Software Architecture Principles That Every Programmer Should Follow

Written By Joscha Rutert

Architecture lays out a firm foundation for any software project. A sound architecture defines the technical standards, design, delivery, and support framework of the software product. While designing software architecture, a skilled practitioner will keep in mind the development and technology goals and ensure everything is logical, scalable, and cost-efficient.

Solutions architects play a significant role in designing system architecture, with an understanding of technical standards like platforms, technologies, and infrastructure. Their analysis directly helps to successfully define the product, perfect the design, and provide on-time, cost-efficient delivery and lifetime support. Therefore, they have to understand the technology goals of the organization along with the client’s business needs.

To make a software project successful, software architects must follow a set of basic rules, guidelines, and principles. These are the three key principles of software architecture that you should never forget.

1. SOLID Principles

SOLID is an industry-standard framework or a set of principles every developer must follow while working on Object Oriented Programming System (OOPS) projects.

Introduced for the first time in a technical paper—Design Principles and Design Patterns by Robert C. Martin—these five principles are essential for object-oriented design and architecture. SOLID principles focus on enhancing the understandability of software design, boosting scalability, and maintenance.

The underlying SOLID principles are:

  • Single Responsibility Principle – This principle states that each module or class should be exclusively responsible for only a single functionality. The original principle states that responsibility is a “reason to change” and each class should have only a single reason to change.
  • Open-Closed Principle – The open-closed principle states that each software entity should be open for enhancements and extensions, without having to modify them. This is in line with the polymorphism concept followed by OOPS.
  • Liskov Substitution Principle – This principle states that each derived class should be the substitute for its base class. To illustrate, let’s take an example. If A is a subclass of B, then objects of type B may be substituted with objects of type A. Altogether, it means that objects within a software program should be replaceable with examples of subtypes without meddling with the program.
  • Interface Segregation Principle – This principle is one of the core things you must follow for enhanced efficiency. It states that existing interfaces should not be topped up with additional functionality by appending new methods into them. What it means is that each interface must be client-specific, and each class should implement multiple interfaces.
  • Dependency Inversion Principle – This principle states that a high-level module should never depend on a low-level module. Both modules should depend on abstraction. Also, abstraction should not depend on details, but the details should depend on abstractions. By following this principle, one can remove the dependencies between higher-level and lower-level modules by introducing an interface abstraction.

With continuous use and following the guidelines, SOLID—all five principles together—will give a scalable, modified, tested, and reusable software solution.

2. Principles of Economics

These principles focus on achieving cost-efficiency in a software development project. Essentially, they consist of the following:

Opportunity Cost Principle

This principle is based on the common economic premise that each alternative has the inherent value that we place on that particular alternative. This value can be the cost of the alternative chosen and the benefits thereof. Opportunity costs define what we have to give up in getting that value. For the highest value, we should always opt for the option that offers maximum benefits at the lowest cost.

In the software architecture context, this principle means that one should always weigh down different options against one another. One should only choose a path that adds maximum value to the project.

Last Responsible Moment or Cost of Delay Principle

This principle states that no important action or decision should be delayed until the moment when it is absolutely required. This principle allows developers to get an idea of all crucial alternatives and broaden the perspective to make an informed decision.

Some say that this principle can lead to risks. Still, one can follow this principle by building proof of concepts (PoCs) for demonstrating to the stakeholders the advantages of delaying the decision and the benefits of using an alternative course of action.

#3 Principles of “Least”

These principles focus on least or minimalism philosophy and are essential for managing various aspects of a software development project. Essentially, the “Least” principles include the following:

Principle of Least Astonishment

This principle is also known as the “least surprise” principle and recommends that a solution should not surprise or astonish a subject matter expert when they are introduced to it the first time. This principle focuses on harnessing the existing knowledge of the target audience to eliminate the need for learning when using a particular solution.

Principle of Least Effort

Also known as Zipf’s law, this principle states that every human tends to follow the path that requires the least effort. This means that subsequent developers should introduce no change in the software unless there is an easier way to do the same thing.

In principle, this means that if a solution to perform a task is found, there is no need to improve the existing method.

Simplify Your Software Development Process

Software architectural principles can streamline the entire project and improve the quality of your decision making. By following the above-mentioned core principles, you can be sure of achieving your long-term goals without deviating from your core objectives.