To rebuild or refactor, that is the question. Many developers have faced this conundrum at one point or another.
Should you rewrite the code or refactor it instead? What’s simpler, cheaper, and faster? What’s better for your website or application?
Here are some factors to consider when deciding to fix legacy code.
Often, there’s an emotional attachment to legacy code. In these cases, a rebuild may be a way for coders to start from scratch and improve.
The long and short of it
Complete rebuilds mean long release cycles and periods of stagnation even if the team is furiously working on new code. This can create a high-stress environment among your development team.
A rebuild can mean an increased chance of major mistakes, especially when dealing with legacy code. Launches can be stressful, and time constraints can cause extra pressure. This limits the opportunity to catch all edge cases before launch, leading to disappointed clients and customers.
Whenever there’s a major change to websites or applications with a large and loyal user base, there will be some upsets. The new Instagram test interface comes to mind, with many users claiming it to be ‘annoying’. Be aware that any changes, no matter how small or focussed, will ruffle some feathers, so ensure changes do not create confusion and annoyance.
Temptation versus discipline
Starting from scratch makes it easier to get distracted with shiny new features and technologies. This can make it harder to focus and stay on course. Writing good code takes time and discipline, so it can be a nightmare when developers look for ways to cut corners during a rebuild.
Slow and steady
Refactoring takes a longer time to see meaningful results. In many cases, refactoring is taking a leap of faith that your results will see improvements.
Fast and furious
While results are slow, faster cycles mean you can release updates on a regular basis. This contributes to higher morale among the team as your customers see improvements regularly.
Safe and secure
Working on smaller chunks of code during a refactor means fewer risks with each subsequent update. If bugs exist, they can be found, isolated, and fixed quickly.
Make it a habit
Practice makes perfect, or at least helps you develop a habit. Since refactoring deals with smaller chunks of code at a time, it’s easier to develop habits while developing code.
It’s all about balance
With refactoring, developers work on smaller releases for a few weeks, and then customer features the next. This creates more variety and offers more tangible examples of progress.
Looking for a high-performance dev team for your rebuild or refactor? Contact Haefele Software, where building software is a united pursuit.