Software design in just 20 questions

Posted by s.crouch on 20 January 2020 - 9:23am
Question marks spray-painted on trees
Photo by Evan Dennis on Unsplash

By Steve Crouch, Research Software Group Leader of the Software Sustainability Institute

If you only had a checklist of 20 questions to assess software design, which ones would you choose? We are developing an automated service to provide guidance on research software development across a number of topics, and we're seeking feedback from the community on a series of draft questions.

Before releasing your software, it’s always a good idea to take stock of what you have. What needs to be improved? Is there anything missing? Guidance from experts can yield deep insight and overcome ‘blind spots’ in your assumptions about others. Our online guidance provides rapid, tailored feedback on aspects of software design, testing, documentation, maintainability, and the use of version control.

We’re drafting questions, along with Institute Fellows Matt Williams and Robin Long, that will identify issues with your software. This is a community service, so we’re keen to involve the community in its construction and would appreciate your thoughts. In particular, are any questions missing, out of place, or unclear? You can find the software design questions here, complete with instructions for registering a comment.

The Institute’s Online Software Evaluation Service was our first venture into automatic assessment, having been around since 2012. It’s received hundreds of responses, but it relies on a set of over 60 questions to generate a report. The new Online Guidance Service will provide guidance on a series of separate topics each with only a short set of questions, and will launch later this year.


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