Django Views — The Right Way

Welcome to my opinionated guide on how to write views in Django!

It is the result of mistakes made and lessons learned in a range of Django and Python projects over 15+ years.

It has also been prompted by the fact that “Class Based Views” (CBVs from now on) seem to have become the default way to teach and learn Django views in some circles, to the point that some are even scared to write “Function Based Views” (FBVs).

Perhaps worst of all, some official Django documentation has well-intentioned advise that will help to continue the torture of mixins, but without actually killing you and putting you out of your misery. (After a bit of “git blaming” it turns out that I’m credited in the commit log for that page. I hate it when that happens…)

So, in view of all this, here I am to save the day, and show you The Right Way :-)

The essential part of this guide is very short, because FBVs are very easy and simple. In fact, the Django tutorial for views already has all you need to know. Just read that, and skip the bits about CBVs, and you’ll be fine.

But if you want a different take on the same things, this guide might be for you. I’ve also added extra bits for common tasks and patterns in FBVs for which CBVs are often suggested as the solution. I have a few aims:

  • I want to show how simple and easy views can be.

  • I want you to be freed from learning a whole stack of additional APIs that were only making your life harder (and teaching you bad patterns).

  • Instead of learning a bunch of Django specific APIs, I want to cover much more transferable knowledge:

    • HTTP principles

    • General OOP/multi-paradigm programming principles

    • General Python techniques

And there are some other goodies along the way, like how to type-check all the URL parameters to your view functions.

Each page is composed of two parts, which have two different audiences.

First, the business — the what and how: a short, definitive guide to The Right Way. As a less experienced developer, either in general or in terms of knowledge of Django, this part is all you need. Since this guide is not intended to be reference documentation, I’ll include various links to the official Django reference docs. All example code can be found in full in the GitHub repo.

Second, discussion — the why: a longer, in-depth explanation of why everyone else who tells you differently is wrong :-). It’s targeted at slightly more experienced developers, and especially those who are responsible for teaching other people, or making decisions about the patterns used in a code base. These discussion sections are really about general programming principles, and how they apply in Python and Django.

So let’s go!

Contents:

Something missing? This guide is a work in progress, and no matter how much I add it probably always will be! If you have requests for things to include, you could file an issue on GitHub.

Caveats and disclaimers etc.

  1. Yes, there may in fact be more than one Right Way. But not in this guide!

  2. I’m assuming you are writing a ‘classic’ web app or web site — in which most of your pages are server-side rendered HTML, with perhaps some Javascript loaded onto those pages, as opposed to a site where your server mostly sends data (e.g. JSON) to a client-side Javascript web app that puts the pages together.

  3. My comments mainly apply to the CBVs that come with Django. Specifically, many of my criticisms don’t apply to Django Rest Framework, the Django admin (which uses a form of CBV), and possibly other implementations. See later discussion on this.

  4. Although I’m a Django core dev, I’m not speaking for all the Django developers. I was actually around when CBVs were first being added to Django, and even involved in the design of them a bit, and at the time didn’t see the things I’m expressing now. So please understand my criticisms as a form of “learning process debate”, rather than as attacks!

Indices and tables