Why is the study of patterns important?

John Moore

As initial software designs are implemented and deployed, programmers often discover improvements which make the designs more adaptable to change. Design patterns capture solutions that have evolved over time as developers strive for greater flexibility in their software, and they document the solutions in a way which facilitates their reuse in other, possibly unrelated systems. Design patterns allow us to reuse the knowledge of experienced software designers.

Moreover, the study of design patterns provides a common vocabulary for communication and documentation, and it provides a framework for evolution and improvement of existing patterns. As an analogy, consider that during a discussion among programmers, the words “stack” and “tree” can be used freely without explanation. Software developers understand fundamental data structures such as a “stack” because these data structures are well-documented in textbooks and are taught in computer science courses. The study of design patterns will have a similar (but more profound) effect by allowing designers to say “composite pattern” or “observer pattern” in a particular design context, without having to describe all classes, relationships, and collaborations which make up the pattern. Patterns raise the level of abstraction when discussing and documenting software designs.

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