Classes Start With Functions, Not Data

A common mistake developers make when designing classes is to start with a data model in mind and then try to attach functions to that data (e.g., a Zoo has a Keeper, who has a first name and a last name, etc). This data-centred view of classes tends to lead us towards anaemic models, where classes are nothing more than data containers and the logic that uses the data is distributed throughout the system. This lack of encapsulation creates huge amounts of low-level coupling.

Try instead to start with the function you need, and see what data it requires. This can be illustrated with a bit of TDD. In this example, we want to buy a CD. I start by writing the buy function, without any class to hang that on.

The parameters for buy() tell us what data this function needs. If we want to encapsulate some of that data, so that clients don’t need to know about all of them, we can introduce a parameter object to group related params.

This has greatly simplified the signature of the buy() function, and we can easily move buy() to the cd parameter.

Inside the new CompactDisc class…

We have a bunch of getters we don’t need any more. Let’s inline them.

Now, you may argue that you would have come up with this data model for a CD anyway. Maybe. But the point is that the data model is specifically there to support buying a CD.

When we start with the data, there’s a greater risk of ending up with the wrong data (e.g., many devs who try this exercise start by asking “What can we know about a CD?” and give it fields the functions don’t use), or with the right data in the wrong place – which is where we end up with Feature Envy and message chains and other coupling code smells galore.

Author: codemanship

Founder of Codemanship Ltd and code craft coach and trainer

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