When designing software architecture, what principles should guide your approach? Textbook answers often highlight attributes such as: modularity, scalability, resilience, maintainability, extensibility, and testability.

These technical measures are undoubtedly important. However, in practice, many architectures become overly complex because designers often struggle to recognize when enough is enough.

From my observation, the root cause isn’t a lack of understanding of these quality attributes. Instead, it’s a tendency to overlook three fundamental principles that are more crucial than those found in textbooks.

1. Architecture design is based on business requirements

Architecture serves as a blueprint to build software that meets business or product requirements. It’s not about creating an elaborate upfront design. The initial architecture should be a minimum viable product (MVP) that just need to satisfy the current requirements. Depending on available time, resources, and cost, you can enhance other attributes like modularity and scalability in subsequent iterations.

2. Architecture design is an evolutionary process, not a final state

Architecture is not about envisioning the final version of the software but determining what the early version should be. Developers often fall into the trap of creating comprehensive systems that account for potential features or use cases not currently required. This leads to unnecessary complexity and slows down development. In my experience, this approach is rarely valuable, as requirements change so rapidly that sticking to the original plan is nearly impossible.

3. Architecture design includes documenting important decisions.

Since architecture must adapt to changing business or product requirements, the design process is inherently iterative and incremental. When significant changes occur, it’s crucial to discuss and align these changes within the team, and to document the decisions made. This practice not only enhances communication efficiency, but also helps both you and your team recall the context of previous decisions when making new ones.

Overall, I believe that focusing on immediate needs, embracing iterative development, and ensuring documentation, ultimately leading to more effective and efficient software architecture. By keeping these principles at the forefront, you ensure a balance between meeting current demands and maintaining the agility to evolve with future needs.