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Chapter 10. System Design > A Philosophy of Design

A Philosophy of Design

The design of a computer system, like any engineering design, is really part art and part science. The science is very important for computer systems. It tells us what kinds of problems can be handled successfully by computers and how to evaluate, measure, and select algorithms for specific problems. The discipline of software engineering provides some guidance in the proper development of computer programs. Designing a complex system, however, requires insight, experience, and good taste as well as science.

Understanding the Customer's Requirements

There is no substitute for a good understanding of the target customers and what they want. In many cases, they cannot say explicitly what they want, so it is necessary to ferret it out in other ways. Is convenience important? What about access to good information? What inconveniences might customers tolerate in exchange for certain services? How much are they willing to pay? The result of such understanding may be a product or service that never occurred to the customers, but it is obviously just what they want once they see it. A particular challenge in Internet commerce is that there are many new and unforeseen opportunities. It's impossible to predict with certainty what buyers will prefer, so flexibility becomes very important as well. Indeed, it is often necessary to adapt techniques and customer experiences from other Internet commerce sites into your own.


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