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Posted 28 Mar 2006

Designing an Object Model Layer

, 28 Mar 2006
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The Object Model is a must layer in every application. This article explains how to implement an OM for your application.


Every major application contains an object model. You can take, for example, the Office object model or the SharePoint object model. When developing an application, there are always some classes, interfaces, enumerations etc., that are spread all over the code. There are always some more classes to add or interfaces to implement. If those types are not located in a centered location, it is very hard to find them, maintain them, and use them. It is important to try to get these types into a known location. I will start by an example.

As a team leader, I had to assign some tasks to my developers. Each one provided me a class diagram. After reviewing and approving those, they continued to the development stage. That’s all fine, but what happens when a developer needs to use a class definition that another developer created? Or, implement an interface? If it is in the same assembly, he will add a using statement for reaching the object declaration, for example:

using EnterpriseServices.Framework.Services;

If it is not in the same assembly, he is really out of luck. He can add a reference to the assembly:

Sample Image

However, the right thing to do is to refactor the code and relocate the object declaration. In this article, I will discuss about my view on how to handle the above mentioned situations by creating an appropriate OM (object model).

Starting with an example

I will try to keep this example as simple as possible. Suppose there are two developers, and let’s give them names A and B (nice names). Say, they both had been given an assignment. A has to create a class User that contains the first name and last name, and B has to create a CodeProjectUser that contains the first name, last name, user name, and password. For the purpose of augmenting, let's say that the developers did not know about each other’s assignment. So here is what A did:

Sample Image

He creates an IUser interface:

public interface IUser
    string FirstName

    string LastName

He then creates a User class that implement IUser:

public class User : IUser
    string _fname;
    string _lname;

    public User()

    public User(string firstName, string lastName)
        _fname = firstName;
        _lname = lastName;
    public string FirstName
        get { return _fname; }
        set { _fname = value; }

    public string LastName
        get { return _lname; }
        set { _lname = value; }

B being a good OOP programmer and who did not know about the work A did, designed something similar:

Sample Image

He creates a CodeProjectUser that extends the User class:

public class CodeProjectUser : User
    string _userName;
    string _password;

    public CodeProjectUser()
        : base()

    public CodeProjectUser(string firstName, string lastName)
        : base(firstName, lastName)

    public string UserName
        get { return _userName; }
        set { _userName = value; }

    public string Password
        get { return _password; }
        set { _password = value; }

In the next team meeting, A and B realize that they both created the same IUser interface and the User class. There are now two options they can choose from. They can argue who should keep their code, or they can both refactor it by placing the shared code into a shared location. This shared location is the Object Model.

Sample Image

The OM

What is an OM? In my point of view, the OM is a logical layer that contains definitions for common types. These common types can be used throughout the application or can be used by other applications. When thinking about object model design, we always need to think outside the box. In other words, we must consider a situation where the model needs to be extended. For example:

Sample Image

All extensions to the OM use the base as reference. Usually, the base object model is located in a deferent assembly than its extensions; however, this is not a requirement. So, say you have developed an application or a framework (core, shell, etc.), you must define a location where all the shared types must sit in. This is because you would like to reference those types from anywhere in the application. That means that the OM must sit in a “God DLL” to which every assembly can add a reference, but it can not have any reference to others. By doing that, you can ensure that there will be no circular dependency. If your application does not include an OM, it is my recommendation that you should define one.

What goes inside the OM

I will try to give you some basic understanding for deciding what should go inside an OM and what can be left out. First, you must remember that the OM is actually an API to an application. And thus, you will not want to add everything to this layer. The OM can contain classes, interfaces, enumerations, and other types. If the types need to be recognized in several assemblies, or they should be an API to other applications, it is a good chance that they belong in the OM. If the type should not be recognized through all the layers, you need to think about extending the object model as explained in the previous section.


The object model is a must layer in every application. Most of you probably have used it in some form; however, some of you have not realized the importance of this layer or its existence. I hope that by reading this article, you are now able to understand what stands behind the OM. Maybe from now on, when you design an application, you will keep in the back of your mind the need for a good object model layer.


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About the Author

Guy Kolbis
Web Developer
Israel Israel
Guy Kolbis is a system architect and technology consultent.
Instrested in c#,, design patterns and tennis.
B.S in computer sience.
7 years experience in .net.

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Comments and Discussions

GeneralActually Pin
Marc Clifton28-Mar-06 12:15
protectorMarc Clifton28-Mar-06 12:15 
GeneralRe: Actually Pin
yafan28-Mar-06 14:05
memberyafan28-Mar-06 14:05 
GeneralRe: Actually Pin
Marc Clifton28-Mar-06 15:22
protectorMarc Clifton28-Mar-06 15:22 
yafan wrote:
I was under the impression that something is either an abstraction or it is not. I didn't realize there was another form of abstraction.

There are different levels of abstraction. Marc -> male -> human -> life form.

A "message" is very abstract but easily described. What I've found is that, when an object model attempts to model concrete entities, it becomes rigid and inflexible to change, because concrete entities tend to change over time. A model of horse drawn buggies would have a difficult time in today's world of jets, shuttlecraft, and turbocharged cars. But an abstraction, like "vehicle", would be more flexible.

However, since most programmers are taught that OOD means that you start with vehicle and derive your specialized classes, the resulting application ends up being rigid. This is where I think OOD fails. It works great when you stay within the realm of the abstract, and it starts to box you into a corner when you use it to specialize into the concrete.


Functional Entanglement vs. Code Entanglement
Static Classes Make For Rigid Architectures

Some people believe what the bible says. Literally. At least [with Wikipedia] you have the chance to correct the wiki -- Jörgen Sigvardsson
GeneralRe: Actually Pin
Patrick Sears3-Apr-06 8:15
memberPatrick Sears3-Apr-06 8:15 
GeneralRe: Actually Pin
kolbis29-Mar-06 22:58
memberkolbis29-Mar-06 22:58 

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