Why simple code is more cost effective

A while ago, I was performing a refactor in our codebase, pulling some functionality into a core domain object and then factoring it into some smaller, more focused objects.

My main drivers for making this change were:

1) Law of demeter

2) Hard to see all the paths of execution through the method

3) Nested if { ... } statements

Thinking about 2), a method which has an execution path which is difficult to understand immediately and intuitively (for normal beings that is) is likely to hide a bug. Infact this particular piece of code was doing just that which is why I was changing it.

So more complex logic leads to buggy code which leads to a higher cost of maintennance. The latter has a direct impact on the bottom line of your project, not to mention potential success of the software in its usability or even core function.

The refactor followed three steps.

1) Move the method into the Target class. This involved extracting a parameter which was really the knowledge of the client of Traget. I was a little concerned about Target knowing too much which leads to 2). I did this first by moving the method and then running all tests for client class, then I duplicated the test methods on the Target class and ran them (required a small refactor which made them easier to read as a side effect)

2) As i was doing this move, i realised that a scenario had not been tested, a consequence of 2) above, i.e. the path of execution was complex and so a test had been missed (if TDD had been followed this would be unlikely)

3) Finally, I wanted to get rid of the if statements. In order to do this, I used Replace method with method object to pull out the logic inside the if blocks.

Summary :

By decomposing the flow of logic into smaller more focused units, it makes the individual parts easier to understand and so it is more obvious if an error in the flow exists. It also helps to write test cases in a more modular way. Rather than 20 test methods in a test case you break into several test cases covering specific functionality.

One question arises, is refactor 3) a refactor too far ?

How do I decide this ?

The best way is to get someone else to look at the code and see if it reads well to them. If i was writing a book, I would get someone to proof read it so that I could confirm that my language was expressed in a clear way. This is the kind of review which Pair programming provides as standard, but even then it might be useful to show it to people outside the pair as you can both become entangled.


One thought on “Why simple code is more cost effective

  1. Jim,

    1) Law of demeter

    This requires the reader to know what the law of Demeter is is. Requiring me to click the link and so the words “Principle of Least Knowledge” and know what you were on about!

    Given that you are arguing for simplicity… wouldn’t it be simpler just to say “Principle of Least Knowledge”


    Andy Nibbs

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