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Engineering LibreTexts

2.8: Keep It Simple

  • Page ID
  • Problem How much flexibility should you try to build into the new system?

    Solution Prefer an adequate, but simple solution to a potentially more general, but complex solution.

    Discussion This is another general principle with special significance for reengineering. We are bad at guessing how much generality and flexibility we really need. Many software systems become bloated as every conceivable feature is added to them.

    Flexibility is a double-edged sword. An important reengineering goal is to accommodate future change. But too much flexibility will make the new system so complex that you may actually impede future change.

    Some people argue that it is necessary to “plan for reuse”, hence to make an extra effort to make sure that every software entity that might conceivably by useful to somebody else is programmed in the most general way possible, with as many knobs and buttons as possible. This rarely works, since it is pretty well impossible to anticipate who will want to use something for what purpose. The same holds for end-user software.

    “Do the simplest thing that will work” is a maxim of Extreme Programming [Bec00] that applies to any reengineering effort. This strategy reinforces Involve the Users and Build Confidence since it encourages you to quickly introduce simple changes that users can evaluate and respond to.

    When you do the complex thing, you will probably guess wrong (in terms of what you really need) and it will be harder to fix. If you keep things simple, you will be done faster, get feedback faster, and recover from errors more easily. Then you can make the next step.

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