I am developing web apps using the Model-View-ViewModel approach with Knockout.js. After reading on the original introduction of MVVM by John Gossman, I realized that my ViewModel always contains ALL the app's logic, not only UI logic, but everything.

I've read somewhere that with Knockout, the model is considered the database or generally the data on the server. But according to MVC, the model also contains functions which do some processing with that data and are not UI-related.

So I wondered if it would be reasonable to have a separate Model object independent from the ViewModel object? The idea behind this would be that the ViewModel would contain UI logic only (as intended by Gossman) and the Model would contain business logic only (as in MVC), which has nothing to do with the actual View. Example:

var viewModel = {
    hint: ko.observable("Idle"), //text visible in the View
    buttonClicked: function () {
        this.hint("doing stuff");

var model = {
    doStuff: function () {
        //business logic, UI independent

Is there a recommendation or "best practice" which can be derived from the MVVM pattern definition?

  • Does really noone have an opinion on that?
    – jaySon
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 7:55
  • This site is for open-ended opinionated theoretical questions. For more practical questions, involving specific technologies stackoverflow.com is a better bet.
    – Den
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 8:07
  • 1
    I do have an opinion, but my opinion might be different than someone else's, which, in my opinion (the irony), makes this question primarily opinion-based.
    – Andy
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 8:26
  • 1
    Well, I was asking for opinions, because there was no reaction at all on this matter. What I'm actually looking for is a recommendation or "best practice" which derives from the definition of the MVVM pattern. If such is opinion-based then the usage of patterns themselves is opinion-based, because I don't see a clear line between when to take MVC and when to take MVVM.
    – jaySon
    Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 9:36
  • 5
    @Den: The idea that Programmers is the site that you go to with your subjective questions might have been true, say... four years ago? It's certainly not true today. You might want to check out the dialog taking place on our Meta site; it's fairly likely now that the site name is going to change, though the scope isn't... much. Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 1:48

1 Answer 1


Are you over-architecting your app?

MVVM is a great way for organizing logic for an application that would otherwise become too complicated. But sometimes it can be overkill.

You mention you end up having all the model logic in the ViewModel, and that doesn't seem to be giving you any problems. If there's no practical reason you need to separate your View and ViewModel, then maybe classic MVC would be sufficient for your app.

Using MVVM Anyway

If you want to tackle MVVM now, what you've got so far is a fine place to start. It's actually similar to what happens on my team: the VM gets done first (along with the View and some dummy data). Then once the back end (the database and API) is done, we migrate the business logic from the ViewModel to the Model.

The article you read that said the model "is" the database simplifies the matter a little too much. The model would be the place, for example, to have functions to calculate local taxes.

The Model should contain all the logic you would need if you were going to present the information in a separate view - for instance, if you were going to write a dedicated mobile site, you might reuse the Model but rewrite the ViewModel.

My suggestion is you try separating the Model and ViewModel a few times, and see if you start to see benefits from doing so. It might be premature optimization, but you probably don't know until you try.

Signs you might need a ViewModel

Here are a few signs it may be time for a ViewModel:

  • There's complex logic (e.g., conditions) in your View, or big blocks of "non-inline" code.
  • You are collecting functions in your model that are only useful in certain contexts (this page but not that page)
  • Your controller is getting cluttered with code that doesn't seem like a fit for either your view or model
  • "Are you over-architecting your app?" First thing that came to mind when I read the question. I agree, if it gets unruly, perhaps a separate model will help, if you can keep track of things without it, KISS
    – jleach
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 1:46
  • Best way to keep your design flexible is to flex it and see what happens. Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 11:02

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