When Should You Learn About Design Patterns?
When you first start learning about software development, I’d recommend against beginning with design patterns. Why? If you start with design patterns, you might be misled and start thinking that all of your code must conform to a design pattern, which isn’t the case and makes the process of learning how to code even more complicated. You’ll end up confused and overwhelmed, and your code could end up overengineered and wonky.
Instead, I encourage you to start with the basic building blocks of code, and design a few applications without using any design patterns, and that can serve as a foundation for more advanced functions, such as design patterns, later on. After you’ve mastered the basics of coding, and experienced a handful of difficult development situations, you’ll be ready to go back and learn about design patterns, and use them to solve tricky and difficult problems or situations in the code you develop.
Also, I recommend you learn more about design principles before getting into design patterns since those principles guide the design patterns. Design patterns will make much more sense once you’ve got a handle on the underlying design principles. To learn more about design principles, you can also check out the book Clean Code by Robert Martin, a fantastic resource for any budding code writer.
What Are Design Patterns?
Once you’re comfortable with the basics of coding and design principles, it’s time for the third step: understanding design patterns! True to their name, design patterns are coding patterns that can help you fix tricky situations you’ll find yourself in while coding, but that’s just the start. Design patterns can also make your code more flexible and easier to read, and be more performant when you’re done writing it.
Suppose you wrote something, and it always takes 2-3 minutes to load. You might be able to use the Singleton pattern to only load something that is very time-consuming once, which will likely cut down on the page-load time. And that’s just one example. Design patterns use their patterns to fix practically any problem or mess you’ve got in your software, and certain design patterns can be prescribed for certain coding issues.
You can think of them as medicine for your code, such as a doctor prescribing either Advil, Tylenol, or Ibuprofin for your headache. Any three of those would work 90% of the time for your headache, and in the other 10%, you may need to try something else. It’s the same with design patterns; none of them is a guaranteed miracle fix for a coding issue, but they generally work, and a skilled developer can prescribe one for a development problem.
Which Design Patterns Should You Learn?
Make no bones about it: there are a lot of design patterns out there! I couldn’t possibly list them all. For now, though, we can narrow the field down to 23 particular design patterns that are best learned first, and they are widely used, too (and they’re well-regarded, too). They are described as the “gang of four” design patterns since they were designed by a quartet of people calling themselves the gang of four. They even wrote a book together on this topic titled Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software. You can check it out to get plenty of in-depth information.
These 23 design patterns are sorted into three categories: behavioral design patterns, creational design patterns, and structural design patterns. These include design patterns that you’ve probably heard of before, such as the Singleton pattern or the Observer pattern. Remarkably, these design patterns are almost 30 years old, but are still in use today, proving just how well-designed and universal in usage they are.
Later in my series, we will review all 23 of those design patterns and how to implement them in your own code. We will also go over some basic areas of object-oriented programming, just in case you’re not familiar with that topic, along with inheritance, encapsulation, and polymorphism.
That’s all for now. I hope that in the future, you’ll master all 23 design patterns and put them to work in your own development tasks and see for yourself just how handy they can really be! Until next time!
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Salesforce Development Books I Recommend
Advanced Apex Programming
Salesforce Lightning Platform Enterprise Architecture
Mastering Salesforce DevOps
Apex Design Patterns Book
Good Non-SF Specific Development Books:
Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software Book