Sunday, March 16, 2008

Design Levels

Working with developers, I often found them thinking of design as a generic word to indicate "sketch the classes you are going to create".

Of course, I don't share that definition. I think of design as:

"composing the sentences, in a particular design language, that describe the solution of the problem"

That said, I add that there are several design levels and types. That is, you may find out you are designing when you think you are doing something else!

Amnon H Eden and Raymond Turner had some publications where you can read about a proposal for an ontology (using the Intention/Locality). Part of their definition is that the software design should be divided into three categories: Strategic, Tactical and Implementation.

Of course, Strategic design sentences are those for Architectural design, where decisions will impact the whole. Tactical sentences are what we have always call the design, where the focus is local to one part of the problem, and that is abstract enough to be variable. Then the Implementation are sentences that are local, but also the actual execution.

That last one I call Operational design. I also call it Micro Design. That design is the one the developer does when creating the sentences that define the executable solution. Note that the decisions here are also important. Note also there are design patterns to this level too, that are different depending on then selected language (those are called Idioms).

There is another point to this definition of design: We can describe a solution at different levels, and it will be the same solution. The good point here is that each level is an abstraction of the lower level, where details was taken out of the way to clearly see broader requirements. Not all designs can be executed, and not all levels may have all the required details to be able to execute as it should.

Funny, huh?