Separate Domain from Presentation

You have GUI classes that contain domain logic.

Separate the domain logic into separate domain classes



Whenever you hear people talking about objects, you hear about model-view-controller (MVC). This idea underpinned the relationship between the graphical user interface (GUI) and domain objects in Smalltalk-80.

The gold at the heart of MVC is the separation between the user interface code (the view, these days often called the presentation) and the domain logic (the model). The presentation classes contain only the logic needed to deal with the user interface. Domain objects contain no visual code but all the business logic. This separates two complicated parts of the program into pieces that are easier to modify. It also allows multiple presentations of the same business logic. Those experienced in working with objects use this separation instinctively, and it has proved its worth.

But this is not how most people who work with GUIs do their design. Most environments with client-server GUIs use a logical two-tier design: the data sits in the database and the logic sits in the presentation classes. The environment often forces you toward this style of design, making it hard for you to put the logic anywhere else.

Java is a proper object-oriented environment, so you can create nonvisual domain objects that contain business logic. However, you'll often come across code written in the two-tier style.


  • Create a domain class for each window.
  • If you have a grid, create a class to represent the rows on the grid. Use a collection on the domain class for the window to hold the row domain objects.
  • Examine the data on the window. If it is used only for user interface purposes, leave it on the window. If it is used within the domain logic but is not actually displayed on the window, use Move Method to move it to the domain object. If it is used by both the user interface and the domain logic, use Duplicate Observed Data so that it is in both places and kept in sync.
  • Examine the logic in the presentation class. Use Extract Method to separate logic about the presentation from domain logic. As you isolate the domain logic, use Move Method to move it to the domain object.
  • When you are finished, you will have presentation classes that handle the GUI and domain objects that contain all the business logic. The domain objects will not be well factored, but further refactorings will deal with that.


A program that allows users to enter and price orders. The GUI looks like Figure 12.7. The presentation class interacts with a relational database laid out like Figure 12.8.

Figure 12.7. The user interface for a starting program
Figure 12.8. The database for the order program

All the behavior, both for the GUI and for pricing the orders, is in a single Order Window class.

We begin by creating a suitable order class. We link this to the order window as in Figure 12.9. Because the window contains a grid to display the order lines, we also create an order line class for the rows of the grid.

Figure 12.9. Order Window and Order

We work from the window rather than the database. Basing an initial domain model on the database is a reasonable strategy, but our biggest risk is mixing presentation and domain logic. So we separate these on the basis of the windows and refactor the rest later.

With this kind of program it's useful to look at the structured query language (SQL) statements embedded in the window. Data pulled back from SQL statements is domain data.

The easiest domain data to deal with is that which isn't directly displayed in the GUI. In the example the database has a codes field in the customers table. The code isn't directly displayed on the GUI; it is converted to a more human-readable phrase. As such the field is a simple class, such as string, rather than an AWT component. We can safely use Move Field to move that field to the domain class.

We aren't so lucky with the other fields. They contain AWT components that are displayed on the window and used in the domain objects. For these we need to use Duplicate Observed Data. This puts a domain field on the order class with a corresponding AWT field on the order window.

This is a slow process, but by the end we can get all the domain logic fields into the domain class. A good way to drive this process is to try to move all the SQL calls to the domain class. You can do this to move the database logic and the domain data to the domain class together. You can get a nice sense of completion by removing the import of java.sql from the order window. This means you do a lot of Extract Method and Move Method.

The resulting classes, as in Figure 12.10, are a long way from being well factored. But this model is enough to separate the domain logic. As you do this refactoring you have to pay attention to where your risk is. If the intermingling of presentation and domain logic is the biggest risk, get them completely separated before you do much else. If other things are more important, such as pricing strategies for the products, get the logic for the important part out of the window and refactor around that logic to create a suitable structure for the area of high risk. Chances are that most of the domain logic will have to be moved out of the order window. If you can refactor and leave some logic in the window, do so to address your biggest risk first.

Figure 12.10. Distributing the data to the domain classes