Tag Archive for 'choosing a design pattern'

Choosing a PHP Design Pattern: Part III —Intentions & Encapsulating Variation

PickDP3I was very sorry when I found out that your intentions were good and not what I supposed they were.Sitting Bull after the Battle of Little Big Horn

Easing into a Selection

We have a bumper crop of peaches this year, and I’ve been peeling, slicing and freezing peaches for the last couple of weeks. It reminded me that Part III of Choosing a PHP Design Pattern is due. This is the third and last installment in the series. You might want to take a look at Part I and/or Part II of this series before or after looking at this post.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could type in the name of your intended project and up pops the best possible design pattern for that project? Even if you hold your breath until you turn blue, that’s not going to happen. However, such a project (a DP Picker) is a worthy one. You can begin to narrow down your choices by asking whether your project is one that belongs in the Creational, Structural or Behavioral categories. If you’re lucky, you’ll end up with the Creational category and only have five patterns from which to choose. (Since the Singleton is one of that group, you really only have to choose from four.) The following is a summary of each category. (The major sections of Learning PHP Design Patterns begin with a brief overview of each category. See pages 77, 121 and 167.)

  • Choose Creational When…You want to abstract the instantiation process and separate the use of the object from its creation.
  • Choose Structural When…You want to create larger structures from classes and objects.
  • Choose Behavioral When…You must focus of the communication between objects and the interaction between those objects.

Suppose I want to make an app that spends a lot of time loading and unloading different types of data and/or objects—which is something I often do. I’d probably want to choose a Creational pattern because I’m instantiating and removing lots of objects. Never mind which one; that’ll come later, but I’ve certainly narrowed my choices. On the other hand, if my main focus is going to be a game program, I’m going to need a good deal of inter-object communication and interaction and so I’m going to be looking at the Behavioral patterns. That will leave me with about half of the 24 patterns, but it’s a start.

Attention to Intention

The 24 different patterns have 24 different intentions (The Adapter pattern is counted twice since it has both Class and Object versions). The Gang of Four advise us to study the intention of each pattern to help make a decision about which one to use. Rather than listing them here, you can use the table developed in an earlier post, Design Pattern Variation and Intents Table, where you can also download the code for the table. Click the Play button to see the table:

So what is an intention? Let’s take a look at the Proxy intention to get an idea:

Proxy Intention: Provide a surrogate or placeholder for another object to control access to it.

That kind of intention is pretty easy to envision. A login is one example where the user is logging into the Proxy and not the Real object. This was shown in Chapter 11 of Learning PHP Design Patterns and in a post on the Proxy pattern on this blog. (Click below to continue.)
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Choosing a PHP Design Pattern: Part II—Avoiding Redesign

PickDP2What are the causes of System Redesign?

To get started on Part 2 of choosing a design pattern, we need to look at the causes of redesign. I realize that his is jumping ahead in the list, but because the issue of re-design is at the heart of design patterns, it’s a good place for the second discussion of choosing a design pattern. The Gang of Four point out eight causes, and these causes each have design patterns that will help you avoid this redesign (see pp. 23-25 in GoF.) In this session, we’ll review the eight causes and the suggested patterns that can be used to avoid redesign. Look for the cause of redesign that best fits your system or general type of app.

Creating an object by Specifying a Class Explicitly

In one sense, this cause for redesign can be handled by the what you might do in making a movie deal–

Talk to my agent…

You don’t want to deal with the lawyers, contracts and all the negotiations required to make a movie deal. You just want to read the script, rehearse and get your lines straight. You let Murray (your agent) do all of that for you so you don’t get all tangled up with details you don’t know about or want to know about. Right away, you may be thinking,

That sounds like a Factory…

That’s right! You let the factory deal with the class your client wants to make a request from. A Proxy or Prototype would be another choice for separating request from the class you’re making the request to.

Dependence on specific Operations

Another cause for re-design is a dependence on specific operations which may change. The reason for changing an operation or a set of operations can be anything from a bright idea you get for a better way to set up the operations to changes in the objects the used by the operations. It could also be due to a new operation you want to add to the system. Suppose your system has an operation that handles the request for a phone number. The number could be anything from a land-line phone to a Skype number or something in the future none of us have even though of. You don’t want change in or the addition of a single operation to cause re-design for the whole site. So avoid hard-coded requests and let the decisions be made at compile time or run time. Two examples that avoid tightly bound requests are the Chain of Responsibility and Command patterns.

Dependence on Hardware and Software platforms

If you’re programming on a fairly low level, hardware differences can be more pronounced because you can program directly to the processor. PHP is a server-side language sent to a browser and it doesn’t matter is the user’s system is Linux, Windows and Mac operating systems. So platform is not something we tend to worry about or even have to concern ourselves with—albeit a few exceptions.

