The constant evolvement of technology can often cause unmanageable patches in long-existing apps. To deal with feature additions, technology upgrades, and other consequences of long operations, developers find themselves refactoring or rewriting software for apps. This article discusses the basics of app rewriting while evaluating its pros and cons against refactoring and migration.
Application rewrite is the process of rewriting software or the code of an application from scratch, typically without reusing the source code. Applications are usually re-written when one or more of the following apply:
App Refactoring refers to rewriting one or more components of an application. The refactoring process can involve new languages and tools, utilizing APIs to improve communication between services, and boosting performance by moving from an interpreted to a compiled language.
App refactoring proves useful when the aim is to extend the life of an application, improve performance, strengthen security, add new functionality, and/or support mobile platforms to expand its reach through app stores.
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Refactoring or rewriting software allows for continuous improvement of business application logic, making the code easier to modify and work with. Refactoring the code keeps an application manageable without a major overhaul. With refactoring, the goal is to improve the internal structure of the code without modifying its external behavior.
In a rewrite, developers almost throw the entire code away and start again. This enables developers to make foundational changes to the code. That is to say, instead of reading and analyzing complex code for refactoring, developers choose to write a new code altogether.
While rewriting software sounds fairly straightforward, it isn’t always that simple. To begin with, successfully rewriting software requires duplication of resources. Developers need to form two teams—one that creates the new application and one that maintains the old one. Moreover, the old system needs changes and updates to continue functioning. This requires the rewrite team to constantly reconfigure the plans for the new application to match the changes being made in the existing one.
That is not to say that app rewrite has no advantages. Here are some of the common pros of rewriting an application.
Writing code anew allows an application to tap onto new users, markets, technologies, and platforms. For instance, rewriting can make it possible for a client-facing app to move from a Windows desktop platform to a web or mobile platform. Code rewrites eliminate the hassle of reconstructing old code to meet the demand for new tech and/or app features.
Rewrites put an application on platforms that make it easier to adapt to new development technology. The process of rewriting banishes legacy code, decreasing the gap between existing software and emerging code options. With rewrites, developers can write and implement code they’re comfortable with. Rewrites create a new project, giving developers a clean chit to develop something completely unique.
Despite these advantages, programming experts often warn against app rewrites. This is because the cons of a rewrite often outweigh the pros.
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Rewriting an app is a time-consuming process. Writing an entire code from scratch takes time, and you should only commit to it if you have plenty of time to spare.
Rewrites are expensive. As mentioned earlier, rewrites require resource duplication, which means increased costs. Moreover, you need to keep the old code running—together with fixing bugs and updating features—while writing the new one. Going on a rewrite means you can’t release anything new for months. For many businesses, it is crucial to respond to users and ship new features. This creates a conundrum and may cause a loss of business.
Rewriting software requires an in-depth analysis of the old code, finding functions that should be carried forward to the new code, and copying them. While doing that, developers may introduce defects in the old code, which is still being maintained. These defects will then require bug fixes with each bug fix making the code a little more complicated to rewrite.
Rewrites also often raise the expectations of the stakeholders, who expect an ROI on the new code. This can be in the form of a better UX/UI, improved development speed, improved product performance, better user retention, increased number of users, etc. Not only will product owners have to manage these expectations, but they will also have to convince the stakeholders that the wait and investment are worth it.
an open-source programming language, Python, has extensive support modules, easy integration with web services, GUI-based desktop apps, and user-friendly data structures. It is widely used to develop 2D imaging and 3D animation packages such as Inkscape, Blender, and Autodesk.
Python is most commonly used for:
It is a general-purpose programming language that allows developers to use different programming styles, such as functional, reflective, object-oriented, etc. It also has interactive qualities that developers can use to test code as they go.
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the standard language for creating web pages and applications, HTML can be used to add images, links, and other types of content to web pages. Using HTML yields well-structured, easy-to-maintain webpages that are compliant with standards. It is typically used alongside other programming languages, and its main function is to structure and present content on the web.
HTML is commonly used for:
Developed by Google in 2007, Go has become one of the fastest-growing programming languages because of its simplicity and ability to handle massive codebases and multicore and networked systems. Google, Uber, Twitch, and Dropbox are some of the popular companies using Go as their programming language.
Go is typically used for:
Go’s ability to execute multiple processes concurrently makes it really efficient. It uses a syntax similar to C but still standouts because of the sterling memory safety and management features that it provides.
Here is a list of some good reasons to rewrite your app code:
It is impossible to add new features without a complete rewrite of the existing source code. You find it difficult to set Continuous Integration or Deployment. Onboarding new developers on a project are too complicated and highly time-consuming. Simple bug fixes take more time than they should. You identify a code smell that points to a deeper system issue. The software interface has become outdated. The development has suggested a better implementation through a more efficient model. There is a high risk of breaking things with new features. Legacy code is experiencing security problems. Your legacy code does not have the most suitable mobile version.
The first step to rewriting an app is acknowledging the process that led you to this decision. Before anything else, you need to recognize the need for change. This includes closely evaluating one or more reasons mentioned above.
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The next step is to evaluate the risks. Because of high risks and costs, rewrites are often hard to justify. When considering whether rewriting software for the app is the right way, evaluate the following:
And finally, plan for success. Stakeholders often look for a detailed project plan when considering a rewrite. However, the high complexity, massive codebase size, integrations, etc., can be extremely challenging to the budget you rewrite confidently. Therefore, you need to put in significant effort in planning a rewrite. Here are some things you can consider:
App Migrating refers to moving software applications from one computing environment to another. The process can include migrating apps from one data center to another, e.g., from a public to a private cloud or from an on-premises server to a cloud provider’s environment.
App migration is often considered an alternative for app rewriting primarily because it makes sense to modify an app concerning the issues at hand rather than recreate it from scratch. Here are some other scenarios where app migration is preferred over app rewriting:
Additionally, migration is faster and more cost-effective than rewriting software. Migration lets you quickly replace a legacy app with a modern version without the need for any retraining. But on the negative, migrating does not change the app code; it only makes it newer. While changes can be included in the code while migrating, it’s not generally recommended.
Whether or not to rewrite software for an app is often determined by the particular needs of a business. However, that does not change the fact that rewriting is a long-term endeavor with high costs and resource investment. Therefore, businesses should carefully consider different aspects before rewriting an app. More often than not, it is better to talk to professional development teams to get an expert opinion on the status and needs of your code.
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