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Manuel Spagnolo
Manuel Spagnolo

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Design Patterns in Web Development

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Introduction

Foreword

Before diving down in this series you might want to know why I am writing this.

My name is Manuel and I am a more-or-less Italian more-or-less lifelong geek. Although I am doing web development since the dark ages of <tables>, I decided to make software development a full time job only three years ago.

As you can imagine, I didn't have my Computer Science education, so I am continuously striving to fill this gap studying "academic" topics as much as I can.

Moreover, I recently moved away from my home country, thus I also need a good excuse to practice my English.

This is exactly where this series of articles comes from.

What is this about?

What I'd like to do is writing articles about Design Patterns based on what I learned mainly from the Gang of Four.

The difference between this and the overflowing amount of other articles doing the same, is that I will be trying to stick with full stack web development with extremely practical examples. Most of them are going to be in JavaScript or Python, as other languages have plenty of resources about this topic.

Something along the lines of: How to use Command Pattern in a React component, in a CQRS Node application and to implement an Undo/Redo history in an Electron application.

However this first article is going to be the Pilot Episode of the series. So still no patterns in here :(

Let's get started!

If you want to know more about design patterns in general I can recommend this website which is my go-to place when I need to dust off those concepts.

What is a design pattern?

As much as everyone of you claims to be the best cook in the world because of their special, unique, one-of-a-kind touch (well, maybe this affects Italy more than other places...), we can all agree that having a grandma-crafted recipe book can take a good cook out of almost everyone.

Dog - I have no idea what I'm doing

The reason is pretty straightforward: all those recipes have been created by someone who - eventually making a huge amount of mistakes along the way - fixed, corrected and amended those procedures over time. Using those well packaged bits of knowledge makes you avoid lots of common pitfalls and wrong decisions. This is extremely useful in circumstances in which the choice you make looks unharmful, but it doesn't look so when you serve your dish to someone which might not be as polite as you expect (food in Italy is really something serious).

At the same time recipes can be used as a template to build upon rather than as a set of rules carved in stone. There are plenty of extremely good chefs which revisit their family cookbook to make a business out of it or, in general, to serve their purposes which might be different from their grandma's ones.

In software development the whole thing works pretty much the same way. The main difference though is that software development projects usually last more than a bunch of minutes and you cannot get away with brushing your teeth
at the end. Apart from this though, the main ideas are the same: having a very strong starting point to solve common problems which you might want to customize when you get to an expertise level which allows you to do so.

Criticism

As for all the things which are too good to be true, this has to be either not so good or not so true.

The good news is that this is true 😀 The bad news is, though, that your decision-making process cannot completely be replaced by The Wisdom of the Ancients.

This is by far the most common argument raised against the pattern approach in software development: solutions provided via patterns tend to be not as efficient as they could be for very specific problems.

To me this is kind of a weak point as you should always improve on or at least adapt one of those solutions to your needs. Being backed by something which passed the test of time will give you the advantage of knowing in advance most of the weaknesses of you choice, so you have a better understanding of how to address issues coming down the line.

The other common argument against design patterns is that some of the classic ones (aka in the Gang of Four) exists only because of the state of software development in those days, which was a bit more "primitive" compared to what we have today.

Well, I cannot disagree with this, but (as Francis up here says) "Knowledge is power" and I'd rather have a tool I don't use than lacking a tool I need.

This, however, leads to the last criticism I want to address here. One of the risks of introducing patterns is that you might end up using them even in situations which do not require them at all.

I guess this is something we cannot help and it's a fairly common problem with anything which is learned in schemes (e.g., when you start learning scales in music). Unfortunately, experience is the best teacher in this case, but being aware of the risks will definitely help you throughout the way.

Classification

As you might have understood by now, the Gang of Four was really the s***t when it came out (which is, by the way, 1995).

So nowadays, we're still somewhat classifying design patterns based on their classification.

The following list will become a list of links as long as I write articles on the subject

Creational Patterns

  • Abstract Factory
  • Builder
  • Factory
  • Prototype
  • Singleton

Structural Patterns

  • Adapter
  • Bridge
  • Composite
  • Decorator
  • Facade
  • Flyweight
  • Proxy

Behavioral Patterns

  • Chain of responsibility
  • Command
  • Interpreter
  • Iterator
  • Mediator
  • Memento
  • Observer
  • State
  • Strategy
  • Template method
  • Visitor

Final words

This was a brief and hopefully not-so-boring general introduction to Design Patterns. Next articles will be more practical, less wordy and maybe with the same amount of memes.
Let me know if you are interested in the topic, as I really need motivation to continue writing :D

Discussion (53)

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smona profile image
Mason Bourgeois

Looking forward to the rest of the series!

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shikaan profile image
Manuel Spagnolo Author

I'll try to not let you down :D Thanks!

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biggregory profile image
Gregory

Really good and fun article. Please use a little bit less of Italian kitchen examples and good luck! Great job.

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shikaan profile image
Manuel Spagnolo Author

I thought that was the best part :(

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ackzell profile image
Axel Martínez

It was! We can't please everyone. If that helps you explain, then it is up to us to keep up, or just... don't read your content 😅

Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

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jules manson

Love this series. I will continue to return to it as you write more articles.

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shikaan profile image
Manuel Spagnolo Author

Thanks for the support (:

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jules manson

Just one question. Why not write all example code in Javascript? It is not only the number one web development language, it has become the world's most popular language. I think if you did it would attract far more readers because everyone who does any kind of web development is probably familiar with it.

