Using Value Objects to Give Meaning

I’m currently re-building a video on demand platform I currently operate, Your Fight Site VOD. During the build, I’ve found myself using more and more value objects.

If you’re unfamiliar with value objects, they’re simply objects that represent simple things, but not specific things. An object representing a specific thing would be an entity. These two terms are usually found when discussing Domain-driven design (or “DDD”).

An example highlighting the difference between a value object and an entity can be found in money. For example, if I had £10 and you had £10, then those two values would be equal. However, individual bank notes are numbered; we can’t have the same note, so individual notes would be represented as entities (and probably use their serial numbers as their identifiers).

Value objects for single properties

In my application, I’ve been unearthing values that can be elevated from simple, primitive values to a value object. One is a video’s duration. I store this as a simple integer (representing the number of seconds), but this presented the opportunity to create a Duration object. Now that number (i.e. 3,600) has meaning. The class looks like this:

class Duration
{
    private $seconds;

    public function __construct(int $seconds)
    {
        $this->seconds = $seconds;
    }

    public function asMinutes(): int
    {
        return (int) floor($this->seconds / 60);
    }

    public function asTimeString(): string
    {
        return Carbon::today()->addSeconds($this->seconds)->toTimeString();
    }

    public function __toString()
    {
        return (string) $this->seconds;
    }
}

The class is instantiated with an integer value (and can’t be created with any other value). As it’s a class, I can then define methods for common operations, such as getting different representations of the value (i.e. as minutes, or as a HH:MM:SS-formatted time string).

I’ve also defined as __toString() method. This is so I can use it in Eloquent models. I can add a mutator for my duration attribute to instead return this new value object:

class Video extends Model
{
    public function getDurationAttribute($value): ?Duration
    {
        if ($value > 0) {
            return new Duration($value);
        }

        return null;
    }
}

Now when I call $video->duration, I’ll get a Duration instance (if the duration is greater than zero). If I use this attribute in a Blade template, then it’ll just be cast to a string and the original value presented thanks to the __toString() method:

<p>Duration: {{ $video->duration }}</p>

Value objects for multiple properties

In my application, a video can also be rented and streamed for a predetermined length of time and monetary amount. This time and amount is set by the content owner. I have three properties representing this:

  • rental_amount
  • rental_interval
  • rental_interval_count

Their names are influenced by Stripe’s plan object.

  • rental_amount is an integer, representing the price in pence.
  • rental_interval is a constant; one of day, week, month, or year.
  • rental_interval_count is the number of days/weeks/months/years a customer can rent the video.

Together, these make up what I’ve called the rental terms. I’ve therefore created a class that takes the values of these three properties:

class RentalTerms
{
    private $amount;
    private $interval;
    private $intervalCount;

    public function __construct(int $amount, string $interval, int $intervalCount)
    {
        $this->ensureIntervalIsValid($interval);

        $this->amount = $amount;
        $this->interval = $interval;
        $this->intervalCount = $intervalCount;
    }

    public function getAmountFormatted(): string
    {
        return Cashier::formatAmount($this->amount);
    }

    public function getIntervalFormatted(): string
    {
        switch ($this->interval) {
            case 'day':
                return trans_choice('1 day|:count days', $this->intervalCount);
            case 'week':
                return trans_choice('1 week|:count weeks', $this->intervalCount);
            case 'month':
                return trans_choice('1 month|:count months', $this->intervalCount);
            case 'year':
                return trans_choice('1 year|:count years', $this->intervalCount);
        }
    }

    private function ensureIntervalIsValid(string $value): void
    {
        if (! in_array($value, ['day', 'week', 'month', 'year'])) {
            throw new InvalidArgumentException('Interval is invalid');
        }
    }
}

As this class doesn’t map to a single value, I just added a “getter” to my Video class:

class Video extends Model
{
    public function getRentalTerms(): RentalTerms
    {
        return new RentalTerms(
            $this->rental_amount,
            $this->rental_interval,
            $this->rental_interval_count
        );
    }
}

Again, I can use methods on the object to get the rental terms in a variety of helpful formats throughout the application, and in Blade templates:

<!-- Example: Rent for £3.99 for 1 month -->
<p>
  Rent for {{ $terms->getAmountFormatted() }}
  for {{ $terms->getIntervalFormatted() }}
</p>

Hopefully this gives you some ideas if you’ve not used value objects in your projects before!