Understanding Behavioral Patterns in Software Design


3 min read

In software engineering, design patterns provide standardized solutions to common problems encountered during software development. Behavioral patterns, a category within design patterns, focus on efficient communication and the assignment of responsibilities between objects, enhancing flexibility in carrying out communication.

This article explores several key behavioral patterns, detailing their implementations, examples, pros, and cons.

1. Observer Pattern

Description: The Observer pattern is used when a change in one object (the subject) must be automatically reflected in others (the observers). It is commonly used in implementing distributed event-handling systems, like the Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture.

Example: In a weather monitoring application, the WeatherStation (subject) gathers weather data and notifies DisplayPanel objects (observers) to update the weather display.


  • Loose Coupling: The subject doesn't need to know anything about the observers, reducing dependency.

  • Dynamic Relationships: You can add or remove observers without modifying the subject.


  • Unexpected Updates: Changes in the subject may trigger a chain of updates across observers, which can be hard to track and manage.

  • Memory Leaks: Not properly detaching observers can lead to memory leaks.

2. Strategy Pattern

Description: This pattern defines a family of algorithms, encapsulates each one, and makes them interchangeable. Strategy lets the algorithm vary independently from clients that use it.

Example: A sorting application can use different sorting algorithms (QuickSort, MergeSort, BubbleSort) interchangeably depending on the dataset size.


  • Flexibility: Easily switch between different algorithms under different conditions.

  • Separation of Concerns: Decouples the data and algorithm by separating the algorithm into different classes.


  • Increased Number of Objects: Every strategy needs to be implemented as an object.

  • Complexity: The application complexity can increase as new strategies are added.

3. State Pattern

Description: The State pattern allows an object to alter its behavior when its internal state changes. The object will appear to change its class.

Example: An online order can be in different states (New, Shipped, Delivered, Cancelled) with state-specific behaviors.


  • State-specific Behavior: Organizes state-specific code into distinct classes.

  • Simplifies Code: Reduces conditional complexity by avoiding numerous if-else or switch-case statements.


  • Boilerplate Code: Can lead to a proliferation of classes since each state is represented by a separate class.

  • Maintenance: Adding new states can require changes to existing state classes and their transitions.

4. Command Pattern

Description: The Command pattern turns a request into a stand-alone object that contains all information about the request. This transformation allows parameterizing methods with different requests, delay or queue a request's execution, and support undoable operations.

Example: A remote control system where each button can be programmed to perform different actions (light on/off, open/close garage door).


  • Flexibility: Decouples the object that invokes the operation from the one that knows how to perform it.

  • Extensibility: New commands can be added without changing existing code.


  • Complexity: Can complicate the code if not well managed or if many commands are involved.

  • Overhead: Each command is a fully fledged object, which can be an overhead if very simple operations are encapsulated in commands.

5. Mediator Pattern

Description: This pattern provides a mediator class which normally handles all the communications between different classes and supports easy maintenance of the code by keeping the communicating objects from referring to each other explicitly.

Example: A chat application where the ChatRoom (mediator) facilitates communication between User objects.


  • Reduced Complexity: Centralizes complex communications and control logic between objects in one location.

  • Decoupled Components: Helps reduce direct communications between various components, making them loosely coupled.


  • God Object Risk: The mediator can become overly complex, turning into a "god object".

  • Performance Issues: A central mediator handling all communications can become a bottleneck if not managed correctly.


Behavioral patterns play a crucial role in managing interactions between objects in a scalable and maintainable way. By understanding these patterns and their trade-offs, developers can choose the most appropriate one to address specific design problems in their projects, leading to cleaner, more efficient software architecture.