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shikaan profile image
Manuel Spagnolo Author

As much as I agree with this and as much as it would be way easier for me*, articles of this series are loosely coupled with the language I am using for examples.

Plus, we deal with an industry changing on a daily basis and sticking with the fad of the day is not a wise choice in general. Also, I feel that playing with examples outside your comfort zone is the best way to actually understand the abstract ideas behind the topic, which ultimately are the takeaway of these articles. I hope no one really will copy paste code of those examples :D

*: as my colleagues say, I speak JavaScript more fluently than Italian :D

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julesmanson profile image
jules manson

It's not a fad.

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shikaan profile image
Manuel Spagnolo Author

I pay my bills mostly because of it. I hope it's not :D

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Joseph Alvini

This was a great article. I hope to learn more about design patterns. I am actually going through hell trying to figure out in what instance to use what specific design pattern. I am currently reading GOF so I think that should clarify a bit.

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shikaan profile image
Manuel Spagnolo Author • Edited

To be quite fair, my current approach is to keep it simple. Unless I find an instance in which the use of a pattern is completely obvious, I usually don't go down that path. Most of the time change of requirements, many iterations over code and the inevitable amount of issues everyone goes through will tell you what is the best way to deal with the current scenario.

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Kevin G. R. Greer

If you're interested, I've shared slides and videos (1, 2, 3) of my design pattern class. The videos total about three hours.

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ronaldoperes profile image
Ronaldo Peres

Still trying to learn those patterns, when and where to use.

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shikaan profile image
Manuel Spagnolo Author

I guess the same as above applies here :)

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quit_ka profile image
Tetiana Kh

Thank you for a good article. Looking forward to reading the rest of the series!

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shikaan profile image
Manuel Spagnolo Author

First episode is out :) It's linked in the classification list

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Tobias Höft • Edited

Can you explain in a post how you start to plan an architecture which pattern which strategy. for me often it's hard to find a starting point

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shikaan profile image
Manuel Spagnolo Author

Looks like a wide topic! Maybe we can gather some real world scenarios and think about which pattern fits better the requirements. How does this sound?

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Sara Alfred

I am marketing officer at my software agency and Design patterns are really unique and really creates great impact over the business site. Nice article Keep it up mate.

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shikaan profile image
Manuel Spagnolo Author

Thanks :)

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Fatima Tariq

Just an opinion - I think Strategy pattern is the easiest of them all and a developer should be able to adopt it quickly. Also, I feel that the factory pattern is a bit overrated :-) An important extension of the Builder pattern is the Step Builder patterns which can enforce conditions such as which 'build' step to allow next, mandatory parameters etc. Decorator, Facade and adapter are also (relatively) easy to pick up and more useful compared to Singleton. The toughest ones IMO are Command and Visitor

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Nans Dumortier • Edited

I can't wait to read your articles! And I find that choosing to apply design patterns to web development in order to have practical examples is a great idea 😊

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shikaan profile image
Manuel Spagnolo Author

Thanks! (:

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Jitendra Patil

Looking forward to reading the whole series, keep it up, man!

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shikaan profile image
Manuel Spagnolo Author

Thanks!

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Dieg Oto

Nice! I will be waiting for your series :) thanks for the work.

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shikaan profile image
Manuel Spagnolo Author

Thank you for reading!

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foodogsquared profile image
Gabriel Arazas

Yes. Thanks for writing this article. Looking forward for the rest of the series (and the memes). 🙃

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shikaan profile image
Manuel Spagnolo Author

First episode is out!

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Christian Cabizza

Interesting!

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rahildar profile image
rahildar

i am Excited .. looking forward to this series.

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shikaan profile image
Manuel Spagnolo Author

Thanks (: First episode is already there

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Gabriela Amundarain

Cool article! Also, thanks for the refactoring resource, it's a great find

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shikaan profile image
Manuel Spagnolo Author

It was for me as well :) Thanks!

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Dean Juricic

Great and entertaining article. Looking forward for what follows next :) keep it up

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shikaan profile image
Manuel Spagnolo Author

Thank you (:

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elemes11 profile image
Samuel

also looking forward to the rest of the series. However, do you think its best we pick up the Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software
to be able to follow up?.

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shikaan profile image
Manuel Spagnolo Author

To be honest, I still didn't start working on any of the articles. I just gathered some ideas, but I didn't write a single word yet. I guess we'll figure out together :D

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Daniel Golant

Looking forward to the rest. Your English is great, but if you ever want a second (or Nth) set of eyes on a post, hit me up. I have a solid amount of experience editing and translating :).

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shikaan profile image
Manuel Spagnolo Author

Thanks man (:

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Wes McLaughlin

This is a great idea, looking forward to the series!

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shikaan profile image
Manuel Spagnolo Author

First episode is out! You can find it in the final list

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Kathleen Brown

It's a very detailed process design patterns in web development is very tricky if it is not organized i liked the whole blog specially the patterns you have described

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Tom Clayson

Looking forward to your future articles!

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Canopix

+++1000000 for " the dark ages of " hahaha Thanks!

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shikaan profile image
Manuel Spagnolo Author

Thank you for reading!

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bhupesh profile image
Bhupesh Varshney 👾

Nice 👌

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Julian Maestri

The link to the Command article is broken

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shikaan profile image
Manuel Spagnolo Author

Whoops! Thanks for the headsup, it's fixed now (: