Sitecore Helix modular & three-tier architecture patterns - why not both?

I have discussed the Helix design patterns before and I really love their modular approach to code architecture however whilst trying to discuss this with some colleagues and working out the cleanest way to work with Helix and a Multi-site Sitecore solution it occurred to me that if you are familiar with the "Enterprisey" Three-tier design architecture principles, well the same principles can be applied to your Helix development at a modular level.

Let's take a look at a super simple example..

Let's say your website has a Feature layer project for "Navigation". In a multisite scenario, you'll likely find that the Navigation data templates will be pretty standard and common across all sites for things like:
- Show in Navigation
- Show Child Items
- Menu Text
etc etc.

You'll also find that the way in which you obtain the navigation items is going to be the same (albeit from a different parent item for each site).

What you will find is different is that you will have a different look and feel for your navigations on each site. This generally takes the form of different Views and potentially some Controller differences.

There are undoubtedly a whole host of ways to manage this kind of thing however something I've found that works quite well (and feels nice and familiar) is to structure your Module's code using a similar pattern to the old three-tier architecture.

What does that look like? Let's take a look..

In your typical three-tier architected solution you would generally see your code structured something like this:

Presentation Layer - website code lives here with your Layouts/Sublayouts/JS/CSS etc
Business Layer - self explanatory
Data or Service Layer - also should be self explanatory

Now lets translate that to our Navigation Feature:

/Views ~ Presentation Layer
/Controllers ~ Business Layer
/Service ~ Data/Service

It's nothing overly groundbreaking but it is a nice way to work. Service layer is always responsible for getting the data and wrapping it up in a generic/common way so that it can be called from multiple controller actions.

Each controller action should therefore be quite small and focus with ONLY logic which is specific to a given website's needs. Ideally if there is only differences in the way the feature looks, then we can simply have the controller passing data to the relevant View.

The Views should hopefully be self explanatory.

Describing it in this way is actually a useful tool for helping people who aren't as familiar with Helix to feel more at home.

About Dave Goosem

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