Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Good Software Design is Unobtrusive

Ten Principles of Good Design Redux | Part 5

If I were to apply this principle as it was originally stated by Rams, it would contradict the assertion that I made in an earlier post that a software design needs to be a work of art. Ram’s suggests that products are “like tools and are neither decorative objects nor works of art”. I wholeheartedly agree that Form should always follow Function in software design, but I also believe that there is a genetic component to aesthetic that is useful in establishing the quality and suitability of a software design. 

One would naturally assume that the form follows function principle would be universally adhered to by all software developers and architects. And that is generally a safe assumption. It is not however safe to assume that this form-pursued function is merely the set of formal requirements for the system; often the system is also designed to address the personal requirements of the designer.   

Many Software Architects are rabidly righteous; “Tiger Architects” defending their favoured technologies, design patterns and methodologies with ferocity and zeal, even in cases where those memes are obviously not optimal for a design. Despite the fact that Software is a memeplex on the leading edge of memetic evolution, the aforementioned phenomena is mostly a manifestation of  significantly baser stuff; mammalian territoriality and human ego (though the former may be considered the precursor of the latter).

I have been guilty of this in the past, but over the years I have learned to look at my own software designs through a deconstructivist lens; separating the fundamental requirements of the system from those that I have introduced because of my own biases, preferences and comfort zones. That is not to say that I simply reject all parts of the design that display evidence of the aforementioned, but I attempt to make sure that none of these personal requirements subsumes any of the fundamental requirements of the system. One might say that I practice Deconstructive Software Architecture, though that might be misapprehended if it is confused with the similarly-named movement in meatspace architecture. 

I am motivated to add the following rider to this principle:

Good Software Design is Egoless.

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