If you’ve been doing your research on what’s happening in the world of coding and how to go about becoming a professional dev, you will most likely have heard of object-oriented programming. Before we delve into what this means, it may be useful to think of object-oriented programming as the coding version of building a Lego structure piece by piece according to a diagram. It’s a kind of “paint by numbers” way of coding that plans first and codes later. In this article, we look at what object-oriented programming is, and how it’s done.
What is object oriented programming?
Let’s start with a simple definition. According to Margaret Rouse, “object-oriented programming (OOP) is a programming language model organised around objects rather than “actions” and data rather than “logic.” So what is an object? The easiest way to answer this question would be to look at a real-world example.
Let’s consider a “clown” as a real-world object for instance. As a real-world object, it shares two characteristics with other objects – state and behaviour. A clown for example, has a state (a name, a colour, a voice, a smile) and behaviour (laughing, jumping, frowning). Being able to identify these states and behaviours in real-world objects is a very practical way of beginning to understand what object-oriented programming is.
In simple terms, a program is a logical procedure involving logically different objects which communicate with each other according to the rules defined in that program. In other words, a program takes input data, processes that data and produces output data. And as Kelly Eliason explains: “Objects are able to pass, receive messages or process information in the form of data.”
How does object oriented programming work?
When developing with object oriented programming (OOP), the application and everything about how it works, must be plotted out in a series of steps through mind-mapping and diagrams. The first question that every dev must answer is what the application or program must be able to do and how it will function. They will need to answer important questions around who will use the program, how they will access it, how much control they will have over the data in the system and how data will be stored in the system. This can prove very time-consuming, but this step is essential.
Another consideration that the dev will make is which classes will need to be included in the program. Examples of a class include users, schools, colours, sizes etc. These classes will make up a system, which the dev will organise into a class diagram. Doing this enables the program to make more visual sense. Once the planning is complete, the dev begins the coding process. This method can be compared to building a house from blueprints.
Three different authors and their take on the benefits of object oriented programming:
- Robert Half: Object-oriented programming is a very practical way of coding that will become second nature once you get the hang of it. It’s a technique that allows devs to break their programs down into bite-sized problems that can be solved one object a time. Devs have to become natural problem-solvers, so object oriented programming is a great way to sharpen this skill.
- John Papiewski: Object oriented programming is a great tool for devs in the long run because it forces devs to consider where the glitches and gremlins will pop up and how to solve them, before the cording work has even begun. In the long run, this makes sure that programs work better, have more features and are easier to read and maintain.
- Green Garage: Object oriented programming makes working in a team so much easier than other methods. Each dev in the team can work independently once the modular classes have been worked out. This allows for a great degree of parallel development, which might otherwise not be possible.
- Kelly Eliason: The majority of programming languages using object oriented programming will “dump or destroy unused objects or classes” in order to free up system memory. As a result, this ensures that the program runs as fast and efficiently as possible.
According to Robert Half, “ Thanks to the ubiquity of languages like Java and C++, you can’t develop software for mobile unless you understand the object-oriented approach. The same goes for serious web development, given the popularity of OOP languages like Python, PHP and Ruby.” It’s a great route to follow if you’re thinking of developing mobile apps, although its application extends to other mediums as well, including software engineering. Four of the most popular object oriented programming languages are Java, Python, Ruby and C++.
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