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A Simple PHP Design Pattern: The Factory Method

Factory250mThe Easiest Design Pattern in the Galaxy

As part of a Boston PHP group’s PHP Percolate, we’re going through Larry Ullman’s PHP Advanced and Object-Oriented Programming (3ed) book. In his chapter on Design Patterns, Larry has a pattern he calls, The Factory Pattern. This pattern can be found in many PHP works, and the first mention of the pattern that I found was in a series of PHP design patterns in an IBM Website in 2006. The Factory pattern was given an “honorable mention” as a pattern in the Freemans’ incredible work, Head First Design Patterns (p 117), but the Freemans note that the Factory pattern is more of a programming idiom than a true design pattern. The design pattern found in the Gang of Four’s work is a Factory Method pattern that is a true design pattern.

In looking at the Factory Method pattern, you can see two key participants—the Creator and the Product. The requesting object (Client), goes through the Creator to request a product. The key element in the Creator is an abstract method, factoryMethod(). Figure 1 shows a bare bones class diagram of the Factory Method:

Figure 1: Factory Method Class Diagram

Figure 1: Factory Method Class Diagram

The Client makes a request using the desired product as an argument in the factoryMethod(). So, instead of asking for “product X,” its requests states, “Make me product X”—or “Factory, build product X for me.” This arrangement separates the requesting object (Client) from the requested product. Thus, it is a loose binding, and if changes are made in the product, the program does not crash and burn. That’s because the request is through the factory (Creator).

In the Factory pattern, the simple factory is often declared statically (as is the case in Larry Ullman’s book), but in the Factory Method pattern, the factoryMethod() method is declared as an abstract one that can be overridden. The reason for that is flexibility. In Figure 1, you can see that a single concrete creator is instantiating a single concrete product. However, you can have several different concrete factories requiring different implementations of the factoryMethod(). In Chapter 5 of Learning PHP Design Patterns, one of the examples has two factories (concrete creators); one for graphics and another for text captions.

The Shape Factory

This example has one product, graphic shapes. It includes a red triangle, a green square, and a blue circle—-the RGB trio. The client requests each shape by specifying the name of the product in a request through the Creator. Figure 2 shows the class diagram for this implementation.

Figure 2: Class diagram for the Shape Factory

Figure 2: Class diagram for the Shape Factory


This example only includes shapes. However, suppose instead of general shapes, you had images with captions. Instead of starting all over again, you could just add another set of implemented Products for captions and had another concrete factory (concrete creator) for text. What’s important, you’re not wasting a lot of time re-doing what you’ve already done. The bigger the program, the more this kind of structure is appreciated.

To get started, run the program and download the files using the buttons below:
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Once you download the source code (not to mention the incredibly valuable graphics), you’re all set to understand just what’s going on.

Factory First

In working with design patterns, it helps to think in terms of what the client wants. (The client is perhaps the most important and most overlooked participant in design patterns.) So if you start with what the client wants, the next step is to ask, “How does the client get what it wants?”

  1. Client wants a product.
  2. The client must must request the product through the factory method

Now that’s fairly simple. The client is separated from the product it is requesting, and changes to the product will not affect the process used for making the request. Likewise, changes in the client request will not affect the nature of the requested product.
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