Principles of Object-Oriented Design

As a part of an overall strategy of agile and adaptive programming, a number of object-oriented design principles were proposed for the design and programming of computer software system that is easy to maintain and extend over time. These principles are guidelines intended for programmers to apply while working on software to remove "code smells" (potentially buggy code) by refactorizing the source code until it is both legible and extensible. In this page, we introduce the SOLID principles, that is, Single responsibility, Open-closed, Liskov substitution, Interface segregation and Dependency inversion. The following information was integrated from various sources on the Web.

Single Responsibility Principle (SRP)

The SRP requires that a class should have only a single responsibility.

Example: If a class SalesOrder keeps information about a sales order, and in addition has a method saveOrder() that saves the SaleOrder in a database and a method exportXML() that exports the SalesOrder in XML format, this design will violate the SRP because there will be different types of users of this class and different reasons for making changes to this class. A change made for one type of user, say change the type of database, may require the re-test, recompilation, and re-linking of the class for the other type of users.

A better design will be to have the SalesOrder class only keeps the information about a sales order, and have different classes to save order and to export order, respectively. Such a design will confirm to SRP.

Open-Closed Principle (OCP)

The OCP requires that each software entity should be open for extension, but closed for modification.

Example: Suppose an OrderValidation class has a method validate(Order order) that is programmed to validate an order based on a set of hard-coded rules. This design violates the OCP because if the rules change,  the OrderValidation class has to be modified, tested, and compiled.

A better design will be to let the OrderValidation class  contain a collection of ValidationRule objects each of which has a validate(Order order) method (perhaps defined in a Validation interface) to validate an Order using a specific rule, and the validate(Order order) method of OrderValidation class  can simply iterate through those ValidationRule objects to validate the order. The new design will satisfy the OCP, because if the rules change,  we can just create a new ValidationRule object and add it to an OrderValidation instance at run time (rather than to the class definition itself).

This is can also be achieved by using  subclasses of a base class AbstractValidationRule that has an override-able function validate(Order order). Subclasses can implement the method differently without changing the base class functionality.

Liskov Substitution Principle (LSP)

The LSP requires that objects in a program should be replaceable with instances of their subclasses without altering the correctness of that program.

The users must be able to use objects of subclasses via references to base classes without noticing any difference. When using an object through its base class interface, the object of a subclass must not expect the user to obey preconditions that are stronger than those required by the base class.

Example: Suppose a Rectangle class has two instance variables height and width, and a method setSize(int a, int b), which set height to a and width to b. Suppose Square is a subclass of Rectangle and it overrides the inherited method by setting both height and width to a. This design will violate LSP. To see this, consider a client uses a reference variable of type Rectangle to call the setSize() method to assign different values of a and b, and then immediately verify if the sizes were set correctly or the area is correctly computed. The results will be different if the variable references to a Rectangle object than to a Square object.  

It turns out that in OO programming, a Square is not a Rectangle at all because it behaves differently from a Rectangle.

Interface Segregation Principle (ISP)

The ISP requires that clients should not be forced to depend on interfaces that they do not use.

Example: Suppose a Vehicle interface shown in the figure is designed for clients to use


This violates ISP because clients are forced to depend on methods they do not use: HighWay does not use stopRadio() or ejectCD(), and ParkingLot does not need accelerate() or ejectCD().

A better design is to design smaller interfaces for different types of clients as shown in the following figure


Dependency Inversion Principle (DIP)

The DIP requires that high level modules should not depend on low level modules, both should depend on abstraction. Also, abstraction should not depend on details, details should depend on abstractions.

Example: Making a class Button associate to another class Lamp (because a Lamp has a Button) is a violation of DIP. A better design will be associate an AbstractButton with an AbstractButtonClient, and define Button as a subclass of the AbstractButton and a Lamp a subclass of the AbstractButtonClient.

Example: Making an EBookReader class to use PDFBook class is a violation of DIP because it requires to change the EBookReader class to read other types of e-books. A better design is to let EBookReader  use an interface EBook and let PDFBook and other types of e-book classes implement EBook. Now adding or changing e-book classes will not require any change to EBookReader class.