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Table of contents
1.
Introduction
2.
What is a Good System Design Strategy?
3.
Structured Design Approach
4.
Function-oriented Design Approach
5.
Object-oriented Design Approach
6.
What are the Two Strategies for Software Design?
6.1.
Bottom-up Strategy
6.2.
Advantages of Bottom-up approach
6.3.
Disadvantages of Bottom-Up Approach:
6.4.
Top-down Strategy
6.5.
Advantages of Top-down approach
6.6.
Disadvantages of Top-down approach
7.
Importance of System Design Strategy
8.
Advantages of Using a System Design Strategy
9.
Disadvantages of Using a System Design Strategy
10.
Frequently Asked Questions
10.1.
How do I prepare for system design interview rounds?
10.2.
Is system design hard?
10.3.
What do you look for in a system design interview?
10.4.
Is system design interview hard?
10.5.
How long is a system design interview?
10.6.
How do you ace a system design interview?
10.7.
How many approaches are there for system design?
10.8.
What is the best system design strategy?
11.
Conclusion
Last Updated: Mar 29, 2024
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System Design Strategies

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Introduction

System design is important for defining the product and its architecture. It is necessary for the interfaces, design, data, and modules to satisfy the system requirements. Thus, a good system design strategy is key for enabling optimal product development.
System Design Strategies and Important In Software Development

Good design strategies and techniques offer the necessary roadmap to dealing with the complexity and scalability of programs. And, system design strategists and veteran software developers are entrusted with the job of designing this roadmap with adequate instruction. 

A good system design strategy requires foresight and a deeper understanding of not only the current/active requirements of the software product but also the future ones.
System design is an important job role and it is always beneficial for budding software engineers to start getting acquainted with it. Job interviews that are associated with better positions or managerial roles always place a heavy focus on system design. Thus, it is never too early to start learning good system design strategies and applying them to your projects.
Also, a good system design online course is highly recommended before attending interviews for senior software engineer roles.

Also see, Must Do Coding Questions

What is a Good System Design Strategy?

In Software Engineering, a system design strategy generally refers to using system design methodologies for conceptualizing software requirements. A good system design strategy identifies these requirements as challenges and provides the most optimal solutions. Then, the strategy incorporates the best approach to implement the solutions. The best system design strategies always allow easy manipulation and development of products.

Good system design strategies take every factor such as product design, software interface, core architecture, data, and even the modules into account in order to execute the most effective product development strategy. These design modules instruct programmers how to effectively write code for each subsystem and compile them together for the entire system. 

Also, these strategies are especially helpful when tackling pre-existing code that must be organized, understood, and integrated. The main challenge for system design specialists is working on pre-existing programs, due to the requirement of complying with the logic of the system, thus making it a challenge during instances requiring scalability. 

There are three approaches to implementing system design. And, they are:

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Structured Design Approach

Structured design fundamentally refers to breaking down problems into multiple well-organized elements. The advantage of using this kind of design strategy is that it allows the problems to become simpler. This enables problem-solving of the smaller elements so that they can fit into the bigger picture. The solution modules are structured in a hierarchical order and a manner that there is less cohesion between the modules.

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Function-oriented Design Approach

The function-oriented design strategy is similar to structured design but instead divides the entire system into subsystems referred to as functions. The system is considered to be a map or top-view of all the combined functions. However, there is more information passing between the functions as compared to structured design while the smaller functions promote abstraction. The function-oriented design also allows the program to operate on input rather than on state. 

Also Read, YII Framework

Object-oriented Design Approach

This design approach is completely different from the other two and focuses on objects and classes. This kind of strategy revolves around the objects inside the system and their characteristics. Further, the characteristics of the attributes of all these objects are encapsulated together and then the data involved is restricted so that polymorphism can be enabled. The object-oriented design is based on identifying objects and grouping them into classes based on their attributes. Then, the class hierarchy is determined and the relationship between these classes is defined. 

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What are the Two Strategies for Software Design?

The most appropriate design strategy is always dependent on the system requirement. Good system strategies are different for pre-existing systems or building new systems from scratch. There are two main strategies for system design that are used other than the hybrid strategy, which fundamentally combines the two strategies together. Let’s check what these two system design strategies are. 

