Following the Principles of Software Engineering is Essential

by Adriana Noton - Date: 2010-09-28 - Word Count: 602 Share This!

Writing computer code just comes easy for some people. While so many struggle to learn a given development language, the gifted developer has the ability to master many. Unfortunately, many code writers have difficulty conforming to a strict process that promotes well-designed and readable code. They are often convinced that providing software that performs a desired function or task is the end game, and while this is certainly one aspect of development, there are processes that are used to create systems that are more forgiving to user input, make more efficient calculations, and allow for enhancements to be implemented in future cycles. The best code writers are most always those who follow certain principles of software engineering.

Concern separation refers to the need for people to work within a limited framework or context. Where data is concerned there are usually two points of interest. One is basic or essential functionality. The other is the protection of or the integrity of the data itself. These two concerns should be separated when possible. Optimizing these concerns individually will allow for more graceful algorithms. It certainly makes sense to break down functionality as much as possible and to make each unit an individual one.

The practice of separation of concerns lends itself to another important software engineering principle called modularity. This extends the idea of reducing certain functionality into the smallest individual functions possible. This will help in the ways previously mentioned and also contributes to the readability of code, creation of unit tests, and simplified troubleshooting.

Perhaps somewhat less technical, but certainly no less valuable, is the willingness of the engineer to anticipate change. Software developers deal with numbers and data in an abstract way. This means they do not necessarily need to know or even care about the use of the data. Their primary concern is in its presentation. As a project matures, the developer will learn more about the space in which the program is being used while the clients will come to better understand the software they are using. Part of the growth of a system is the adaptation of new ideas desired by the client and implemented by the engineer.

Generalization is frequently viewed to be unimportant by many engineers, however it is critical from the perspective of the user experience. An excellent example of generalization is a year field that only accepts a two-digit number. It was this limitation that created the year 2000 issues a decade ago. Forward thinking and limiting unwanted restrictions make for better code and happier end users.

Incremental development is an especially valuable principle. There is value in smaller projects, however larger ones can place a heavier reliance on this style. This is a development process that breaks a project down into small increments. Code writing may be limited to a certain sub-set of use cases at a time. This is an excellent way to handle debugging as well as the addition of functionality.

Finally there is the principle of consistency. This is most commonly recognized in adhering to a specific style of code writing or documentation. Some organizations do not enforce this principle and frequently find it challenging to replace key engineers or encounter problems fixing bugs or adding new functionality. Consistency is key because it helps to streamline other processes. The benefits of consistency are enterprise-wide.

In today's world, a software engineer must be more that code-savvy. He or she must also be aware of and adhere to certain principles of software engineering. The most efficient developers are those who recognize the need for quality code that provides the user with a friendly but powerful and even intuitive tool.

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