Software development is not only about building new functionalities. It is also the need to constantly monitor performance, conduct regular tests and continually improve the written code. It is thanks to this that it is possible to keep the application in good condition.
But what if those actions are neglected at some stage? This is where code refactoring comes in handy. What is it, what is it and when is it worth doing?
What is code refactoring?
Code refactoring, also known as refactoring, is the process of restructuring and improving existing code to make it more readable and easier to maintain. Good code quality, in turn, will translate into efficient operation of the application and its much faster and cheaper development.
While doing so does not involve any visible change, unlike implementing a new feature, it is a process that cannot be neglected for many reasons. Accumulation of errors resulting from bad architecture over the years or ignoring problems can lead to a technological or technical debt. While these terms are often confused or used interchangeably, they actually mean two different things.
Technological and technical debt
The technological debt is related to the technologies used in the project – usually outdated, such as the lack of migration to modern frameworks or languages and the use of outdated versions of libraries. Technical debt, on the other hand, consists in the inability to enrich the software with new functionality due to outdated code. Therefore, it is not created when we do not care about the development of the application, but the technological one is drawn up whenever a new version of the language or framework appears on the market. It is in this case that refactoring is of particular importance, as it enables the adaptation of existing solutions to newer versions of systems.
Regardless of the type of debt we incur, reducing it later can prove difficult and expensive. So it’s worth implementing refactoring as soon as we notice the first signs that the code quality is deteriorating.
Successful code refactoring has many technical and business benefits:
• Prevents the emergence of technological debt
• Makes it easier to scale the application
• Ensures high quality, readability, stability and flexibility of the code
• Enables easy application development
• Helps keep applications running at lower cost
• Makes the work of developers easier
• It allows for faster introduction of new functionalities
• Makes it easier to provide security.
Code refactoring – when is it worth?
So when is it worth considering refactoring? The signals that indicate that refactoring will be necessary in the near future include:
• suboptimal and unreadable code architecture
• repetition of similar code fragments multiple times
• very long classes or methods
• a large amount of unused code fragments
• the need to explain and describe in detail what is happening in the code
• the upcoming change in the concept and functionality of the project
• slow and incorrect operation of the application
• difficulties in developing and building new functions
• a large number of errors in the code, especially those visible to the naked eye
• outdated and ineffective technology stack.
Code refactoring – costs
So how much does code refactoring cost? Of course, it is difficult to give an unambiguous answer. It all depends on the size of the project, the scope of the changes introduced and the estimated time.
It is estimated that a small refactoring project involving an update of the technology stack takes approximately 100 hours. On the other hand, large projects that require changes to the frontend and backend may require even more than 500 hours of developer work.
However, when the first disturbing signals appear, it is not worth waiting and you should react as soon as possible. Listen to what developers are saying, be serious about reporting code issues, and it’s best to plan your budget ahead of time to improve your application architecture. Although refactoring will not generate additional income initially, it can pay off in the long run. Ignoring errors, on the other hand, can lead to a deterioration in the quality of the code and bring it to a state in which repairing will be long, costly or even impossible.
If you are looking for more detailed information on costs, you can contact us. We will conduct an initial audit of your code, estimate the scope of work to be performed and present you with a preliminary quote, so that you can be clear about the level of expenses you can expect in your case.
Can refactoring be avoided?
Since refactoring is inconvenient and costly, can it be avoided? Yes of course. However, it requires a strategic approach to software development from the very beginning of the process. And, as you know, it is not always easy or even possible – especially in the case of startups, products with an unclear development direction or those in which many changes were introduced at the initial stages.
So what good practices should be followed to avoid code refactoring?
• If possible, take your time. Technological debt arises when, due to the rush, suboptimal solutions are applied, which in the long run lead to a deterioration of the quality of the code.
• Work with an experienced and trusted software house or hire competent developers who understand the specific risks of developing software.
• Communicate expectations clearly. The sooner and more precisely you inform developers about future development plans, the more likely they will pay attention to key aspects.
• Define your plans as early as possible. Quickly defining the target group, desired functionalities and stakeholder expectations will help you choose the right development path in a shorter time and help you avoid costly software development by trial and error.
• Be prepared for personnel changes in the team. Remember to have the code well described so it can be easily taken over by a new developer.
• If possible, fix bugs as soon as possible and don’t put it off until later. The time when you will have more time or resources to improve your code may never come, and the cumulative problems eventually make themselves visible in a brutal way.
Now you know what benefits a properly conducted refactoring can bring. From this process you can gain:
• Lower cost of code maintenance
• Easier application development and creation of new functionalities
• Increased developer satisfaction
• Easier and faster implementation of changes
• Fewer mistakes
• Improved communication in the development team
• Higher performance and proper operation of the application.
We wish you that your code is correct from the very beginning and that you do not need refactoring. However, if you need any support, please feel free to contact us. As an experienced team, we will help you assess the quality of your code and propose solutions that will help you improve it in the shortest possible time and at the lowest possible cost.