Pieces of a scalable iOS app architecture

An Example of a Scalable iOS Project, Part 2

The DemoApp-Project’s (DAP’s) Scenes explained

Sven Korset
Aug 16, 2019 · 10 min read

In my article “The perfect iOS app architecture”, I introduced my own architecture and explained the concept of Scenes. With Part 1 of “An example of a scalable iOS project”, I described the general project’s structure. You might wish to read that, before proceeding with the details of how Scenes are implemented. 🧐

The DemoApp Project (DAP) exists only to present certain aspects and concrete solutions to common problems. In my opinion, it is more understandable if the code is as condensed as possible, reduced only to the problems and their solutions with as little boilerplate code as possible.

Tutorials that end up with a “useful” app will swell up the code and make it harder to find the specific “A-ha moments. That’s why I tried to compress those moments and reduce the overhead in the DAP. I hope I succeeded. 😅


Scene0

First, when you start the app, you get to Scene0. This is just a splash screen with a corresponding label.

Scene0

Scene0 is the simplest scene and shows the structural composition of a scene, including Dependency Injection. Start by investigating this scene to get a good overview of the architectural structure.

In Scene0, it is shown how best to update any InternalSettings at app start. For new app versions, it often happens that something changes internally, which then has to be updated, e.g. a database or Core Data schema or some internal settings.

The Logic not only has to manage the update in the background but also initiate a fade animation in the View via the Presenter and to time it off before automatically going to Scene1. This timing can be tricky, and a possible solution is presented here.

Let’s dive into code! 🤠

First, the business logic gets triggered by the viewDidAppear in the Scene0VC.

Scene0VC.swift

The Logic is responsible for calling the updateSettings method, ensuring that the splash screen’s minimum display time is met and the current scene then disappears with the initiation of the Scene1 navigation.

Scene0Logic.swift

For the timing, a DispatchGroup is used, but, of course, there are also other possibilities for solving this.

More interesting might be lines 18 and 29 where testFlags come into play. These flags come from the Config.plist file, and the noSplash entry shows how to change the logic for testing purposes, e.g. when running UI tests, you normally don’t want to wait many seconds for the splash screen to disappear. So, simply run your UI tests with such a config to save some time.

The Presenter is implemented straight forward. Simply hides the splash and informs the Logic when completed. So the Logic only starts the hiding process, but the process itself is managed by the Presenter.

Scene0Presenter.swift

The Navigator is also simple. It creates the NavigationController and the next Scene1 and presents them. However, creating the Scene1VC is done by the Factory, which is accessed via the dependencies.

Scene0Navigator.swift

That’s all for this specific use case. 😊

The Interactor does nothing because this scene doesn’t need to map any user interactions to business logic use cases.

The View is very simple with only a single titleLabel to set up and center on the screen. However, it’s worth mentioning that the label is created programmatically, as are the constraints. For easy constraint creation, the 3rd-party library “Anchorage” is used. It’s a neat little library I can highly recommend.

Scene0View.swift

The reasons why the programmatic approach is better can be read in my article “Decoupling Display and Logic in iOS”. However, in this example, you can already see that a let can be used for the titleLabel instead of a typical Outlet var which leads to a more correct interface. The label styling and setup can be done in one place and in addition with constants. By the way, as you can see you can review the whole view because it’s simple Swift and not cryptic XML. 😉

The scene is set up in the ViewController. So, let’s have a closer look at Scene0VC.

Scene0VC.swift

The VC’s init method in line 14 requires the dependencies being injected. Classical dependency injection. 😄

The first parameter is a SetupModel.Scene0, which is a scene-specific parameter. In this case, it’s an empty struct, but other scenes (like Scene2) might expect some values for being able to operate properly.

The second parameter is an Act1DCInterface. This is a dependency container holding references to all dependencies, like the InternalSettings or the Factory used later by the Navigator.

The Navigator instance is created in the init method. Again, any dependencies are injected right away.

