When good software gets complicated

Build for simplicity

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Complexity can hide bad practices

Another reason to keep it simple is that simplicity often highlights poor design or implementation at an earlier stage.

I was recently reviewing some code written by an offshore development team. In examining one particular set of functionality, I found that the complexity in the way they had implemented their solution made it hard to determine what was going on.

By refactoring the implementation, with the aim of simplifying the implementation, I gained not only a better understanding of what the software was trying to do, but uncovered a number of strange behaviors hidden by the complexity. As a very simple example, it turned out that in the course of the implementation, the code did the following (this is intentionally simplified to illustrate the net effect):

String count = “32”; …. cut lines of code … int i_count = Integer.parseInt(count); … cut lines of code … String countStr = i_count + “”;

Without the intermediate int value actually being used.

Simplicity can be copied

Yet another reason to keep things simple is that the first time you design and implement a solution to a problem you may well be doing so to solve a particular problem.

However, this may then become a blueprint to others on how to solve the same or similar problem elsewhere within the team, project or organization. If the solution you create is as simple as it can be, then not only will this approach permeate across the organization, but that "copied solution" will be easier for others to understand.

You'd be surprised the number of times I have heard the answer "I did it that way because that was what was done before" when I have asked (particularly more junior developers) why they adopted a particular approach. When this is followed up with a question about how the solution works, on more than one occasion I have received the answer "not sure really".

Avoid over-engineering

My final comment on keeping it simple is that you should be careful not to over-engineer solutions. That is, you should only implement what you need to implement and not attempt to anticipate future needs. Not only may those needs never actually materialize, but they also make the software more complex and more difficult to understand (not least as anyone looking at the code later on may fail to understand why the additions were included).


There are many reasons for keeping things simple, but there are also exist a number of "pressures" that may limit the simplicity of the solution. These pressures can include the desire to produce some fun code or to “impress other programmers” with your skills. At the end of the day, though, it’s the simplest code that may actually be harder to write than apparently more complex - but potentially less thought out - code. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan
'Veteran Unix Admins' fear desktop emphasis is betraying open source
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
Redmond top man Satya Nadella: 'Microsoft LOVES Linux'
Open-source 'love' fairly runneth over at cloud event
Chrome 38's new HTML tag support makes fatties FIT and SKINNIER
First browser to protect networks' bandwith using official spec
Admins! Never mind POODLE, there're NEW OpenSSL bugs to splat
Four new patches for open-source crypto libraries
Torvalds CONFESSES: 'I'm pretty good at alienating devs'
Admits to 'a metric ****load' of mistakes during work with Linux collaborators
prev story


Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.