Applications these days have more options than ever for a user interface, and it’s only going to grow. A successful product might require native applications for mobile devices, a regular web implementation, or even a gaming console. These systems often will be centralized and data driven.
The solution is one that’s fairly solitary, a service layer! Simply put, take what’s shared and put it behind a physical or abstract layer that defines the boundary between the specific user interface and the shared content.
I know, I know, none of this is complicated. But some times it can be difficult to discern what belongs on which side of the line. For instance, say we’re creating a service that will provide content for both an ASP.NET MVC application and a WP7 application. Although the content served to each application is the same, there are different paradigms and patterns for displaying that data in the different environments. In ASP.NET MVC, you may create a model specific to a page that combines necessary information. In the WP7 application you might require different sets of data that you will connect via MVVM with the view.
The general rule of thumb is that any shared content, business rules, or data should exist separately. Any element that is specific to the current UI implementation should be included in a separate library or with the UI implementation itself. The WP7 application doesn’t need my MVC specific model classes. My MVC application doesn’t require those INotifyPropertyChanged viewmodels that the WP7 application depends on. In both cases, there should be additional processing done above the service layer to massage the data to the application’s specific needs.
Service-ocalypse: the text based adventure
What helps me the most about deciding whether or not something belongs coupled to the UI implementation or in the shared implementation is thinking of the simplest implementation you could have: a console application. You might have played a game like Peasant’s Quest:
The console app is the text based adventure game version of your application. If you’re service was consumed in its simplest form, you would simply have a console based API for it that issues requests. Maybe those requests aren’t SWIM TO BOAT, but they might be CREATE USER JOHN. If I issue a request, I expect that request to be issued to the service. If the service has any exceptions or issues with my input, that business logic should be encapsulated in that service, not implemented in the UI. The service layer should be your functional application in its entirety, and anything above that layer should only assist with the display of that information.