7 mins

When and How to Refactor your App

As the tech industry continues to rapidly evolve, mobile apps are expected to keep up with the ever-changing needs of users. But if you’re constantly battling outdated and complex apps that fail to meet those needs, it can be frustrating and overwhelming.
The thought of a costly and time-consuming rebuild may seem like the only option, but there is a more efficient and effective approach – refactoring. If you’re ready to salvage your previous investments and move quickly on your projects, it’s time to consider the benefits of refactoring.

When and how to Refactor

Refactoring is a great way of moving quickly on a project and can salvage previous investments. Rather than following what seems to be a popular approach at the moment which is to start again, you can adapt quickly and make incremental improvements rather than a costly and timely rebuild. Determining the correct approach can be difficult and we review each app on a case by case basis before beginning any work but if we can we will refactor apps so we can implement changes quickly and have an impact from day 1 on the apps performance.

Here are a few of the factors to consider and if you can check off these things below you should look at refactoring over rebuilding:

Cost: Rebuilding a system from scratch can be expensive, both in terms of time and money. Refactoring, on the other hand, can be less expensive and can be done incrementally.

User needs: If the current system meets the needs of its users but has some technical issues, such as high crash rates or slow performance, refactoring might be a better option. However, if the current system does not meet the needs of its users and they are unable to carry out the core function of the app, a rebuild might be necessary.

Technical debt: If the system has accumulated a significant amount of technical debt, refactoring might be a good way to address this debt without starting from scratch. Technical debt exists in nearly every piece of software and addressing this quickly can have significant improvements on the app’s performance so refactoring is a great choice as within weeks you can get changes made.

System complexity: If the system is very complex and difficult to understand, rebuilding might be the best option. Refactoring a complex system can be difficult and may not address all the underlying issues such as speed improvements. We normally see this and an issue where there are several tech stacks working in concert. This normally means a more delicate system and refactoring can become trickier.

Timeline: If there is a tight deadline, refactoring might be a better option as it can be done incrementally, whereas a rebuild might take longer. With a refactor you can make changes from release one in a matter of weeks therefore critical issues can be addressed ASAP rather than waiting for a full rebuild which can be months away.

Other good times to refactor

Another good time to refactor is before a new feature sprint. Cleaning code before a bunch of new programming will not only help improve the code and product as it stands but will make it easier for your next development sprint to move at pace and deliver the roadmap on time and budget.
A strange concept is refactoring right after release. Yes you heard correctly. We all know the pressure of working to a deadline and roadmap and having pressure to deliver a project. This can lead to rushed or sloppy code to “get it done.” Doing a spot check and some retrospective work at this point without that deadline pressure can lead to huge improvements in the quality of the current code, the speed of the applications and the ease of use for the next set of features.

Best practices for refactoring

Unlike starting from scratch there are some subtle differences in the approach needed to make your refactoring project a success. Sometimes this is as simple as changing your mindset and goals but there are more tangible things you should be considering.

Agile methodology really helps when it comes to implementing refactoring on your projects. Refactoring can be a large job, especially on complicated applications with lots of interlinked software and turning this into smaller sprints of work and taking it one bit at a time can really help achieve your refactoring goals and a better overall application.

Focus on improvements, refactoring as mentioned above should be an ongoing process within your application development timeline and sadly it’s something that will never be truly finished because of ongoing changes in the mobile environment with several new OS releases every year. This can be demoralising to your development team but focus on the improvements and set clear goals for each bit of refactoring you do. See it as essential housekeeping for your app development. Regular refactoring will always allow your app to perform at its very best.

Involving your QA team is essential to successful refactoring. You are making changes to the code so QA needs to be part of the process to catch mistakes, stop regressions and they can also help test the improvements you’re aiming to make within the refactoring process. When improving code, old QA or Developer tests can fail as changes are made and these need to be tested throughout the process. It is crucial to test frequently while refactoring your app to avoid any potential negative impact. By incorporating regular testing throughout the process, you can prevent embarrassing errors from occurring.

Give yourselves time. Refactoring is often overlooked and not given enough time. Instead of focusing solely on the effort required, it is crucial to prioritise the desired outcomes.

Although it may be challenging and frustrating in the short term, putting in the work now will prevent many headaches and save time in the future as your app grows. Those who have experienced the scaling of their projects over time know firsthand the enormity of managing a live product in the unpredictable environment of the real world. By being proactive and dedicating time to refactoring early on, you can significantly improve your chances of success in the long run.


In conclusion, while refactoring before adding new features or immediately after releases is an excellent time to improve your app’s performance, scalability, and code quality, it’s crucial to remember that refactoring is an ongoing process. As projects age, involve multiple team members, and undergo continuous development, it becomes increasingly essential to invest time and effort in refactoring. By prioritising refactoring and adopting an Agile methodology, you can keep your app on track and meet the ever-changing needs of your users.

If you are considering a refactor or are unsure which route is best for your app please get in touch and we can help you make the right decision for your app. Contact us