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Single Responsibility Principle

April 17, 2012 mgroves 0 Comments
Tags: Single Responsibility Principle SOLID

One of my core motivations for using AOP is that it can bring the single responsibility principle to places that would otherwise be difficult or impossible without AOP.

To review, here's the single responsibility principle in a nutshell:

A class should have one, and only one, reason to change.

Why is this a good principle? I think that the ObjectMentor white paper on SRP [PDF] sums it up very nicely, but basically if you have multiple concerns in a single class, those concerns become tangled together. This isn't a huge problem until you need to make a change (which never happens in software, right?). If I want to change responsibility A, I now have to involve the code for responsibilities A and B (and C and D, etc). All these responsibilities are coupled. If I make a change, I could break the class in multiple ways, affecting every one of the coupled concerns (unless I have a good suite of unit tests, which is unlikely if I have a very coupled set of concerns).

To avoid coupling, a good rule of thumb that I use is to describe what a class does in one sentence. If I have to use the word "and", then it's probably doing too much, and should be split into 2 or more classes.


  • PersonRepository: this class persists person objects to a database. Check! There's no "and", so this class is only doing one thing.
  • BillPayService: this class submits transactions to the payment processor and stores payment history in an audit database. Bzzt! It's doing two things. Maybe I should consider a PaymentProcessorService and a PaymentHistoryRepository refactor.
  • AccountController: this class routes the user to the appropriate account views (and logs any invalid request errors). I'll stop belaboring the point and leave this an an exercise to the reader.

Even when following good design patterns and carefully architecting an app, there are some things that just can't be easily decoupled, and that's where aspect-oriented programming comes in.


Matthew D. Groves

About the Author

Matthew D. Groves lives in Central Ohio. He works remotely, loves to code, and is a Microsoft MVP.

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