Saturday, October 4, 2014

Unit testing smells: The class constructor is not easy to call

When we want to test an instance method on a class the first challenge is to create an instance of that class. Hopefully the class constructor is easy to call but that's not always the case.

Let's review a few cases where the constructor might prevent us to write tests easily:
  • The constructor is private or internal
  • It requires too many arguments or it is too hard to create/provide those arguments
  • The constructor calls external dependencies

The case of the internal or private constructor

For this we can follow the same advices than with testing non-public class. But whatever you do please don't use reflection to call the constructor.

Also stated in testing non-public class, you should ask yourself if it would be better to test this class via another public class that use it. A private constructor usually means that there is a factory somewhere you should use to instantiate the class. You should figure out a way to use that factory or redesign it in case you have difficulties to work with it in unit tests.

When dealing with internal access modifier I usually use the InternalVisibleTo attribute for my test project.

[assembly: InternalsVisibleTo("Contoso.MyApp.UnitTests.dll")]

The case of the difficult constructor arguments

If the problem is that the constructor requires too many arguments then you should ask yourself if this class is too big, maybe it has too many responsibilities and don't follow the Single Responsibility Principle? In that case the class should be splitted into two or more classes. This way it will be easier to test the smaller class because its constructor should require less arguments.

Another case is when the arguments are difficult to create or provide. Maybe that in order to create one object to pass as parameter we need to create yet more objects. Micheal Feathers calls it the Onion Parameter in his book Working Effectively with Legacy Code. In that case I usually invest into a bit of testing infrastructure like factory methods or Test Data Builder in order to help me write tests faster afterwards.

Finally some parameters could be classes that wrap services or external dependencies. In that case I abstract the dependency using an interface and the Inversion of Control Principle. First extract an interface from the class. Next change the constructor to use this interface instead of the class. Finally use a mocking framework like Moq to create a fake (or create your own by hand if you don't like mocking frameworks) and pass it to the constructor.

public class MyService
{
    // public MyService(SomeDataAccessLayer dal, SomeExternalService externalService)
    public MyService(ISomeDataAccessLayer dal, ISomeExternalService externalService)
    {
        // ...
    }

    // ...
}

The case of the external dependencies calls

When the constructor itself calls an external dependency I usually refactor the constructor to inject this dependency via a parameter instead, this is called dependency injection and usually comes with the Inversion of Control Principle. This is also a good occasion to take a look at a IoC Container like Unity.

public class MyService
{
    // public MyService()
    public MyService(ISomeExternalService externalService)
    {
        // ...
        // var externalService = new ExternalService();
        externalService.CallService();
    }

    // ...
}

3 comments:

lee woo said...
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sarah lee said...
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