the software maintenance process.
Refactoring is an essential part of coding, and it can help you write better code faster.
When you make the code easy to read and modify for the future developer, you reduce the workload and improve productivity. In addition, refactoring can help you find bugs in the code that you may have missed, helping you spot those that would have gone unnoticed.
No one wants bugs, and refactored code has fewer bugs in it.