Having written design patterns for PHP5+, ActionScript 3.0 and a little Java, I am able to preserve most structures in a cross-language environment. However, I do need to attend to language differences, such as the fact that PHP5+ is weakly typed and ActionScript 3.0 is strongly typed. Gamma and associates suggest the Abstract Factory and Bridge designs to help overcome any software dependencies that may arise. The high level abstraction in both patterns helps to ameliorate any differences in hardware and software. However, most design patterns encourage communication between interfaces rather than concrete implementations, and so I would suggest that most (if not all) design patterns have a healthy regard for cross-platform and cross-API cases.

Dependence on Object Representations or Implementations

<em><strong>Figure 1:</strong>Works like Bait & Switch—as long as the interface is the same, it can make the request</em>

Figure 1: Works like Bait & Switch—as long as the interface is the same, it can make the request

We assume when we build a client class that it will simply make requests. However, to make those requests it has to know how an object is represented, stored, located, and implemented. Rather than having that responsibility thrust upon the client, GoF suggest hiding that information from the client. Then if changes are made, the client can make the same request and the information will be handled through abstract structures where change will not ripple through to the client nor the program. Figure 1 suggests that the Client doesn’t know what it’s getting itself into, and in this case, that’s a good thing! The Abstract Factory and Bridge designs along with Memento and Proxy designs keep request processing information hidden from the client, and so when changes are made, the client can make the same requests but get different implementations representing any changes to the system.
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Choosing a PHP Design Pattern: Part I—Selection Criteria

PickDP Which Design Pattern?

One of the most persistent questions that I get is, How do you select a Design Pattern?, and usually, my response is, Decide what varies and see which pattern handles that variation. Of course, you will find that lots of things vary, and deciding which one to build a design pattern around can be tricky. Furthermore, GoF have lots more to say about how to go about choosing a design pattern than just encapsulating variation. This series will cover the different criteria so that we can get a complete picture of the selection process.

Gamma, Helm, Johnson and Vlissides (aka Gang of Four) provide six criteria for making a selection (pp.28-30). They include:

  • Consider how design patterns solve design problems
  • Scan Intent sections
  • Study how patterns interrelate
  • Study patterns of like purpose
  • Examine a cause of redesign
  • Consider what should be variable in your design

Many of the selection solutions that GoF offer are simply references to a part of their book that discusses what design patterns do (which you may not have yet read), and so I’m going to try and summarize each of these criteria. That may result in an oversimplification, and you’re welcome to point out any such misstep I make and set me straight if you believe that a summarized explanation is too terse. (Better yet, go over pp. 11-31 and read all of the detail yourself.)

Consider how design patterns solve design problems

Section 1.6 (pp. 11-28) of Design Patterns is laden with major concepts and information about design pattern use as a strategy for solving design problems in programming. The foundation in finding an appropriate object is the idea that,

objects package both data and procedures that operate on data, and the only way that an object performs an operation is when it receives a request from a client.

Implied in that idea is that an objects’s internal states are encapsulated. You know what that is, and so we can move on to the central OOP issue of decomposing a system into objects. How do you do that? It’s not easy because you have so many factors to consider (some of which may be conflicting) in the decomposition process.

Figure 1: Breaking down complexity into simple parts

Figure 1: Breaking down complexity into simple parts

So what is the decomposition process? Basically, it’s breaking down a complex problem down into smaller, more manageable units—in the case of PHP design patterns, classes, (objects). At the root of all English literature is the alphabet. (See Figure 1) The degree to which you decompose a task refers to its granularity. Breaking down the works of Shakespeare can have different levels of granularity. For example all of Shakespeare’s works can be broken down into plays, plays into acts, acts into scenes, scenes into paragraphs, paragraphs into sentences, sentences into words, and finally words into letters of the alphabet. The degree of granularity depends on what you need. Understanding the alphabet will not help you understand much about Shakespeare, but if you don’t know the alphabet, you cannot read his plays, sonnets and poems. (See Object Granularity below).

Beginning with the problem (e.g., How to make a sniffer, how to create a UI for an online store, how securely store and retrieve data), you have to decide the way in which you want to break it down. (It’s not going to break itself down!) The only thing that has ever worked for me is knowing exactly what I want to do. In other words, you need some serious understanding of the problem itself. So even before you begin to work through the decomposition process, you need to study the project you want to complete. The OOP process for decomposition has different approaches:

  • Write a problem statement and create classes and operations from nouns and verbs in the statement.
  • Focus on the collaborations and responsibilities in the system (problem you’re trying to solve).
  • Model the real world and translate the objects found during analysis into design.

At one time or another, I’ve used all of these approaches, and they all work. Usually, I find myself going between them, combining them—shaking the box with the problem inside to see how things settle at the bottom. However, it’s difficult to provide a generic case, and so I’ll provide two cases that I actually worked through.
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