Python Interface Segregation Principle

Summary: in this tutorial, you’ll learn about the interface segregation principle and how to apply it in Python.

Introduction to the interface segregation principle

The interface segregation principle is one of five SOLID principles in object-oriented programming:

An interface is a description of behaviors that an object can do. For example, when you press the power button on the TV remote control, it turns the TV on, and you don’t need to care how.

In object-oriented programming, an interface is a set of methods an object must-have. The purpose of interfaces is to allow clients to request the correct methods of an object via its interface.

Python uses abstract classes as interfaces because it follows the so-called duck typing principle. The duck typing principle states that “if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck.” In other words, the methods of a class determine what its objects will be, not the type of the class.

The interface segregation principle states that an interface should be as small a possible in terms of cohesion. In other words, it should do ONE thing.

It doesn’t mean that the interface should have one method. An interface can have multiple cohesive methods.

For example, the Database interface can have the connect() and disconnect() methods because they must go together. If the Database interface doesn’t use both methods, it’ll be incomplete.

Uncle Bob, who is the originator of the SOLID term, explains the interface segregation principle by advising that “Make fine-grained interfaces that are client-specific. Clients should not be forced to implement interfaces they do not use.”

Interface segregation principle example

Consider the following example:

First, define a Vehicle abstract class that has two abstract methods, go() and fly():

from abc import ABC, abstractmethod class Vehicle(ABC): @abstractmethod def go(self): pass @abstractmethod def fly(self): pass
Code language: Python (python)

Second, define the Aircraft class that inherits from the Vehicle class and implement both go() and fly() methods:

class Aircraft(Vehicle): def go(self): print("Taxiing") def fly(self): print("Flying")
Code language: Python (python)

Third, define the Car class that inherits from the Vehicle class. Since a car cannot fly, we raise an exception in the fly() method:

class Car(Vehicle): def go(self): print("Going") def fly(self): raise Exception('The car cannot fly')
Code language: Python (python)

In this design the Car class must implement the fly() method from the Vehicle class that the Car class doesn’t use. Therefore, this design violates the interface segregation principle.

To fix this, you need to split the Vehicle class into small ones and inherits from these classes from the Aircraft and Car classes:

First, split the Vehicle interface into two smaller interfaces: Movable and Flyable, and inherits the Movable class from the Flyable class:

class Movable(ABC): @abstractmethod def go(self): pass class Flyable(Movable): @abstractmethod def fly(self): pass
Code language: Python (python)

Second, inherits from the Flyable class from the Aircraft class:

class Aircraft(Flyable): def go(self): print("Taxiing") def fly(self): print("Flying")
Code language: Python (python)

Third, inherit the Movable class from the Car class:

class Car(Movable): def go(self): print("Going")
Code language: Python (python)

In this design, the Car only need to implement the go() method that it needs. It doesn’t need to implement the fly() method that it doesn’t use.

Summary

  • The interface segregation principle advises that the interfaces should be small in terms of cohesions.
  • Make fine grained interfaces that are client-specific. Clients should not be forced to implement interfaces they do not use.
Did you find this tutorial helpful ?