Using Services to Keep Your Rails Controllers Clean and DRY

Using Services to Keep Your Rails Controllers Clean and DRY

We’ve heard it again and again, like a nagging schoolmaster: keep your Rails controllers skinny. Yeah, yeah, we know. But easier said than done, sometimes. Things get complex. We need to talk to some other parts of our codebase or to external APIs to get the job done. Mailers. Stripe. External APIs. All that code starts to add up.

Ah Tss Push It…Push It Down the Stack

If we ask: “where, pray tell, should this code live?”, the answer comes like a resounding chorus: “push it down to the model layer!”

But what if we want to keep our models simple? They should actually reflect the business objects related to our app, according to Domain Driven Design and other approaches.

Time to get custom!

Crack open the old app folder. What do you see? The usual fare? Guess what? Just because Rails comes with six folders doesn’t mean we’re restricted to six types of object. Let’s make some new folders!

At Your Service

I like to create various kinds of service objects in my Rails app. Tom Pewiński’s recent article in Ruby Weekly does a great job of covering how to write service objects that help complete an action, like create_invoice or register_user. While he puts all of his service objects into a single services folder, I like to get a little more granular. I’ll typically create an actions folder for things like create_invoice, and folders for other service objects such as decorators, policies, and support. I also use a services folder, but I reserve it for service objects that talk to external entities, like Stripe, AWS, or geolocation services.

Here’s how the app folder might look with all of these subfolders in it:

app
|- actions
|- assets
|- controllers
|- decorators
|- models
|- policies
|- services
|- support
|- views

Earning Our Stripes

Let’s give it a try, right now! We’ll make a credit card service that uses the Stripe gem.

We’ll create an app/services folder and touch a credit_card_service.rb inside of it. It’s going to be a Plain Old Ruby Object™ (PORO).

It’s probably a good idea to wrap the calls to the Stripe gem in local methods like external_customer_service and external_charge_service, in case we ever want to switch over to Braintree or something else. On object initialization, we’ll use dependency injection to accept charge amounts, card tokens, and emails. Our service will expose charge! and create_customer! methods to hook our controllers into.

# app/services/credit_card_service.rb

require 'stripe'

class CreditCardService
  def initialize(params)
    @card = params[:card]
    @amount = params[:amount]
    @email = params[:email]
  end

  def charge
    begin
      # This will return a Stripe::Charge object
      external_charge_service.create(charge_attributes)
    rescue
      false
    end
  end

  def create_customer
    begin
      # This will return a Stripe::Customer object
      external_customer_service.create(customer_attributes)
    rescue
      false
    end
  end

  private

  attr_reader :card, :amount, :email

  def external_charge_service
    Stripe::Charge
  end

  def external_customer_service
    Stripe::Customer
  end

  def charge_attributes
    {
      amount: amount,
      card: card
    }
  end

  def customer_attributes
    {
      email: email,
      card: card
    }
  end
end

Hook it Up

Now we can write some clean, easily maintainable controller code. We keep the registration logic private, and if we ever want to change it, the controller doesn’t have to know anything about it.

# app/controllers/users_controller.rb

class UsersController < ActionController::Base
  def create
    @user = User.create(user_params)

    registration = register_with_credit_card_service
    if registration
      # Save the id from the Stripe::Customer object
      add_customer_id_to_user(registration["id"])
      ...
    else
      ...
    end
  end

  private

  ...

  def register_with_credit_card_service
    CreditCardService.new({
      card: params[:stripe_token]
      email: params[:user][:email]
    }).create_customer
  end

  def add_customer_id_to_user(id)
    @user.update_attributes(external_customer_id: id)
  end
end

Test It Out

Since we’re just using a PORO, this should be nice and easy to test. Let’s make a test/services folder. If you want to add its contents to your rake tasks, try this. Let’s assume that we already have a test_helper.rb that includes the Rails helpers in ActiveSupport::TestCase and mocha.

# test/services/credit_card_service_test.rb

require 'test_helper'

class CreditCardServiceTest < ActiveSupport::TestCase
  test 'it creates charges' do
    params = {
      amount: 500,
      card: 'TOKEN'
    }
    Stripe::Charge.expects(:create).with(params).returns(true)
    # This will return false if it fails
    charge = CreditCardService.new(params).charge
    assert charge
  end

  test 'it creates customers' do
    params = {
      email: 'test@example.card',
      card: 'TOKEN'
    }
    Stripe::Customer.expects(:create).with(params).returns(true)
    # This will return false if it fails
    customer = CreditCardService.new(params).create_customer
    assert customer
  end
end

Keep It Clean

The last thing you want in your Rails app is a bunch of complicated controllers that are hard to change. Though it may sound pedantic, those voices chanting “Skinny Controller, Fat Model” are right. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of answering “where should I put this code” with “let’s open the app folder and see what cubbies I was given”. Don’t be afraid to take your Rails project by the horns! You can create your own actions, decorators, support objects, and services. Start including these patterns in your Rails app, and your code will come out clean and DRY: so fresh, so clean!

About Ben Lewis

Ben is a Colorado native and a third-generation programmer. In his past lives, he was an organic farm worker, gardener, and elementary school music teacher. He started programming at Turing school, where he focused on Test-Driven Development, Single Page Apps, and Service-Oriented Architecture. He lives in Boulder with his daughter Lumin, and enjoys cooking, hiking, yoga, and making music. Ben tweets as @fluxusfrequency and works for Twitter.