This Django is Chained: The Case Against Clean Architecture in Django/DRF Projects

This Django is Chained: The Case Against Clean Architecture in Django/DRF Projects


Clean Architecture is a respected design pattern used by many seasoned developers to organize complex projects into clear, distinct layers. Each layer serves a specific function, which can greatly enhance project structure and maintainability in certain contexts. However, it also introduces complexity that may not always be necessary, especially in more straightforward applications.

In contrast, Django, a popular Python framework for building websites, champions a simpler, more integrated approach guided by the "Zen of Python" — a set of principles formulated by Tim Peters that emphasize readability and simplicity. One key tenet from this set, "Simple is better than complex," aligns closely with Django's philosophy.

Throughout this post, we'll explore scenarios where Django's straightforward methodology provides all the functionality needed without the additional layers proposed by Clean Architecture. While Clean Architecture has its merits, particularly in complex systems, Django's design is intended to streamline development and make the process more accessible and efficient. We will delve into how Django’s built-in tools often suffice for many web projects, making it a practical choice for developers who value simplicity and speed. Let’s explore the strengths of keeping things simple with Django.

1. Contrasting Philosophies

let's look at how the ideas behind Clean Architecture clash with the simple and clear principles of the "Zen of Python."

Complexity vs. Simplicity

The "Zen of Python" tells us that "Simple is better than complex." This means that when we write our code, it's better to keep it easy to understand and manage. However, Clean Architecture does the opposite by breaking the project into many different layers. Each layer has its role, which might sound organized, but it actually makes things more complex than necessary. For example, in a Django project, we could usually write a feature with fewer steps and less confusion if we skip the extra layers that Clean Architecture suggests.

Explicit vs. Implicit

Another important idea from the "Zen of Python" is "Explicit is better than implicit." This means our code should clearly show what it does. Clean Architecture, with its many layers, often hides the details of how things work. This can make it hard to understand the code because you can't see directly what it is doing. In Django, it's usually better to have code that shows clearly and directly what happens, which helps anyone who reads or works with it.

By comparing these philosophies, we can see that Django's straightforward approach often makes more sense than adding the complexity of Clean Architecture. Keeping things simple and clear helps us maintain and develop projects more effectively.

2. The Pythonic Way: Embracing Django’s Strengths

In this part, we'll focus on how Django's features support a simpler and more straightforward way of coding, which is very much in line with Python's principles.

ORM and Model Managers

One of Python's key ideas is "Flat is better than nested." This means that having a simple, one-level structure is better than a complicated multi-level setup. Django’s Object-Relational Mapping (ORM) system follows this idea very well. It allows us to work with database information easily and clearly, without needing to set up many layers of code. Clean Architecture, on the other hand, often involves creating several nested layers to handle data, which can make the process slower and harder to manage. By keeping the structure flat, Django makes it much easier for us to see and control what our code does.

Built-in Functionalities

Another Python principle says, "If the implementation is easy to explain, it may be a good idea." Django lives up to this by providing built-in tools that are simple to use and explain. For example, Django's admin site lets us manage data in our database visually and straightforwardly, without complex setup. Similarly, Django's middleware and authentication systems are designed to be easy to add and understand. These features show how Django keeps things practical and user-friendly, avoiding unnecessary complications that could make the work harder.

By using Django's strengths, we can keep our projects clear and manageable, respecting Python's guidelines for simplicity and clarity. This approach not only makes our code better but also makes our life as developers easier.

3. The Burden of Overengineering

Overengineering means making a project more complicated than it needs to be, which can lead to several problems. Let’s look at how using Clean Architecture in Django projects can create extra challenges.

Setup and Maintenance Challenges

The "Zen of Python" tells us, "Complex is better than complicated." This means we should aim for solutions that might be a bit sophisticated but still straightforward rather than solutions that are just unnecessarily confusing. Setting up Clean Architecture in Django often leads to this unnecessary confusion. It requires us to create many separate layers and components, which can be hard to set up and keep running smoothly. This setup doesn’t just make the initial development slower but also makes future changes and maintenance harder because there are more pieces to update and more potential for mistakes.

