Testing mixins in Ruby

I've started working on this tutorial to learn more about the decorator pattern. One interesting topic that came up was the concept of creating decorations which can be mixed in to a decorator, rather than using inheritance. Wanting to use TDD where ever possible I set out to write some tests first. I got stuck there for a bit, so I thought I should write out my solution here.

Here is a module of a couple deocrations that could be mixed in to a decorator.

module IconLinkDecorations
  def delete_icon(link_text = nil)
    h.link_to icon_tag('cancel.png', link_text),
              method: :delete,
              confirm: "Delete '#{object}'?"

  def edit_icon(link_text = nil)
    h.link_to icon_tag('page_edit.png', link_text),


  # renders an icon with a label
  def icon_tag(file_name, text)
    image = h.image_tag(file_name)
    image += " #{text}" if text.present?

Its a few methods related to rendering an icon related to resource reciving the mixin. But how do we test it? If this was a decorator, we could make assertions against an instance of the class. This isn't a class at all though, its a collection of methods that can be added to a class. One option would be to test a class that consumes this module, but that doesn't feel right: we want a true unit test or tests that examine this module in isolation from any other part of the system

After some research, here's what I came up with: create a dead simple class that will consume the module and then test that. For example:

class DummyObject
  include IconLinkDecorations
  def initialize(helper_double, object_double)
    @helper_double = helper_double
    @object_double = object_double

  def h

  def object

This is DummyObject which we will be feeding our decorations and then making sure they work properly. Consumers of IconLinkDecorations are expected to have two members: h which points to the rails helper and object which references the object being decorated. We'll use test doubles for these members to avoid having to pull them into the test as well. Again, we want to isolate this module from other parts of the system.

Next, we can create mocks for the expected behavior of h and object and then just ensure that the proper messages are passed with the expected arguments. For example:

describe IconLinkDecorations do
  let(:helper_double) { double('helper_double') }
  let(:object_double) { 'my object' }
  let(:image) { 'my image' }
  let(:path) { double('path') }
  let(:obj) { DummyObject.new helper_double, object_double }
  describe '#delete_icon' do
    let(:options) { { method: :delete, confirm: "Delete 'my object'?" } }

    before(:each) do
      expect(helper_double).to receive(:polymorphic_path)

    it 'displays a delete icon with text' do
      extra_text = 'my extra text'
      expect(helper_double).to receive(:link_to)
        .with("#{image} #{extra_text}", path, options)

      expect(helper_double).to receive(:image_tag)

      obj.delete_icon extra_text

How do we test #delete_icon? We ensure that:

  • that h.image_tag is called with cancel.png
  • that h.polymophic_path is called with object.
  • that h.link_to is called with

    • the result of the private method icon_tag
    • the result of the call to polymorphic_path
    • an options hash

There is no need to examine the return value of delete_icon. If we can make sure that the right methods are called with the right arguments, we can be sure this module is doing its job. All of the methods listed above are not implemented in this module and therefore shouldn't be tested here.