Design patterns were introduced to the software community in Design Patterns, by Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, and John Vlissides (colloquially known as the “gang of four”). The core concept behind design patterns, presented in the introduction, was simple. Over their years of developing software, Gamma et al found certain patterns of solid design emerging, just as architects designing houses and buildings can develop templates for where a bathroom should be located or how a kitchen should be configured. Having those templates, or design patterns, means they can design better buildings more quickly. The same applies to software.

Design patterns not only present useful ways for developing robust software faster but also provide a way of encapsulating large ideas in friendly terms. For example, you can say you’re writing a messaging system to provide for loose coupling, or you can say you’re writing an observer, which is the name of that pattern.

It’s difficult to demonstrate the value of patterns using small examples. They often look like overkill because they really come into play in large code bases. This article can’t show huge applications, so you need to think about ways to apply the principles of the example — and not necessarily this exact code — in your larger applications. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t use patterns in small applications. Most good applications start small and become big, so there is no reason not to start with solid coding practices like these.

Following are Mostly used PHP design patterns

The factory pattern

Many of the design patterns in the original Design Patterns book encourage loose coupling. To understand this concept, it’s easiest to talk about a struggle that many developers go through in large systems. The problem occurs when you change one piece of code and watch as a cascade of breakage happens in other parts of the system — parts you thought were completely unrelated.

The problem is tight coupling. Functions and classes in one part of the system rely too heavily on behaviors and structures in other functions and classes in other parts of the system. You need a set of patterns that lets these classes talk with each other, but you don’t want to tie them together so heavily that they become interlocked.

In large systems, lots of code relies on a few key classes. Difficulties can arise when you need to change those classes. For example, suppose you have a User class that reads from a file. You want to change it to a different class that reads from the database, but all the code references the original class that reads from a file. This is where the factory pattern comes in handy.

The factory pattern is a class that has some methods that create objects for you. Instead of using new directly, you use the factory class to create objects. That way, if you want to change the types of objects created, you can change just the factory. All the code that uses the factory changes automatically.

Listing 1 shows an example of a factory class. The server side of the equation comes in two pieces: the database, and a set of PHP pages that let you add feeds, request the list of feeds, and get the article associated with a particular feed.

Example code 1:

<?php
interface IUser
{
  function getName();
}

class User implements IUser
{
  public function __construct( $id ) { }

  public function getName()
  {
    return "Jack";
  }
}

class UserFactory
{
  public static function Create( $id )
  {
    return new User( $id );
  }
}

$uo = UserFactory::Create( 1 );
echo( $uo->getName()."\n" );
?>

Example code 2:

<?php
interface IUser
{
  function getName();
}

class User implements IUser
{
  public static function Load( $id ) 
  {
        return new User( $id );
  }

  public static function Create( ) 
  {
        return new User( null );
  }

  public function __construct( $id ) { }

  public function getName()
  {
    return "Jack";
  }
}

$uo = User::Load( 1 );
echo( $uo->getName()."\n" );
?>

The singleton pattern

Some application resources are exclusive in that there is one and only one of this type of resource. For example, the connection to a database through the database handle is exclusive. You want to share the database handle in an application because it’s an overhead to keep opening and closing connections, particularly during a single page fetch.

The singleton pattern covers this need. An object is a singleton if the application can include one and only one of that object at a time. The code in Listing 3 shows a database connection singleton in PHP V5.

Example Code:

<?php
require_once("DB.php");

class DatabaseConnection
{
  public static function get()
  {
    static $db = null;
    if ( $db == null )
      $db = new DatabaseConnection();
    return $db;
  }

  private $_handle = null;

  private function __construct()
  {
    $dsn = 'mysql://root:password@localhost/photos';
    $this->_handle =& DB::Connect( $dsn, array() );
  }

  public function handle()
  {
    return $this->_handle;
  }
}

print( "Handle = ".DatabaseConnection::get()->handle()."\n" );
print( "Handle = ".DatabaseConnection::get()->handle()."\n" );
?>

The observer pattern

The observer pattern gives you another way to avoid tight coupling between components. This pattern is simple: One object makes itself observable by adding a method that allows another object, the observer, to register itself. When the observable object changes, it sends a message to the registered observers. What those observers do with that information isn’t relevant or important to the observable object. The result is a way for objects to talk with each other without necessarily understanding why.