Bottom-up Strategy

This kind of system design strategy revolves around designing the subsystems and the lowest-level components (even sub-components) first. By designing these components first, the higher-level subsystems and larger components can then be built easily and more efficiently. This allows less time to be wasted in conducting recon and troubleshooting. The entire process of building the lower-level components into larger sets is continued till the entire system is one single component. This design strategy also facilitates the reusability of generic solutions and low-level implementations. 
 

This kind of strategy is great when you expect the level of abstraction to be quite high. However, the high-quality solutions are difficult to construct using this strategy as it is not incorporated with the structure of the problems. There is also the chance of using unnecessary functions that are the most effective ones due to the high level of abstraction.

Advantages of Bottom-up approach

  • Empowerment and Ownership: The bottom-up approach fosters a sense of ownership among team members. Since they have a say in decisions and solutions, they're more invested in the outcome and motivated to make it successful.
  • Detailed Knowledge and Innovation: Those closest to the project have the most in-depth knowledge of its intricacies. By leveraging their expertise, the bottom-up approach can lead to more innovative and practical solutions that address real-world challenges.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability: The bottom-up approach allows for changes and adjustments throughout the process. As new information or challenges arise, solutions can be modified without having to completely rework a top-down plan.
  • Increased Collaboration and Trust: When team members contribute ideas and work together to find solutions, collaboration improves. This fosters trust and open communication within the team.

Disadvantages of Bottom-Up Approach:

  • Time Consumption: Reaching consensus among a larger group can be time-consuming. Gathering and discussing ideas, finding common ground, and finalizing decisions can take longer than a top-down approach.
  • Lack of Big-Picture View: Focusing on individual elements can sometimes lead to a disconnect from the overall project goals. There's a risk of solutions being optimized for specific tasks but not aligning with the broader strategic vision.
  • Coordination Challenges: Managing a bottom-up approach with a large team or complex project can be challenging. Ensuring everyone is on the same page and that solutions from different individuals or groups work cohesively requires strong leadership and coordination.
  • Potential for Scope Creep: With many voices contributing, there's a risk of the project's scope expanding beyond its initial goals. Clear communication and management are essential to keep the project focused and within budget.

Top-down Strategy

This design strategy is completely focused on dividing the system into subsystems and components first. Instead of building from the bottom up, like in the bottom-down strategy, the top-down version conceptualizes the whole system first and then breaks it down into several subsystems. Then, these subsystems are designed and divided into smaller subsystems and sets of components that meet the requirements of the larger system. Instead of identifying these subsystems as separate entities, the whole system is considered to be a single entity in this approach. 

The subsystems are then considered to be separate entities when the system is finally conceptualized and split according to its characteristics. The components are all then laid out in a hierarchical structure till the lowest level of the system is designed.
 

This approach does not promote abstraction and is clearly defined. The top-down strategy is generally of very high quality as the design process keeps defining the subsystems and components as they suit the system, thus proving highly efficient, responsive, and effective in all regards. However, the solutions are not generic in nature and cannot be generally reused. Also, these systems do not have simple architectures and are harder to maintain. 

Hybrid design strategies, however, take all the high-quality aspects of the top-down method and incorporate reusability and well-organized structures from the bottom-up strategy. Thus, they are the most effective system design strategy for most systems.

Advantages of Top-down approach

  • Clarity and Efficiency: Decisions are made quickly and efficiently by leadership who have a broad view of the project or organization. Clear goals and expectations are cascaded down, leaving less room for confusion or wasted effort.
  • Reduced Risk: Leaders often have extensive experience and can leverage that to make strategic decisions that mitigate risk. This is especially helpful in complex projects or situations requiring strong leadership.
  • Standardization and Consistency: The top-down approach ensures consistency across projects or departments. By establishing clear processes and guidelines, quality and efficiency can be maintained throughout the organization.
  • Alignment with Strategic Goals: Top leaders have the big-picture view and can ensure that all projects and initiatives align with the overall strategic goals of the organization.

Disadvantages of Top-down approach

  • Limited Innovation: When decisions are made solely at the top, there's less opportunity for creativity and input from those with hands-on experience. This can stifle innovation and lead to solutions that don't address real-world challenges.
  • Reduced Ownership and Motivation: Team members who are excluded from the decision-making process may feel less invested in the project's success. This can lead to lower morale and motivation.
  • Lack of Flexibility: Top-down plans can be rigid and inflexible. If unforeseen circumstances arise, adapting the plan can be difficult and time-consuming.
  • Potential for Information Silos: When communication flows only downward, valuable insights from lower levels may not reach decision-makers. This can lead to poor decision-making based on incomplete information.

