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When Should Teams Refactor Their Code?

If you’re like most team members, you know that when you first get your hands on a piece of code, it’s riddled with bugs. Sometimes, coding is like cleaning your house. You don’t want to do it, but you know it’s important.

In the same way that dust accumulates on your bookshelves, non-adherence to proper design guidelines can result in a codebase that is difficult to maintain, full of duplicated code and improper dependencies between classes.

That’s where code refactoring comes in. Code refactoring is the process of restructuring your existing code without changing its functionality or external behavior. It helps you maintain good, dependable code hygiene.

When should teams refactor their code?

Anytime you update an application or add any new features to it, you should refactor the existing code before doing so. You can also refactor code after a release has gone live; just remember that you should only refactor working code after all your tests come back clean!

If you’re planning to launch an application in the next few months, you don’t want to start refactoring your code. Refactoring is a time-consuming process, and it will delay your delivery. Plus, you’ll need to test the new code to make sure it’s functionally equivalent to the old one.But let’s say you’ve already launched your product. You should definitely refactor your code when it has become hard to read and maintain. If you don’t do it soon, your tech debt will pile up, and you’ll end up with a mess that nobody wants to work on.

Refactoring isn’t a one-time activity. It’s an ongoing commitment that you make to your code base. No matter how many times you refactor, your code will never be perfect—refactoring leads to more refactoring, and more refactoring after that.

Code isn’t something that arrives at some state of perfection and then stays there forever. Code changes all the time, and it should change as new features are added or when existing features are modified or removed. Refactoring is designed to support this change process.

Rather than focusing on the so-called perfection of your application’s code, it’s worth it to focus instead on continuous progress. Accept that refactoring is an ongoing maintenance activity, since it’s designed to support adaptation. It’s likely that the code you refactored once might become stale over time, and you’ll need to refactor it once again.

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