What Is Object-Oriented Programming? (With Pros and Cons)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 17 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Object-oriented programming (OOP) is a development model that focuses on the objects of a program, rather than specific functions and logic. It's essentially a method for organising complex functions and codes into a categorised object, which a programmer may further categorise into an object class. Understanding the pros and cons of object-oriented programming can help you adopt this computer programming technique when developing complex applications and programs. In this article, we provide an answer to the question, 'What is object-oriented programming?', detail its primary concepts, list its pros and cons and share an example of object-oriented programming.

What is object-oriented programming?

The answer to the question 'What is object-oriented programming?' is that it's a computer programming model that development teams can use to organise extensive and complex program elements. Programs typically include hundreds of functions and methods. OOP seeks to categorise these functions and methods into an object. Computer programmers may then further categorise objects into a class of related objects. For example, if a vehicle is a class, an object may be its engine. For the engine to operate, it requires many functions and methods, such as fuel injectors, ignition sources and mechanical devices.

Depending on the complexity of a class, it may contain many other objects that interact with each other. Using the above example, the class representing a vehicle includes an object representing an engine. This class may have other objects, though, such as a drive shaft, stereo system, brake system and electric windows. Each object has unique functions and methods. The aim of OOP is to focus on the objects rather than the functions and methods. Rather than organising a hundred functions and methods, it's usually easier to organise a single object that contains those functions and methods.

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4 object-oriented programming concepts

Below, you can explore the four typical concepts of object-oriented programming:

1. Encapsulation

The encapsulation process is essentially enclosing objects into a class, along with the object's functions and methods. This process serves as a protective barrier for the class, protecting the objects within. When a programmer encapsulates a class, they prevent other objects and outside codes from accessing or altering the objects within a class. Only designated functions, methods and variables of encapsulated objects are visible. For example, if you consider a user account as a class, this class may contain private data, such as the user's password. By encapsulating the class, only the user can access or change the password.

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2. Abstraction

The abstraction process refers to separating or hiding the implementation of a class from its interface. For example, a stereo system might represent an object and the control buttons on the outside of the system represent the interface. For a user to change the volume, they may interact with a volume interface, but they don't require knowledge of the functions and methods that make that action possible. The abstraction principle basically means it's not crucial for a user to understand how a program completes a function for the user to access the function.

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3. Inheritance

The inheritance concept states classes can have parent classes and child classes. This means a child class inherits many of the same functions that the parent class incorporates into its objects. This can be an excellent concept for reusing codes, as child classes share many of their parent class functions. For example, if you consider the animal kingdom, it contains many parent and child classes of animals. You might consider reptiles as a parent class, making crocodiles, alligators, chameleons and snakes the child classes. The child classes inherit many of the functions in the parent class.

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4. Polymorphism

This concept refers to a program's ability to interpret a single method and apply it to unique objects. This is typically possible because objects contain unique input parameters but may share a parent class. For example, if you consider a human as a parent class, that human may have child classes representing them as an employee, parent and partner. If you apply a method, such as Behave to the human, they behave, but they behave differently as a parent, employee and partner. Regardless of how they behave, they still interpret the method in the same way.

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Pros and cons of object-oriented programming

Below, you can explore some pros and cons of the object-oriented programming approach:

Pros

Here, you can examine the positive aspects and benefits of using the object-oriented approach:

Increases software development productivity

OOP usually improves the productivity of a software development team because it provides particularity, extensibility and re-usability to the development process. Computer programmers can define classes and categorise objects, allowing them to focus on particular program components rather than hundreds of individual codes and functions. Object classes are also typically easier to extend and add additional functionality, allowing programs to receive efficient updates.

Improves software maintenance

When utilising the OOP model, programmers can centralise codes, functions, variables and other object elements. It's typically easier to conduct maintenance on centralised objects, as changes are unlikely to affect other objects and their functions. OOP can also help computer programmers access specific codes, which can also improve software security, as regular validation is usually a requirement.

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Allows for reusable codes

Because of the inheritance concept in the OOP model, classes can have parent classes. When there's an abundance of classes that share similar functions and can interpret the same methods, it usually allows programmers to reuse codes. Reusing codes can provide software development teams with other benefits, such as improved productivity, lower costs and shorter project times.

Lowers development costs

Most OOP concepts contribute to the reduction of programming costs. Programmers can reuse code, reducing the opportunity cost the programmers might otherwise spend while creating new codes. OOP programs are typically easy to scale and maintain as well. Rather than spending a substantial amount of time and resources fixing program issues or upgrading performance, programmers can conduct these duties in a relatively short period.

Provides program security

The abstraction and encapsulation concepts of object-oriented programming typically improve the overall security of the program. The program hides many objects, functions and coding within a class that helps protect the class from unauthorised access and alterations. OOP programs also protect classes when conducting internet protocols, which helps to maintain the privacy of class data.

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Cons

Below, you may examine some negative aspects and potential drawbacks of using the object-oriented programming approach:

Involves a steep learning curve

Depending on the experience and skills of a programming team, they might not be familiar with OOP models. OOP can require extensive training and experience to understand. This might cause unproductive or inefficient programming in the early stages of adopting this model. With effective learning and development, though, teams can become proficient in its use.

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Requires extensive lines of code

While OOP helps to organise massive amounts of code, it can also generate a substantial amount of code. If OOP programs don't receive proper management, there may be an excessive amount of codes that are unnecessary to the program's function. Relative to procedural programming, OOP usually involves more codes, potentially leading to higher development costs.

Results in slower application speeds

OOP programs might be slower than other types of programs. This is because they may involve many codes and guidelines. For the program to perform its functions, it requires more processing of codes relative to other program models, like procedural programming. For example, to process a single action, the program may require the execution of multiple functions.

Examples of object-oriented programming

Below, you can explore examples of object-oriented programming concepts:

  • Encapsulation: An example of encapsulation might be logging into an application account. The single object of logging in contains many other functions, such as retrieving encrypted forms and validating log-in details.

  • Abstraction: Using the above example, the abstraction concept can apply to logging into an application account. Users require the graphic user interface to log in, but they don't require knowledge of database communication or data validation processes.

  • Inheritance: Using the log-in example, other objects, such as changing a password or username, are child classes to a user's account. While each object is unique, they still share similar functions to the user's overall account management.

  • Polymorphism: When considering the action of logging into an account, changing a password or changing a username, each of these objects is unique but can perform the same methods. These methods might be retrieving data from a database or validating data.


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