Plain Controllers to Ease the Burden of View Controllers

I like to see that Soroush and I think among the same lines. For one, that makes me feel less like a loony. And since he writes a lot more in recent months, it means my sloppy blogging schedule does not affect spreading ancient wisdom. In February, Soroush blogged about writing "Just Controllers": service objects, usually reference types, that you use to orchestrate processes and offer a simpler API. Requiring a delegate to be plugged-in is one way to design a simpler API: the delegate procotol defines all the output events from the service object, or controller. That's all there is going to happen as far as outside code is concerned. But on its inside, the controller can do the fanciest of things to accomplish its goal. These implementation details are hidden from code that uses these service objects. It's object-oriented programming 101 all over again – encapsulation, information hiding, stuff like that. But, and this is a big But, the go-to massive view controllers in iOS apps are a symptom of not encapsulating properly. Go and delineate a few more boundaries inside your app. As with raising children, boundaries help your code grow properly, too!

MVC on iOS Done Right

Jordan Morgan of Buffer wrote about MVC on iOS. The idea is simple. Don't mix view logic into the model; don't control all view minutiae from the controller; don't make intelligent views that fetch stuff from servers or similar.

His comparison of good VS bad execution of these principles is worth the read!

iOS View Architectures and VIPER Explained

There's an excellent overview of MVC, MVP, MVVM, and VIPER in iOS with sample codes by Bohdan Orlov of Badoo I recommend you read.

There are two main takeaways:

  1. One of the commenters nailed it: any MV* variant focuses on architecting view components. Only VIPER takes the application as a whole into account. MVC by itself is an architectural pattern, but not an approach to app architecture in itself.
  2. A UIViewController belongs into the user interface layer and is, in fact, a composite view itself. That's confusing at first because of the name. This insight will liberate you from thinking that a view controller is sufficient to glue data to UIKit components. There's room for a whole application between these two.

The VIPER example is exceptionally good. It takes VIPER's heritage of Clean Architecture and Hexagonal into account and defines the Interactor through an output port. In that way Bohdan's sample code is more east-oriented and cleaner than what you'd usually find on the topic:


protocol GreetingProvider {
    func provideGreetingData()

protocol GreetingOutput: class {
    func receiveGreetingData(greetingData: GreetingData)

class GreetingInteractor : GreetingProvider {
    weak var output: GreetingOutput!

    func provideGreetingData() {
        let person = Person(firstName: "David", lastName: "Blaine") // usually comes from data access layer
        let subject = person.firstName + " " + person.lastName
        let greeting = GreetingData(greeting: "Hello", subject: subject)

Usually, you'd model provideGreetingData() as a function that returns the data to the caller. This will cause trouble in async processes of course.

You see in the full example that the amount of types seem to explode. Don't be afraid of that as long as you can assign each type a specific responsibility. Then it won't turn into the mess everyone seems to be afraid of.

Having used VIPER in apps myself, I see a problem with the names, though. XYZInteractor and XYZPresenter aren't much better than XYZController in terms of expressiveness. On top of that, a concrete Presenter is always modelled to act as event handler, too. Don't let this fool you into thinking you absolutely have to do this yourself – there's always room to separate writing from reading operations, or event handling from view population.