By Sergey Borisov
With so many software products on the market, it is imperative that IT companies find a way to differentiate themselves from the competition. Design and architecture may be just the factor a company needs to help a product stand out from others. But what can turn a regular product into a must have?
Some architects and designers will say it’s knowing the target audience and considering factors that influence decision making in the design of the application architecture. Others will say it is applying the well-known design principles of the application architecture in a way that feels new and fresh. Yet others believe it is about picking the most appropriate architectural style to express the idea and goal of an application.
General Rules to Ensure Quality
The first prerequisite of differentiating a product from competition is quality. To build a quality architecture, you have to follow the three golden rules—plan for the future, document and organize requirements, and prioritize product goals.
Every software product requires further support, maintenance, administrating, updating, and developing down the road. Architects need to know the current situation, but also predict future business, client, and user needs. If months after the product is launched, you hit the ceiling on its capacity to work faster, or be redesigned or updated efficiently, mistakes were made at the architecture planning stage. The goal is to build a product that can be easily developed and perfected as times and technologies change and audience preferences shift.
No matter how trivial or primitive the requirement may sound, have it in written form for all interested parties. Transparency is key for both easy communication and clear vision.
Know what goals and features of the product are must-have and which ones are nice-to-have. Think of the client like a hot air balloon; to keep afloat in crises, a hot air balloon needs to lighten its load. The client should be able to focus on the core features and come back to the additional ones. Good architecture easily allows for such life-saving maneuvers.
There are many ways to build the same product, so architects need to make the right choices based on many factors. With that in mind, many considerations help determine the ideal choice for software architecture.
Create an excellent UI and easy-to-use software product. The first step in building solid architecture is to find out project requirements. Study them carefully and prioritize them according to the goal of the product as well as the project budget and time limits.
It is critical to determine what it is you are building. To choose the right architecture, have a clear vision of what the future product is—including the application, website, and portal. Pick the most appropriate architectural style to express the idea and goal of that product.
Determine who the user is. Knowing and studying the target audience will help you make the best architecture decision. What quality tools are on the market? The latest high-quality tools and technical solutions enable high-level software products that can successfully compete with rival products.
Fulfill business requirements as well as the interests of the client. Good architecture and design help satisfy the business goals of the client. Therefore, architects and business analysts need to become extremely familiar with the business in the earliest development stages.
List the main goals for the project and build the architecture with these goals in mind. For example, make sure you know whether you need to bring more people to a website, save time on website administration, fix a glitch, or cater to new business needs. Many projects require the need to achieve a combination of different goals, which may be a challenge in itself.
Understanding business needs as well as the current and future problems of the business allows the architect to make smarter decisions. Communication is critical. Clients sometimes come to developers with documented requirements, but often the business needs to be analyzed and requirements gathered from scratch to make architectural and technical decisions. Strong communication skills allow architects and business analysts to get all the necessary information from the client to more effectively match architecture and design with the business needs.
Satisfy the application’s infrastructure requirements. When infrastructure decisions are made based on business requirements, it is necessary to describe all possible solutions, the selected option, and why the alternatives were rejected. You need to know each option in and out to make data-driven decisions.
For example, if the question is what server should we use? If option one is server “x,” determine its pros and cons. When each option is analyzed in a similar way, it is easier to see which one is a more balanced decision from the business’ point of view. An ideal choice is a compromise between what you gain and what you sacrifice.
Besides considering current infrastructure needs, developers require a profound understanding of business strategy and plans in order to build scalable future-proof solutions. If you don’t map out infrastructure with further growth in mind, a year from launch you may need to overspend on expensive servers to keep it running.
You must be aware of the latest frameworks and technologies, and analyze them for growth and transformation capacity, while also monitoring the ones that are slowly dying.
The Importance of Architecture
Architecture is the foundation of each project, and it should be ideally matched with solid design, which is the ‘face’ of the product. If you cannot see the long-term consequences of current decisions, you won’t be able to build a solid architecture. Unstable software will simply be unable to support current and future business requirements.
The beginning of the project is when key architecture and design decisions should be carefully considered. In later stages, it is impossible to get rid of the chosen technology without rewriting code, wasting time and money.
When faced with a software design or architecture problem, it is important to understand what it is, describe all the possible solutions, outline the selected option and why the other alternatives were rejected, and study the complexity of the result. Only this analytical and somewhat critical approach to your work can bring quality over the edge to beat competition and build a strong foundation for the future. SW
Sergey Borisov is a senior developer at Itransition.
Jan2014, Software Magazine