Notification System Architecture

Observer Design Pattern in Notification Service for Building Scalable Applications with Loose Coupling

Sanjeev Kumar
February 17, 2024
Discover the Observer Design Pattern: Build scalable applications with loose coupling. Learn key principles, best practices, and see a Java implementation. Ideal for software engineers seeking efficient event handling solutions.

Real-world scenarios frequently involve multi-directional data flow between numerous entities. Ensuring timely synchronization amidst ever-changing states becomes paramount for maintaining accurate representations and avoiding stale information. Fortunately, the Observer Design Pattern offers a well-established strategy for addressing these concerns, enabling loose coupling while preserving responsiveness. This pattern is particularly useful in scenarios where a notification service is required to propagate changes across different components of an application seamlessly.

Definition and Key Participants

At its core, the Observer Design Pattern establishes a one-to-many dependency between objects called subjects and observers, allowing automated notifications to cascade downstream whenever upstream entities experience alterations in their internal condition. Specifically, it includes the following players:

  • Subject: An entity susceptible to modification, acting as a broadcaster for affiliated observers. Typical tasks entail tracking subscriptions, dispatching status updates, and safeguarding against redundant messaging.
  • Concrete Subject: A specialized rendition of the abstract subject role, typically embedding domain-specific functionality governing state evolution.
  • Observer: A listener awaiting signals from subjects concerning shifts in their underlying essence. Once alerted, observers react appropriately by executing tailored processing steps.
  • Concrete Observer: Instances derived from generic observer templates, usually tasked with performing distinct actions contingent on received notifications.

Implementation Best Practices

Applying the Observer Design Pattern wisely necessitates adherence to certain guidelines conducive to optimal performance and maintainability:

Favor composition over inheritance

When crafting subject hierarchies, opt for aggregation instead of inheritable structures since the former fosters better separation of concerns and enhances overall composability.

Employ double-dispatch mechanics

Double-dispatch refers to a technique where methods invoke subsequent calls depending on runtime type information. Appropriately harnessing this mechanism ensures proper interaction between disparate components, thereby reducing tight coupling risks.

Limit direct connections amongst observers

To preserve modularity, discourage observers from interacting directly with each other. Instead, channel communications exclusively via intermediate subjects.

Use Cases

Commonplace utilizations span diverse sectors including finance, entertainment, healthcare, and transportation, manifesting themselves in varied forms:

  • Stock market ticker feeds distributing price fluctuations
  • Social media platforms pushing updates to follower accounts
  • Game engines coordinating multiplayer sessions
  • Healthcare monitors relaying vital signs to remote care providers
  • Navigation systems disclosing traffic incidents to affected drivers

Example Implementation in Java

For clarity, let's examine a straightforward Java-based exemplar involving weather data dissemination across several displays. First, introduce the required interfaces and supporting classes:

            public interface Subject {
               void registerObserver(Observer o);
               void removeObserver(Observer o);
               void notifyObservers();

            public interface Observer {
               void update(float temp);

            public abstract class Display implements Observer {
               protected String name;

               public Display(String n) {
                  name = n;

               public abstract void display();

            public class CurrentConditionDisplay extends Display {
               private float temperature;

               public CurrentConditionDisplay(String name) {

               public void display() {
                  System.out.printf("%s: %.1f\n", name, temperature);

               public void update(float temp) {
                  temperature = temp;

Now, implement the WeatherData class serving as the subject:

            import java.util.ArrayList;
            import java.util.List;

            public class WeatherData implements Subject {
               private List observers;
               private float temperature;

               public WeatherData() {
                  observers = new ArrayList<>();

               public void registerObserver(Observer o) {

               public void removeObserver(Observer o) {
                  int index = observers.indexOf(o);
                  if (index >= 0) {

               public void notifyObservers() {
                  for (Observer observer : observers) {

               public void setMeasurements(float temperature) {
                  this.temperature = temperature;

Finally, configure and test drive the arrangement within a dedicated Main.

Written by:
Sanjeev Kumar
Engineering, SuprSend

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