A simple example is a list of users in a system. The code in Listing 4 shows a user list that sends out a message when users are added. This list is watched by a logging observer that puts out a message when a user is added.

Example Code:

<?php
interface IObserver
{
  function onChanged( $sender, $args );
}

interface IObservable
{
  function addObserver( $observer );
}

class UserList implements IObservable
{
  private $_observers = array();

  public function addCustomer( $name )
  {
    foreach( $this->_observers as $obs )
      $obs->onChanged( $this, $name );
  }

  public function addObserver( $observer )
  {
    $this->_observers []= $observer;
  }
}

class UserListLogger implements IObserver
{
  public function onChanged( $sender, $args )
  {
    echo( "'$args' added to user list\n" );
  }
}

$ul = new UserList();
$ul->addObserver( new UserListLogger() );
$ul->addCustomer( "Jack" );
?>

The chain-of-command pattern

Building on the loose-coupling theme, the chain-of-command pattern routes a message, command, request, or whatever you like through a set of handlers. Each handler decides for itself whether it can handle the request. If it can, the request is handled, and the process stops. You can add or remove handlers from the system without influencing other handlers. Listing 5 shows an example of this pattern.

Example Code:

<?php
interface ICommand
{
  function onCommand( $name, $args );
}

class CommandChain
{
  private $_commands = array();

  public function addCommand( $cmd )
  {
    $this->_commands []= $cmd;
  }

  public function runCommand( $name, $args )
  {
    foreach( $this->_commands as $cmd )
    {
      if ( $cmd->onCommand( $name, $args ) )
        return;
    }
  }
}

class UserCommand implements ICommand
{
  public function onCommand( $name, $args )
  {
    if ( $name != 'addUser' ) return false;
    echo( "UserCommand handling 'addUser'\n" );
    return true;
  }
}

class MailCommand implements ICommand
{
  public function onCommand( $name, $args )
  {
    if ( $name != 'mail' ) return false;
    echo( "MailCommand handling 'mail'\n" );
    return true;
  }
}

$cc = new CommandChain();
$cc->addCommand( new UserCommand() );
$cc->addCommand( new MailCommand() );
$cc->runCommand( 'addUser', null );
$cc->runCommand( 'mail', null );
?>

The strategy pattern

The last design pattern we will cover is the strategy pattern. In this pattern, algorithms are extracted from complex classes so they can be replaced easily. For example, the strategy pattern is an option if you want to change the way pages are ranked in a search engine. Think about a search engine in several parts — one that iterates through the pages, one that ranks each page, and another that orders the results based on the rank. In a complex example, all those parts would be in the same class. Using the strategy pattern, you take the ranking portion and put it into another class so you can change how pages are ranked without interfering with the rest of the search engine code.

As a simpler example, Listing 6 shows a user list class that provides a method for finding a set of users based on a plug-and-play set of strategies.

Example Code:

<?php
interface IStrategy
{
  function filter( $record );
}

class FindAfterStrategy implements IStrategy
{
  private $_name;

  public function __construct( $name )
  {
    $this->_name = $name;
  }

  public function filter( $record )
  {
    return strcmp( $this->_name, $record ) <= 0;
  }
}

class RandomStrategy implements IStrategy
{
  public function filter( $record )
  {
    return rand( 0, 1 ) >= 0.5;
  }
}

class UserList
{
  private $_list = array();

  public function __construct( $names )
  {
    if ( $names != null )
    {
      foreach( $names as $name )
      {
        $this->_list []= $name;
      }
    }
  }

  public function add( $name )
  {
    $this->_list []= $name;
  }

  public function find( $filter )
  {
    $recs = array();
    foreach( $this->_list as $user )
    {
      if ( $filter->filter( $user ) )
        $recs []= $user;
    }
    return $recs;
  }
}

$ul = new UserList( array( "Andy", "Jack", "Lori", "Megan" ) );
$f1 = $ul->find( new FindAfterStrategy( "J" ) );
print_r( $f1 );

$f2 = $ul->find( new RandomStrategy() );
print_r( $f2 );
?>

Conclusions

These are just a few of the most common design patterns used in PHP applications. Many more are demonstrated in the Design Patterns book. Don’t be put off by the mystique of architecture. Patterns are great ideas you can use in any programming language and at any skill level.