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Hold The Details, Please

When documenting software designs (in UML, of course) before, during, or after writing code, I don’t like to put too much detail in my models. By details, I mean exposing all public/protected/private data members and functions and all intra-member processing sequences within each class. I don’t like doing it for these reasons:

  • I don’t want to get stuck in a time-busting, endless analysis paralysis loop.
  • I don’t want a reviewer or reader to lose the essence of the design in a sea of unnecessary details that obscure the meaning and usefulness of the model.
  • I don’t want every little code change to require a model change – manual or automated.

I direct my attention to the higher levels of abstraction, focusing on the layered structure of the whole. By “layered structure”, I mean the creation and identification of all the domain level classes and the next lower level, cross-cutting infrastructure and utility classes. More importantly, I zero in on all the relationships between the domain and infrastructure classes because the real power of a system, any system, emerges from the dynamic interactions between its constituent parts. Agonizing over the details within each class and neglecting the inter-class relationships for a non-trivial software system can lead to huge, incoherent, woeful classes and an unmaintainable downstream mess. D’oh!

How about you? What personal guidelines do you try to stick to when modeling your software designs? What, you don’t “do documentation“? If you’re looking to move up the value chain and become more worthy to your employer and (more importantly) to yourself, I recommend that you continuously learn how to become a better, “light” documenter of your creations. But hey, don’t believe a word I say because I don’t have any authority-approved credentials/titles and I like to make things up.

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