UCU: better than MVC

I propose a replacement for the MVC (Model-View-Controller) model for software design. The problem with MVC is primarily that View and Controller both address the same concern: the user experience. After well over a decade, software developers now know better. My new model keeps the model, but all the words are changed to avoid confusion with MVC.

UCU: Utility — Connector — User Interface

  • A Utility provides a well-defined service. For example, accessing a file or storing a collection of items. It has a contract which defines what it does, and its correctness is measured against the contract. That contract is some combination of documentation, code (method signatures, interfaces, etc.), and a test suite.
  • A Connector is how components are discovered and constructed. Thus this category includes constructors, factory methods, and dependency injection. Connectors should be simple, since a program consists of a rat’s nest of interconnected components. Bad connections are hard to test, and even harder to debug, so the only recourse is to make them hard to be buggy. Constructors should do no extraneous work, except for checking for illegal arguments. When there’s an illegal connection, the program should fail immediately. For example, a constructor for a database utility which takes a database URL should check the syntax of the database URL, but it should not try to connect to the database. (If the database is inaccessible, that’s a problem with the database, not with the program trying to access it.)
  • The User Interface (UI) is the part of the program that relates to how the user perceives and interacts with the program. Its correctness is measured against the user’s experience. (Many practitioners prefer the term UX, User eXperience. In this case, because you can program an interface but not an experience, I am using UI to refer to the software.) Humans have different perspectives, and their expectations may change over time. As a result, UIs are developed using rapid prototyping techniques. Like a Broadway stage, the UI should be designed for frequent and rapid changes. UI components that get reused frequently are really utilities, thus classes tend to migrate from UI status to utility status.

For more reading, here are my earlier thoughts, before UCU gelled. And here’s a Google Tech Talk on writing clean, testable code which influenced UCU.