Troubleshooters.Com Presents:

Copyright (C) 1995-1997 by Steve Litt

  1. Keep Version 1 Simple
  2. Normalize It
  3. Document It
  4. Allocate time and people for back-end and comm protocol problems

Other Navigation: [ Code Corner | Troubleshooters.Com | Email Steve Litt | Copyright Notice ]

Application Development Tips

In my twelve years as a software development consultant I've seen beautiful apps that allow their users to effortlessly quintuple their productivity, and I've seen unmaintainable trash apps that break every day and cost everyone time and money. Three factors that make the difference are simplicity, normalization and documentation. Additionally, client-server developers need to watch out for the back-end/comm protocol gotcha.

Keep Version 1 simple

On time and under budget? I do it all the time. Not through superior intellect or hundred hour weeks, but by making the app, especially the first version, simple. Few moving parts -- just the stuff the user really needs to do the job. Few unexplored nooks and crannies for bugs to hide. Minimal pointers to arrays of pointers to functions, or twenty-button customizable buttonbars. I don't fight my language. Given a choice of a cute user interface or a robust app, I'll choose the robust app every time. My clients thank me for it.

I plan for version 2 during initial design of version 1 by inserting hooks for the more challenging user requests, and features my experience indicates they'll want later. That way they can be inserted effortlessly (instead of shoehorned) into version 2.

[ Top of page | Email Steve Litt ]

!!! NORMALIZE DATA !!! (yes, I'm shouting)

The truly unmaintainable apps I've seen involved unnormalized data. Conversely, an app using well normalized data is always maintainable -- worst case you can add or change a functionality by adding a subroutine or even a small executable accessing the normalized data. Normalized data does well in integrated, multi-platform environments. Be sure to devote enough time and attention to the data design. If necessary, hire a consultant. It's vital to follow the rules of normalization.

[ Top of page | Email Steve Litt ]

Document it

We've all seen it. Good applications gone bad. It starts when the original developer(s) moves on, and an ever changing parade of maintenance programmers do enhancements. Not knowing the intent of the original developers or understanding their fundimental design, the maintenance programmers add redundent variables, data and subroutines. Different sections of the app use different variables, data and subroutines for the same functionality. A simple change to the application now requires changes to several redundant subroutines, data and variables, which must be found by trial and error. Side effect bugs creep in, with fixes creating more problems. Enhancements that took a day now take weeks or months to implement.

This is a documentation problem. If the application developers do not have the time or desire to document their design, hire a consultant to do it. See Documentation tips.

[ Top of page | Email Steve Litt ]

Allocate time and people for back-end and comm protocol problems.

It's natural. In client-server apps, we programmers tend to focus on data structure and user interface, letting the database server and communications issues take care of themselves (as advertised). Unfortunately, these issues usually rear their ugly heads as a large user population starts banging on the app.

At the start of the design stage, assign or affiliate a network expert and an expert on the back end platform to the development team. As soon as the data structure is determined, develop and run test programs to bang on the data from multiple points, and do bottleneck analysis. The few days or weeks you spend doing this will save you months. If you don't have the manpower in house, hire a consultant.

Other Navigation: [ Code Corner | Troubleshooters.Com | Email Steve Litt | Copyright Notice ]

Copyright (C)1997 by Steve Litt. -- Legal