02 Oct 2017

Reducing cyclomatic complexity with functional operators

Reducing the cyclomatic complexity in a JavaScript application is a good, quantifiable way to make code more readable and maintainable.

Cyclomatic complexity increases as more control statements are used. For a summary of the factors that influence complexity, see "Complexity for JavaScript". Because it is quantifiable, it can be automatically validated in build setups with eslint. Bear in mind that a single switch statement with a large amount of options will have a high cyclomatic complexity but probably is still perfectly readable. As always, rely on common sense when refactoring.

Control statements that concern one parameter often use switch, for example:

const foo = 'banana';
switch (foo) {
    case 'apple':
    case 'banana':
    case 'coconut':
// Logs "Second"

A very common way to reduce the cyclomatic complexity with switch is to use a JavaScript object as a map. Instead of traversing the switch statement, do a lookup in the map where the key is the condition and the value is the action. For the example above this could look like this:

const actions = {
    apple: _ => console.log('First'),
    banana: _ => console.log('Second'),
    coconut: _ => console.log('Third')
const foo = 'banana';
if(actions.hasOwnProperty(foo)) {
} else {
// Logs "Second"

This does not work directly with more complex conditions. e.g. a composite condition that checks against multiple parameters within one statement or between statements.

function example(error, stdout, stderr, mapping) {
    if(stderr && stderr.length > 0 && stderr.indexOf('A problem occurred') > -1) {
        console.log('Not found');
    } else if(error || (stderr && stderr.length > 0)) {
        console.log(`Execution error ${[error, stdout, stderr].join('|')}`);
    } else if(!Array.isArray(mapping)) {
        console.log(`Invalid configuration ${[error, stdout, stderr, mapping].join('|')}`);
    } else if(!stdout || stdout.length <= 0) {
        console.log('No output');
    } else {
        console.log('Result from some process with mapping and stdout');
example(null,null,'A problem occurred'); // Logs "Not found"
example(new Error()); // Logs "Execution error Error||"
example(null,null,null,null); // Logs "Invalid configuration |||"
example(null,'',null,[]); // Logs "No output"
example(null,'Foo',null,[]); // Logs "Result from some process with mapping and stdout"

In this case a JavaScript Array of objects can be used here, with one property holding the condition and another holding the desired action.

// First part
  const actions = [{
    condition: _ => !stdout || stdout.length <= 0,
    action: _ => console.log('No result')
  }, {
    condition: _ => !Array.isArray(mapping),
    action: _ => console.log('Config invalid')
  }, {
    condition: _ => error || (stderr && stderr.length > 0),
    action: _ => console.log('Error executing')
  }, {
    condition: _ => stderr && stderr.length > 0 && stderr.indexOf('A problem occurred') > -1,
    action: _ => console.log('Not found')

It would be possible to loop over each entry with a for loop or an iterator (see an example), but this is where the expressiveness of the functional operators Array.prototype.filter and Array.prototype.reduce shines.

// Second part
function example(error, stdout, stderr, mapping) {
  const actions = ... // See above

  const selectedAction = actions
    .filter(action => action.condition())
    .reduce((accumulated, currentAction) => {
      // By design, reduce will only keep the last match when the accumulator 
      // is ignored, so the order inside the actions array has significance.
      return currentAction.action;
    }, function() {
      // Else clause
      console.log('Result from some process with mapping and stdout');

example(null, null, 'A problem occurred'); // Logs "Not found"
example(new Error()); // Logs "Error executing"
example(null, null, null, null); // Logs "Config invalid"
example(null, '', null, []); // Logs "No result"
example(null, 'Foo', null, []); // Logs "Result from some process with mapping and stdout"

A working example can be found in this fiddle.

This shows how to use functional operators to reduce cyclomatic complexity for an if else condition. Do keep in mind it may not be beneficial for performance. For instance, do not declare the action array inside of the function as in the example, as it would redeclare the array each time the function is executed. Another improvement would be to stop iteration in filter/reduce as soon as a matching action was found.

Also note that the example with the if else condition itself is quite readable, so it will not be worth the trade off of refactoring to resolution through an array of objects in this case.