Importance of System Design Strategy

A system design strategy is a crucial roadmap for creating efficient and successful systems. It outlines the steps and methods used to develop a system, ensuring all components work together seamlessly. Here's why it's important:

  • Clarity and Focus: A well-defined strategy provides a clear vision and direction for system development. It helps stakeholders understand the system's purpose, functionalities, and how it will meet specific needs.
  • Improved Efficiency: By following a structured approach, the design process becomes more efficient. The strategy helps avoid rework, duplication of effort, and ensures all aspects of the system are considered.
  • Reduced Risk: A comprehensive design strategy helps identify and mitigate potential problems early on. By considering security, scalability, and performance from the outset, the risk of system failures is minimized.
  • Better Communication and Collaboration: By outlining clear roles and responsibilities within the design process, the strategy fosters communication and collaboration between diverse teams.

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Advantages of Using a System Design Strategy

  • Improved System Quality: A well-defined strategy emphasizes clear and organized system structure. This leads to a more robust and reliable system with fewer bugs and errors.
  • Enhanced Efficiency: The strategy lays out a structured approach, avoiding unnecessary steps and redundancies. This streamlines the development process, saving time and resources.
  • Increased Maintainability: A system built with a design strategy is easier to understand and modify in the future. The clear documentation and modular components facilitate future updates and expansions.
  • Reduced Development Costs: By optimizing the development process and minimizing rework, a system design strategy can significantly lower overall costs.
  • Scalability and Performance: The strategy considers factors like scalability and performance from the beginning. This ensures the system can handle future growth and deliver optimal performance under load.
  • Improved Communication and Collaboration: The strategy fosters communication by outlining clear roles and responsibilities for each team member involved in the design process.

Disadvantages of Using a System Design Strategy

  • Time Investment: Developing a comprehensive design strategy can be time-consuming, especially for complex systems. There's an initial investment of effort in planning and documentation.
  • Inflexibility: Rigidity can occur if the strategy is too rigid or prescriptive. Unexpected challenges or changes might require adapting the plan, which can be cumbersome with a very structured approach.
  • Over-Engineering Risk: Focusing too heavily on a detailed strategy could lead to over-engineering the system. This can result in unnecessary complexity and features that may not be truly valuable.
  • Potential for Analysis Paralysis: Getting bogged down in the planning and design phase can delay actual development. Finding the right balance between planning and execution is important.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I prepare for system design interview rounds?

You can prepare yourself by working with high-level components and then getting accustomed to more detailed work with low-level components. It is recommended you get comfortable with identifying these components and their attributes to solve the complete problem or for implementing the system. You can also prepare by practicing the methodologies suggested by the Grokking design interview course.

Is system design hard?

System design is not necessarily hard, however, it requires the ability to solve complex problems and fit things together into the larger picture. Courses such as Grokking the system design course allows candidates to understand system design in a much simpler manner.

What do you look for in a system design interview?

These interviews are fundamentally focused on trying to ascertain the experience and abilities one has in designing complex systems. Grokking system design courses teach candidates about what they should look for in system design interviews and also what employers are looking for in candidates.

Is system design interview hard?

No, these interviews are not as hard as they are holistic. These interviews mainly expect the candidates to focus on various aspects of the system design that vary in terms of complexity.

How long is a system design interview?

Most system design interviews go on for about 45 minutes, however, many companies conduct them for even longer.

How do you ace a system design interview?

You can ace a system design interview by searching for the best course for system design and getting trained in system design. The best courses such as Grokking the system design interview course will definitely help.

How many approaches are there for system design?

There are three approaches to system design. And, they include structured design, function-oriented design, and object-oriented design.


What is the best system design strategy?

The best system design strategy is the hybrid system design strategy. It incorporates the good things from both top-down and bottom-up strategies to remove the shortcomings that both these approaches face.

Conclusion

System design interviews are orchestrated to challenge the minds of the best software engineers out there. Thus, proper system design training is always recommended before attending these interviews. A system design certification or other system analysis and design courses also go a long way when applying for managerial positions or better job roles in software projects.

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You can also consider our System Design Course to give your career an edge over others.

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