The same is true for the Logic, but this time with an own dependency container wrapping the other scene components up.

After the VC’s call to super.init(), the other components can receive a reference to the ViewController. This is done via property injection.

When the View then gets loaded via loadView in line 30, the Scene0View gets created and assigned. The presenter also gets a reference to the view, and the Interactor is created.

That’s all the magic behind the scene. The other scenes work similarly. Do you already see the pattern? 😁


Scene1

The majority of apps use TableViews or CollectionViews and send any server requests. That’s why this should be shown in Scene1 as an example.

Scene1

Here the user can search for specific words and receive suggestions via Google’s autocompletion feature.

If the user presses on the blue plus icon, the suggestion is taken over into the text field, which triggers a new search. On the other hand, if the user selects an entry, the app will navigate to Scene2.

The server requests are executed by a corresponding ServerWorker, which is located in an embedded framework and injected as a dependency.

In this scene, the interaction between Display and Logic via Interactor and Presenter is shown, as well as the transition via the Navigator and the communication with Workers. So, this actually shows a complete scene as a whole.

The VC, Navigator and View are self-explanatory. There is not much difference compared to Scene0. Yeah, a TableView is created in the View and its TableController in the VC, but that’s really simple stuff. 😪

Scene1VC.swift

The Logic has some more use cases. Therefore, there are more methods available to call, but that’s also nothing special. LogicState may be interesting.

Scene1LogicState.swift

It’s a simple struct that holds some values and thus the state for the scene’s Logic. It is initialized during Scene1Logic’s init and the use cases then read and manipulate these values.

The Logic itself doesn’t need to have any further properties for holding state logic. It can be done in this struct. In addition, you could quickly persist the logic’s state by simply serializing the struct if needed. Data and logic are now more separated.

The Presenter again does little more than show data on the view.

Scene1Presenter.swift

In the first case of the suggestionList(suggestions:) method, the tableController needs to be told to update its view. A TableController, therefore, works as a Presenter. It is responsible for updating its view, a TableView in this case. On the other hand, the TableController also works as an Interactor because it maps user actions to the Logic’s methods. However, its responsibility is clear: taking care of the TableView and nothing else.

Let’s get back to the Presenter, which presents an alert in the serverError method. You can read why it’s okay to do it here in “Decoupling Display and Logic in iOS”.

The last method, searchText, is also self-explanatory. Just update that input field’s text.

Now to the Interactor! 🤠

Scene1Interactor.swift

Yikes, Rx! 😱

Yes, RxSwift and RxCocoa are used here. You can, of course, write your own bindings, like registering for actions and then calling the appropriate logic method. However, Rx makes it simpler and gives you more power. At least most of the time. You know, power and responsibility and so forth. 😅

I don’t want to go into any Rx details. I’m not a Rx pro. I think the code is commented well enough to understand what each call does.

In essence, the first block maps any text changes in the search input field to the logic’s searchForText method and the second block maps any tableView scroll events to the logic’s dismissKeyboard instruction. I bet you can guess what these logic methods do. 😊

Well, that’s all for this scene. Feel free to investigate further into the TableController’s code and how to set up the cells.


Scene2

Scene2 is a typical detail view with some extras.

Scene2

If the user has selected an entry in Scene1, then this should be passed to Scene2. Passing parameters to scenes is usually fairly common.

How to pass values back to the previous Scene1 is also shown with Scene2. Here the number of device rotations across all Scene2 instances is summed up. The number is thus always passed to Scene2, modified and later returned back to Scene1.

A usual transition can be done via the Back button in the NavigationBar but also manually with the Reset button in the View.

The switch is there to prevent the view to rotate when turning the device. And then there is an embedded view from a child controller. That’s the yellow area.

To have a better understanding it’s best to examine the individual aspects directly in the code. 🧐

Let’s start with the VC.

The setup is the same as in the other scenes. For specific UIKit events, the VC has to report them to the Logic, for example, to inform the Logic via the displayRotated method when viewWillTransition(to:, with:) has been called on the VC.

