What is "Code Refactoring"?

What is "Code Refactoring"?

Dec 12, 2021ยท

4 min read

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Code refactoring is a crucial process in software development that involves improving the quality of code without altering its functionality.

By restructuring and redesigning code, developers can improve its readability, maintainability, and performance.

In this article, we'll explore the benefits of code refactoring and how it can help your project.

What is code refactoring?

In software engineering, code refactoring means changing the structure of existing code without impacting its behaviour and functionality.

Why do we need code refactoring?

We need code refactoring because:

  • It makes it easy to add new code.

  • The existing code becomes cleaner and more readable after being refactored.

  • Engineers can understand the code better through refactoring.

  • Coding becomes more enjoyable and less painful.

Key benefits of refactoring code

Code refactoring can bring in many different advantages:

  • It makes code more reusable.

  • It improves the standard of the code.

  • The code becomes easier to maintain and scale.

  • Refactoring improves the architecture of the code without changing software behaviour.

However, code refactoring can be a challenging process because:

  • It's time-consuming: when you start refactoring the code, you don't know how long it will take. Plus, you don't know where to begin to change the code, and this uncertainty may take some time.

  • Re-testing: refactoring may lead an engineer to rewrite some tests and ensure they still pass.

  • Backward compatibility: the code still needs to work with the older version of the existing code.

  • Fear factor: some engineers may be afraid of restructuring the code, and the reasons behind this fear can vary. For example, they might fear breaking code that works and the time it may take to rewrite some tests.

  • Reluctance: not all software engineers see the benefits of restructuring the code (there is this ongoing saying that you should never touch code that works ๐Ÿ˜). This leads to engineers being hesitant when it comes to code refactoring.

One of the major problems that code refactoring addresses is code smells.

Related: 3 Types of Software Testing for Developers

What is a code smell?

A code smell is a signal that says the code has been written without following the best practices.

How can you identify a code smell?

Well, there are many ways to recognize a code smell.

  • Repeated code: the same code appears in multiple locations.

  • Large class: a class that contains too much code.

  • Long method: a method that has too many parameters. It reduces readability and testability.

  • Complexity looks enforced: the design is overly complicated.

  • Cyclomatic complexity happens when there are too many IF statements or loops.

  • Difficult to debug: code becomes difficult to debug.

  • Difficult to scale: a program with too many codes smells makes adding a new feature or implementing a small change challenging.

Related: Top 10 Technical Terms Every Software Engineer Should Know

How to refactor code

Some standard techniques to refactor code:

  • Extracting a method: a long, over-complicated method can be extracted into smaller methods. You can also create a whole new class to replace a long method.

  • Inline method: you can replace the body of a method call with the body of the method itself.

  • Moving features: if a method uses members of another class, consider moving that method to the other class.

  • Consider replacing arrays with Objects.

  • Break up conditionals and replace nested conditions with guard clauses (a precondition, for example, doing a null check at the beginning of an IF statement).

  • Consider making method calls simpler by renaming a method.

Database refactoring

Refactoring also applies to databases.

A change to a database can be:

  • The structure: you can change the table's name or a column.

  • Data quality: make changes to improve the data quality stored in the database.

  • Referential integrity: any data linked to a table should exist, and unused data should be removed from the database.

  • Architectural: this means enhancing how external applications communicate with the database.

  • Method: code changes intending to improve overall quality.

  • Transformations: this refers to changes in the database schema, for example, by adding an extra column.

Related: Ten Rules to Refactor Code

Key Takeaways

After reading this article, you've learned the following:

  • What code refactoring is.

  • Why we need code refactoring.

  • What code smells are.

  • How to identify code smells.

  • What database refactoring is.

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