So, you have been living in this old house for years now and would fancy a new look. Renovating the building without causing a leak or physical damage could be seen as “house refactoring”. In the same vein, code refactoring is the process of modifying existing code to improve its readability, maintainability, and performance without changing its behaviour. Refactoring can be necessary to improve the design and structure of code, remove technical debt, and ensure that the codebase is optimized for scalability and future changes. In this tutorial, we will be exploring the benefits of code refactoring, the common techniques used in refactoring, and the best practices to follow when refactoring code.
2. WHY REFACTOR CODE?
Code refactoring is an essential part of software development because it helps developers improve the quality of code and reduce technical debt. Technical debt is the accumulation of issues that arise from shortcuts taken during software development. These issues can include poorly written code, complex code, and code that is difficult to maintain. Code refactoring can help address technical debt by improving the quality of the codebase. This can include simplifying code, improving the code structure, and removing unnecessary dependencies. The benefits of code refactoring include:
a. Improved Maintainability
Refactored code is typically easier to maintain than non-refactored code. This is because refactoring can remove redundancies and unnecessary dependencies, which can make the codebase easier to understand and modify.
b. Increased Readability
Refactored code is often easier to read than non-refactored code. This is because refactoring can improve the structure of the code, making it easier to follow the logic and understand the flow of the program.
c. Enhanced Performance
Refactored code can be optimized for performance. This can include reducing the time it takes to execute the code, improving memory usage, and reducing the likelihood of bugs and errors.
d. Better Scalability
Refactored code is often more scalable than non-refactored code. This is because refactoring can remove unnecessary dependencies, making it easier to add new features and functionality to the codebase.
3. TECHNIQUES YOU CAN USE TO REFACTOR YOUR CODE
There are several techniques used in code refactoring, we will be going through some of them.
a. Extract Method
The extract method technique involves creating a new method from a section of code that is used more than once. This can help reduce code redundancy and make the codebase easier to read.
b. Replace Magic Numbers with Constants
The replace magic numbers with constants technique involves replacing numerical values that are used throughout the codebase with constants. This can help improve the readability of the code and make it easier to maintain.
c. Simplify Conditional Expressions
The simplify conditional expressions technique involves simplifying complex conditional statements. This can help improve the readability of the code and make it easier to modify.
d. Remove Dead Code
The remove dead code technique involves removing code that is no longer used in the codebase. This can help improve the maintainability of the code and reduce technical debt.
e. Rename Variables
The rename variables technique involves renaming variables to make their purpose and functionality clearer. This can help improve the readability of the code and make it easier to understand.
4. BEST PRACTICES FOR CODE REFACTORING
To ensure that code refactoring is successful, developers should follow several best practices, including:
a. Create a Backup
Before refactoring code, developers should create a backup of the codebase. This can help ensure that the original code can be restored if something goes wrong during the refactoring process.
b. Use Source Control
Developers should use source control to track changes to the codebase. This can help ensure that changes can be reverted if necessary and that the codebase is backed up in case of a disaster.
c. Refactor Small Sections of Code
Developers should refactor small sections of code at a time. This can help ensure that the refactoring process is manageable and that changes can be tested and verified before moving on to the next section.
d. Test Changes
Developers should test changes to the codebase after each refactoring step. This can help identify any issues that may have arisen during the refactoring process and ensure that the codebase still functions as intended.
e. Keep Track of Technical Debt
Developers should keep track of technical debt and prioritize refactoring efforts accordingly. This can help ensure that the most critical areas of the codebase are addressed first, reducing the risk of technical debt accumulating over time.
f. Involve Other Team Members
Developers should involve other team members in the refactoring process. This can help ensure that the refactoring effort is collaborative and that team members can provide feedback and suggestions on the refactoring process.
It is important to note that code refactoring should not be done unnecessarily or too frequently. Refactoring takes time and resources, and it may not be worth the effort if the codebase is stable and functioning well. Refactoring too frequently can introduce new bugs and issues, and it can be difficult to maintain a stable codebase if the code is constantly changing.
Therefore, it is important for you to carefully assess the need for code refactoring and prioritise efforts based on the most critical areas of the codebase. By doing so, you can ensure that code refactoring is a productive and effective effort that improves the quality of the codebase over time.
About the Author:
Prince Osinachi Nchiba, the author of this content, is a senior software engineer that has developed solutions both in the edTech and finTEch sector. He is a mentor with a track record of training upcoming tech talents.