Scene2VC.swift

The same goes for the viewWillDisappear, where the Logic should update the parent scene because the scene is about to move back to the previous.

The computed property shouldAutorotate, on the other hand, needs a state to be returned. The VC should not hold any states. That’s the responsibility of the Logic. However, the VC should also not call a method on the Logic only to get a value back and to propagate it here. Therefore, the VC can access the Logic’s state struct directly, which is defined as:

private(set) var state = Scene2Model.LogicState()

That’s not ideal, but it’s simpler than querying all values via methods and it’s not really an issue because the state property is read-only and not part of the Logic’s interface. So, no other component can access it but the VC because it holds a reference to the Logic itself, not to the LogicInterface. 😬

Speaking of the Logic, it again only manipulates some state values and calls some Presenter and Navigator methods. One method to look closer at is the updateParentScene, which, well, updates the parent scene with data.

Scene2Logic.swift

This is how to pass values back to the previous scene. The Logic doesn’t know anything about the previous scene. All it knows is that it has to call a callback method with some Scene2Result values.

The callback method comes from the setupModel, which is a struct of the type Scene2. So what does this look like?

Scene2Setup.swift

The struct provides values that are needed by Scene2. The headline and numberOfRotations are values to pass and present by this scene. However, there is also the callback property, which points to a closure that is then called for passing values of the type Scene2Result back.

Scene2Result is a simple struct that only holds the numberOfRotations to deliver back, but could also be more complex. So, one of the parameters for initializing Scene2 is a closure for returning values back to the previous scene, whichever that is.

This is then prepared in Scene1Logic.

Scene1Logic.swift

Here the Logic of Scene1 passes the values and the callback closure to Scene2. The closure then updates only the Logic’s state, but that’s essentially how to pass any values back and forth. 😄

Last but not least, let’s look at the embedded view controller.

Scene2Presenter.swift

This is an excerpt of the updateView(model:) method in the Scene2Presenter. When there is no child controller already added, a new UIViewController is created and added as a child to the scene’s ViewController, and its view gets embedded into the scene’s View.

Scene2View.swift

The Scene2View is responsible for manipulating the view hierarchy. That’s why this addEmbeddedView method is in the view. It only adds the subview and anchors it.

But, wait a minute, why is the Presenter creating the UIViewController and not the Factory? 🤨

Good point! I have already explained the reason for this in my article “Decoupling Display and Logic in iOS”. Of course you’re free to use the Factory to create this dependency. That would certainly be cleaner.

However, the Presenter will not be unit tested but UI tested. It will not be tested detached from the other components. You will not need to mock this UIViewController dependency. The same goes for any formatter the Presenter might need or any other dependencies. You will rarely inject anything different from these exact instances. Why then inject at all? Only for the sake of injecting? 🤔

Like everything, it’s a trade-off. Does the benefit justify the work? Sure, we want clean code, but we also want maintainable code, and less code means less to maintain.

In this particular case, I think we don’t need to inflate the Factory and can put these dependencies directly into the Presenter. However, that has always to be weighed up depending on the situation, and I might change my mind in the future.

So, don’t take it as an undeniable dogma.

Don’t take anything as undeniable. Time can change everything, even dogmas and best practices!

With that, everything is said. 😄


Conclusion

The DAP should represent common apps in a compressed form.

Maybe that does not look like much, but according to the Pareto principle, 20% of effort is enough to solve 80% of problems. These are, in my opinion, the most common problems a typical app faces and should cover the said 80%.

However, that’s of course only the bare bone. The rest will then be your creative task as a developer. 😁

Btw, this is only one of many articles from the “Pieces of a scalable iOS app architecture” series. Maybe you want to read more of my undeniable wisdom? 😂

Better Programming

Advice for programmers.

Thanks to Irena Huseinovic

Sven Korset

Written by

Just a guy with some thoughts 😊

Better Programming

Advice for programmers.

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