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MVVM in BackboneJS using Backbone.Stickit

I have been looking into various design patterns and trying to architect client side applications using it. More often than not the MVC pattern fits the requirement in most of the applications. However, I have found myself using MVVM (Model View - View Model) pattern along with MVC. I use MVVM pattern particularly when I have to maintain the state of the model on the client side. AngularJS provides great support by allowing you to extend the markup and tying the model right within the view (the markup). It also provides components that can be used to structure the application the MVC way and hence it's appropriately termed as MVW or MV* framework. However, I use BackboneJS in most of my applications and I have been able to maintain the state of the model using the Backbone.Stickit plugin.

When working with Backbone applications, the View's sole responsibility would be to render the model data and also re-render the parts of the view when the state of the model changes. The View listens to the model changes and executes a callback function when the state of the model has changed:


Here in the Backbone View's initialize method, the View is listening to the change in one the model's attribute and it executes the 'updateView' method whenever the 'modelAttribute' is updated. The 'updateView' function then refers to one of the nodes in the View and updates it with the value in 'modelAttribute'. This pattern can be repeated for various attributes in the model and the view can have several functions whose only responsibility is to update a DOM node in the View.

Similarly, when the user inputs data in form elements the same should be reflected in the model. To do that the View will have to declare event handlers:

This has to be repeated for other View elements and developer will be required to write boilerplate code. An alternative to this is to use a Backbone plugin called 'Stickit'. Backbone.Stickit abstracts the above functionality and provides a more cleaner way to bind the View's elements to the model's attributes. In a Backbone View you can define the binding between the model's attributes with the elements in the markup using the 'bindings' object:

Here in the bindings object, the keys are the View elements and the attributes in the model are specified as values. For example, the view element '.js-full-name' is bound to the model attribute 'fullName'. The bindings object provides a two way binding between the View elements and Model attributes. This means that whenever the user inputs some value in the form elements the Model attributes are updated and whenever the Model attribute is updated by some part of the application or by a service call the View elements are updated.

Once the View has compiled the client-side template and rendered it, the View elements should be bound to the Model's attributes. To do that invoke the stickit method on the view object (view.stickit()). I generally use the postRender method and invoke it after the render method has been executed. As the name suggests, the postRender method would execute a set of actions after rendering the template. In this case, call stickit on the view object - this.stickit(); where this refers to the current view.

The Stickit plugin provides several options to configure the bindings. I'll explain those in my next post.

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