Performance and Scalability Issues

Python’s philosophy also includes "In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess." This is about avoiding uncertain situations where you might not know the best course of action. Clean Architecture, with its multiple abstraction layers, can introduce uncertainty about where performance issues might occur. Because the system is divided into many layers, it’s not always clear which layer is causing a slowdown or problem, making it hard to optimize and scale the system efficiently. This guessing game can lead to poor performance and scalability, which are critical aspects of any web application.

By avoiding overcomplicated designs like those often seen with Clean Architecture, we can keep our Django projects more manageable, performant, and scalable. Keeping things simpler helps us maintain clarity, which is crucial for successful development and operation.

4. Practical Implications and Developer Experience

Let’s talk about how Clean Architecture influences the day-to-day work of developers and adds complexity to coding tasks.

Development Friction and Onboarding

One important idea from the "Zen of Python" is "Readability counts." This means code should be easy to read and understand. Clean Architecture can make code more complicated, which is tough for new developers. When the code is hard to follow, it takes more time for newcomers to figure out where things are and how they work. This can slow down their ability to contribute and extend the time needed to get projects done.

Overloaded Views and Serialization

"Sparse is better than dense" is another guideline from Python. It suggests that code should not be too packed with information. This keeps it easy to read and manage. However, in Django projects using Clean Architecture, views and serializers tend to have too much going on. They handle too many tasks and contain too much information, which makes the code hard to work through. This can lead to mistakes and make it challenging for developers to update or improve the code.

By making our Django projects simpler and more organized, we make sure that the code is user-friendly and easy to handle. This not only makes work faster but also leads to better software overall.

5. When Django’s Simplicity Triumphs

Let’s explore why Django’s straightforward approach is often the best choice for many projects.

Real-World Use Cases

The "Zen of Python" has a principle: "Special cases aren't special enough to break the rules." This means that we should not change our usual methods just because something might seem like a unique situation. In many real-world projects, Django’s standard setup is more than enough. Most of the time, the extra layers and complexity of Clean Architecture are not needed. Django’s simpler approach fits well with many types of projects, making it unnecessary to complicate things with a specialized structure like Clean Architecture.

Simplicity as a Strategic Advantage

Another Python guideline is "Although practicality beats purity." This suggests that what works in real situations is more important than perfect theories. Django’s built-in tools and straightforward structures work very well and are easy to use. They help us get things done efficiently and effectively. Choosing these simple, practical solutions over the complicated and often theoretical approach of Clean Architecture can be a strategic advantage. It helps keep projects manageable and reduces the risk of problems caused by unnecessary complexity.

By sticking to Django’s simple and direct methods, we can handle most project needs effectively. This approach not only saves time but also keeps our projects strong and flexible.


In conclusion, this discussion highlights that Django's inherent simplicity and its alignment with Python's core philosophies often make it the superior choice for web development projects. By adhering to principles like "Simple is better than complex" and "Readability counts," Django not only fosters a more straightforward development process but also enhances maintainability and scalability.

As developers, we face numerous decisions that impact the practical outcomes of our projects. Embracing Django’s built-in functionalities and straightforward architecture can help us avoid the pitfalls of overengineering. This simplicity is not just about ease of use—it’s about making our software robust and accessible, especially for those who will maintain and evolve our codebases in the future.

I encourage everyone to share your thoughts and experiences on using Django and Clean Architecture. Have you found that Django’s simpler approach benefits your projects? Or have there been instances where a more complex architecture like Clean Architecture was necessary? Your insights can help others in the community weigh the practical benefits of simplicity against the demands of architectural complexity in their own projects. Let’s discuss and learn from each other’s experiences to find the best paths forward in our development practices.