The neglected benefits of Ember Data Transform

Storing data in databases is not always accommodating for building user interfaces. We at SafetyCulture have recently experienced that whilst working on the “Actions” feature.

Action is something like a Todo item that has a status.

In the database we are storing action status as a numeric value e.g. 0 = “to do”, 10 = “in progress” and so on. This is a great and efficient way to store the data but when it comes to using it within our frontend application code we quickly found ourselves with a few cryptic if statements piling up.

Here’s an example from a template:

Or JavaScript:

Now, we could add extra comments and people that worked on that code would kind of sort of remember what those numbers mean while they are on the project. However, we all know that magical moment when someone else has to do some work on it is inevitable 😵

When you have some sort of value stored in the database that has to have meaning to a user it is best to map it to something meaningful within the code. This is where DS.Transform comes in. It is very straight forward to use as it only has serialize and deserialize methods that you need to implement.

Let’s take our example from above and utilise the power of DS.Transform.

First we will create our meaningful constants.

Now that we have the constants let’s utilise them to define a custom Ember Data attribute by creating the action-status Transform.

What happens above is we simply find the right status constant object by its value attribute in the deserialize method and return the result. When it is time to send it back to the server Ember Data will use the serialize method where we simply return the value attribute of the constant 💥

And the last thing we need to do is to specify the custom attribute in the action model.

The status attribute on the action model is now the object we defined in the constants.

The cryptic numbers are now readable 🎉

The readability isn’t the only benefit. We now have a great place to add extra meta data against those statuses. For example, if we need to display a list of statuses for users to select from, we would need a readable label for each status.

Back to the constants 🏇. Let’s add label attribute to each one and add a STATUSES constant which combines all statuses for convenience and can be used as a list of options.

And use it in a template:

As you can see, we now have meaningful statuses throughout the code with a place to add relevant meta data in the future 🦑

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