Jigsaw pieces
 

Extract conditionals into well-named methods

 

One of the simplest (and most effective) ways to refactor is to extract a method. The naming of an extracted method is a great tool for communicating the thinking behind the code.

Instead of…

…using slightly complex statements in your conditionals.

class BrightonCoffeeShop
  def initialize(name)
    @name = name
  end

  def good?
    if @name == 'Starbucks' || @name == 'Costa' ||
       @name == 'Barry’s Caff'
      false
    elsif @name == 'Coffee@33' || @name == 'Small Batch'
      true
    else
      false
    end
  end
end

This implementation explicitly returns false if the name is unknown. The only way to guarantee a decent coffee shop experience is to rule out places you’ve never heard of. Right? :-)

Use…

…the Extract Method refactoring to move the logic into a private method, giving that method a name that clearly explains the concept of the code.

class BrightonCoffeeShop
  def initialize(name)
    @name = name
  end

  def good?
    clean? && local? && excellent_coffee?
  end

  private

  def clean?
    !filthy?
  end

  def excellent_coffee?
    ['Coffee@33', 'Small Batch'].include?(@name)
  end

  def filthy?
    @name == 'Barry’s Caff'
  end

  def local?
    !national_chain?
  end

  def national_chain?
    ['Starbucks', 'Costa'].include?(@name)
  end
end

But why?

By extracting a method you, by definition, name it. Our #good? method states the specific criteria for a good coffee shop. The new private methods act as documentation for the class.

Before, all we really had was a list of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ coffee shops. We had no knowledge of how those lists were developed.

A naive refactoring of this class might have just stuffed all the good and bad names in arrays named GOOD and BAD and checked the coffee shop name against them. We would have lost the reasoning behind why the places were good or bad. And the why is the most important part.

In this case I’ve extracted the negative concepts of #filthy? and #national_chain? as well as the positive concepts like #clean? and #local?. This avoids using the negative versions of the private methods in the #good? method, making that method more readable. You could consider this overkill in some cases, but here it adds useful context as this class is heavily geared towards the positive qualities of a decent coffee shop.

Before any refactoring it is important to ensure good test coverage of the initial implementation to prevent accidental changes in functionality.

Why not?

In a simpler example, I might not even bother with this kind of refactoring, but here it serves as a nice documentation technique and clarifies the logic in the conditional.

In a more complex case, where a coffee shop has much more functionality (more than just being good or not) you might further refactor each of the different coffee shops into subclasses.

photo by Hans-Peter Gauster

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