Please wait

Understanding Design Patterns

Design patterns are like blueprints or templates for solving common programming problems. Imagine building a house; instead of creating a new design every time, architects often use proven plans or modify existing ones to save time and effort.

In the same way, design patterns in programming, including PHP, provide tried-and-true solutions to recurring challenges. They're not ready-made code that you can copy and paste but guidelines on how to structure code to solve particular problems.

For example, if you're building a website with multiple pages that share similar layouts, you might use a design pattern to define how those pages are organized and how they share common elements like headers and footers. By following the pattern, you can ensure that the website is more maintainable and flexible, allowing you to make changes more easily in the future.

In essence, design patterns are wisdom and best practices accumulated by experienced developers, distilled into templates that you can apply to your projects. They help you write better-organized, more robust, and easily maintainable code by guiding you on how to put the pieces together in an efficient way.

Why learn design patterns?

Design patterns might seem like an advanced concept, but they have substantial benefits that can be valuable even for beginners learning PHP:

  1. Understanding Common Solutions: Design patterns represent tried-and-true solutions to frequent programming challenges. By learning them, beginners can start to recognize common problems and know how to approach solving them.
  2. Building Good Habits: Learning design patterns early helps instill good coding habits. It promotes writing organized and maintainable code, which is crucial as projects grow in complexity. Studying design patterns trains beginners to think in terms of general solutions to common problems rather than one-time fixes. This way of thinking is a valuable problem-solving skill in programming.
  3. Enhancing Collaboration: Design patterns are recognized across the programming community. By understanding them, beginners can communicate more effectively with other developers, making teamwork smoother.


While design patterns offer many benefits, they are not without criticism. Here's a look at some of the common criticisms against using design patterns, particularly in the context of PHP:

  1. Overengineering: Design patterns can lead to overengineering, especially if applied without a clear need. They might add unnecessary complexity to a codebase, making it harder to understand and maintain.
  2. One-Size-Fits-All Approach: Some critics argue that design patterns promote a one-size-fits-all mentality, where developers apply the same solutions to different problems without considering the unique context or requirements.
  3. Language Dependency: Design patterns were introduced in the context of object-oriented programming and might not be as relevant or applicable to all languages. Some patterns may not align well with PHP's specific features and idioms.

It's essential to recognize that design patterns are tools, not rules. They provide guidance, but it's up to the developer to decide when and how to use them, considering the specific context and requirements of the project. Like any tool, they can be both beneficial and detrimental, depending on how they are applied.

As stated before, not all design patterns are popular in PHP. Some are rarely used. These are some of the most popular design patterns you're likely to come across:

Design PatternDescription
FactoryThe Factory pattern is a creational pattern used to create objects without specifying the exact class of the object to be created. It defines an interface for creating an object but allows subclasses to alter the type of objects that will be created.
Abstract FactorySimilar to the Factory pattern, the Abstract Factory is a creational pattern that provides an interface for creating families of related or dependent objects without specifying their concrete classes. It involves multiple Factory methods, one for each type of object to be created.
AdapterThe Adapter pattern is a structural pattern that allows incompatible interfaces to work together. It acts as a wrapper or translator that allows one class to work with the methods and properties of another class, providing a consistent interface.
CommandThe Command pattern is a behavioral pattern that encapsulates a request as an object, parameterizing clients with queues, requests, and operations. It also allows for the support of undoable operations.
IteratorThe Iterator pattern is a behavioral pattern that provides a way to access the elements of an aggregate object sequentially without exposing its underlying representation. It abstracts the traversal of different data structures.
SingletonThe Singleton pattern ensures that a class has only one instance and provides a global point of access to that instance. It's useful when exactly one object is needed to coordinate actions across the system.
ObserverThe Observer pattern is a behavioral pattern where an object, known as the subject, maintains a list of its dependents, called observers, and notifies them of any state changes, typically by calling one of their methods. It's often used in distributed event-handling systems.
BuilderThe Builder pattern is a creational pattern that allows the construction of a complex object step by step. It provides a way to construct an object by specifying its type and content without directly constructing its representation.
DecoratorThe Decorator pattern is a structural pattern that allows behavior to be added to individual objects, either statically or dynamically, without affecting the behavior of other objects from the same class. It wraps the original class instance with a new class with additional functionalities.
PrototypeThe Prototype pattern is a creational pattern that allows the creation of new objects by copying existing objects. It's used when the cost of creating an object is higher or more complex than copying an existing instance.
Chain of ResponsibilityThe Chain of Responsibility pattern is a behavioral pattern that passes a request along a chain of handlers. Upon receiving a request, each handler decides either to process it, pass it along the chain, or both.

An excellent site for learning about specific design patterns can be found here: I highly recommend it to beginners. It has PHP examples of the design patterns mentioned above.

Key Takeaways

  • Design patterns offer well-established solutions to common programming problems, making it easier to develop complex applications.
  • Patterns are categorized into Creational (e.g., Factory, Singleton), Structural (e.g., Adapter, Decorator), and Behavioral (e.g., Command, Observer), each serving different purposes.
  • Using design patterns encourages code reusability, maintainability, and consistency, fostering good coding habits.
  • It's vital to recognize when a pattern is beneficial and not apply it unnecessarily, as this can lead to overcomplexity.
  • Not all patterns apply equally across languages, and understanding how they fit within PHP's specific features is important.
  • Awareness of common criticisms, such as the risk of overuse or misuse, helps guide the judicious application of patterns.


Please read this before commenting