It isn’t always possible to write good quality code right away. The reasons may be different – from lack of programmer knowledge to lack of time. Also, sometimes the requirements change during the execution of a task, and this also has a negative impact on the quality of the code. Therefore, software refactoring becomes an integral part of the development process. Code refactoring is very important for any project. What does refactoring code mean? In this article, we will tell you about refactoring meaning and why is refactoring your code important.
Code refactoring meaning
So, what is code refactoring? While explaining refactoring code meaning, we define that code refactoring is the process of changing the source code of a program that doesn’t affect its behavior and aims at making it easier to understand its work and/or to simplify its further support. Usually, refactoring code of any program is making small changes to it, each of which does not change the behavior of the program itself, but somehow simplifies and/or improves the code. At the same time, it is very important that refactoring is carried out precisely and in small parts since when a programmer changes a part of the code, it is much easier to follow the correctness of the changes and not make further mistakes. If you refactor large sections of code at once, there is a very high probability of making mistakes, as a result of which the program may stop working altogether. This process is based on a series of small changes in the program code that preserve its behavior. Since each transformation is insignificant in terms of volume, it is easier for a programmer to track its correctness, and the whole sequence of these changes can lead to a significant restructuring of the program and improving its consistency, clarity, and ease of understanding of the code by other developers.
Main Goal of Code Refactoring in Software Projects
You already know about the refactor meaning, so let’s define refactoring purpose. The main goal of refactoring is to make the code simpler and clearer. If after refactoring the code does not become better and more understandable, then you either didn’t refactor it properly, or it failed. That being said, don’t confuse the concept of refactoring with optimization. The code becomes faster after optimization, but not necessarily simpler and clearer; refactoring serves to simplify and improve the readability of the code.
When Do You Need to Refactor?
Well-structured code is easy to read and fast to modify. But it is rarely possible to make it that way immediately. Developers are in a hurry, task requirements may change in the process, testers find bugs that need to be fixed quickly, or urgent improvements appear, and they have to be done in a hurry. As a result, even an initially well-structured source becomes messy and incomprehensible. Programmers know how easy it is to get bogged down in this chaos. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s someone else’s code or your own. To solve all these problems, you need a refactored code. Signs that you need refactoring:
- Your software product works, but the introduction of new functionality sometimes takes weeks;
- In certain places, your code works completely differently than you expected;
- You are often mistaken in the timing of the implementation of the task;
- You have to make the same type of changes in different places.
In a new project, you need it to:
- Preserve the architecture of the project, prevent the loss of structure;
- Simplify the future life of developers, make the code understandable and transparent for all team members;
- Speed up development and search for bugs.
Any application becomes obsolete over time: the programming language is improving, new functions, libraries, operators appear that make the code simpler and clearer. What required fifty lines just a year ago can be solved with just one line nowadays. Therefore, even a once ideal program eventually requires a new refactoring that updates obsolete code fragments.
Why is refactoring your code important?
Based on the refactoring definition and benefits it provides, we approve that software refactoring is a tool that can and should be used for multiple purposes. Answering the question of why should a team do refactoring, we say that it helps:
Improve software composition
Without refactoring, the composition of the program becomes unusable. As changes are made to the code related to the implementation of short-term goals or made without a full understanding of the organization of the code, the latter loses its structuredness. It becomes more and more difficult to understand the project by reading the code. Refactoring is like putting things in order in your code. Fragments that are out of place are removed. The loss of code structure is cumulative. The more difficult it is to understand the internal structure of the code, the more difficult it is to maintain it and the faster it decays. Regular refactoring helps keep your code in shape.
Facilitate understanding of software
According to our company’s expert opinion, in many ways, programming is about communicating with a computer. The programmer writes code that tells the computer what to do, and it responds by doing exactly what it has been told. Refactoring helps make your code easier to read. When refactoring, you take a code that works but doesn’t have a perfect structure. With a little refactoring, you can help your code to better communicate its purpose.
Helps you find bugs
A better understanding of the code helps identify errors. When refactoring a code, a specialist delves deeply into it, trying to understand what the purpose of the code is, and then gives the achieved understanding to the code. After clarifying the structure of the program, some of the assumptions made become so clear that it is impossible not to see the error. Refactoring helps write robust codes.
Allows you to write programs faster
Ultimately, it all comes down to one thing: refactoring helps speed up the development of a code. Better designs, better readability, fewer errors – all this means quality. It makes programs develop faster because it keeps the composition of the system from decaying. You can even improve your design with its help.
It will be easier to add new features
To make refactoring a regular team activity, it helps when you refactor code while adding new features. Let’s assume that the feature implementation will take 3 days. One more day should be added by a developer for rethinking and refactoring the codebase to prepare it for the new feature. It is the main way to continuously eliminate technical debt.
When you don’t need refactoring
Earlier we provided a refactoring definition and stressed that refactoring should never impact the performance of an app and that it should only serve as a clean-up effort. Nevertheless, there exist occasions when an application should be completely redone from the very beginning. If that is the case, it is much more effective just to start from scratch rather than think about refactoring.
There is another situation when it should be better not to use refactoring. It is the case if you want to get a product to market within a set time frame. The main reason is that refactoring can take a lot of time. Testing as well as adding any additional coding to an already tight term will bring disappointment and additional expenses.
Is there a breakpoint of code clearing? We have prepared a checklist that can help you to define if your code is clean:
- For other programmers it’s obvious. It could be as easy as building clearer structures for classes, naming, and methods, or more complex algorithms improvements.
- There is no duplication in it. Every time when it is required to double-up on changes, the risk of human error also grows.
- There is a minimal amount of moving parts in it such as a number of classes. If there is less to remember, it means there is less to clean up and maintain.
- It goes through all testing. Code could be dirty even in case most of it goes through testing.
- The code is simpler to maintain. It means that less time will be spent on the improvements in the future.
So, you are already aware of refactor code meaning and that it is an important element of the entire process of creating and further optimizing any software. It also plays a special part as a complement to the design. If you think about the architecture of the program in advance, you can avoid subsequent expensive rework. Improving your code should not be neglected because it is the best way to speed up your work in the future. Want to know how to refactor code or learn more about what refactoring means? Our team of experienced developers at Dedicated Teams will be happy to help you. Contact us here!