Refactoring and design

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[[Martin Fowler 1999], p.66 explains how refactoring changes design culture:

Refactoring has a special role as a complement to design. When I first learned to program, I just wrote the program and muddled my way through it. In time I learned that thinking about the design in advance helped me avoid costly rework. In time I got more into this style of upfront design. Many people consider design to be the key piece and programming just mechanics. The analogy is design is an engineering drawing and code is the construction work. But software is very different from physical machines. It is much more malleable, and it is all about thinking. As Alistair Cockburn puts it, "With design I can think very fast, but my thinking is full of little holes.
One argument is that refactoring can be an alternative to upfront design. In this scenario you don't do any design at all. You just code the first approach that comes into your head, get it working, and then refactor it into shape. Actually, this approach can work. I've seen people do this and come out with a very well-designed piece of software. Those who support eXtreme programming often are portrayed as advocating this approach.
Although doing only refactoring does work, it is not the most efficient way to work. Even the extreme programmers do some design first. They will try out various ideas with CRC cards or the like until they have a plausible first solution. Only after generating a plausible first shot will they code and then refactor. The point is that refactoring changes the role of upfront design. If you don't refactor, there is a lot of pressure in getting that upfront design right. The sense is that any changes to the design later are going to be expensive. Thus you put more time and effort into the upfront design to avoid the need for such changes.
With refactoring the emphasis changes. You still do upfront design, but now you don't try to find the solution. Instead all you want is a reasonable solution. You know that as you build the solution, as you understand more about the problem, you realize that the best solution is different from the one you originally came up with. With refactoring this is not a problem, for it no longer is expensive to make the changes.
An important result of this change in emphasis is a greater movement toward simplicity of design. Before I used refactoring, I always looked for flexible solutions. With any requirement I would wonder how that requirement would change during the life of the system. Because design changes were expensive, I would look to build a design that would stand up to the changes I could foresee. The problem with building a flexible solution is that flexibility costs. Flexible solutions are more complex than simple ones. The resulting software is more difficult to maintain in general, although it is easier to flex in the direction I had in mind. Even there, however, you have to understand how to flex the design. For one or two aspects this is no big deal, but changes occur throughout the system. Building flexibility in all these places makes the overall system a lot more complex and expensive to maintain. The big frustration, of course, is that all this flexibility is not needed. Some of it is, but it's impossible to predict which pieces those are. To gain flexibility, you are forced to put in a lot more flexibility than you actually need.
With refactoring you approach the risks of change differently. You still think about potential changes, you still consider flexible solutions. But instead of implementing these flexible solutions, you ask yourself, "How difficult is it going to be to refactor a simple solution into the flexible solution?" If, as happens most of the time, the answer is "pretty easy," then you just implement the simple solution.
Refactoring can lead to simpler designs without sacrificing flexibility. This makes the design process easier and less stressful. Once you have a broad sense of things that refactor easily, you don't even think of the flexible solutions. You have the confidence to refactor if the time comes. You build the simplest thing that can possibly work. As for the flexible, complex design, most of the time you aren't going to need it.

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