Welcome!

ColdFusion Authors: Yakov Fain, Maureen O'Gara, Nancy Y. Nee, Tad Anderson, Daniel Kaar

Related Topics: ColdFusion

ColdFusion: Article

What's the Best Approach to Software Development?

An introduction to development methodologies

Developers each have their own approach to development. You may not know it, but you have one too. Having a set methodology allows you to sit back down at a project somewhere down the line and know what is going on immediately. Maintenance of the application is more cost effective. This article gives you an overview of the basic software development process, discusses what methodologies and frameworks are, and goes into some details on the methodology that I use in my own everyday development.

I have heard it said that the success of any software project occurs before a single line of code is ever written. Accordingly, we'll start our review by talking about the full software development life cycle. There are a few different models of software development, but they all contain similar elements, or phases.

These are the eight main phases:

  1. Requirements: In the requirements phase, the client (software program user, your boss, whoever) defines some problem that they want to solve. You, as the programmer, will talk to the client about what they need a program to do. I like to think of the requirements phase as one where the client says, "This is what I want." In an ideal world, the client's request will be completely documented before I have to meet with them. Realistically, that rarely happens. This phase usually consists of multiple meetings with a client, project manager, or boss.
  2. Specification: The specification phase comes after the requirements phase. Here we tell the client what we're going to do for them to solve their problem, as defined in the requirements phase. If we've done our job correctly, the requirements and specifications will sync up and all will be well in the world. I like to document both of these phases pretty heavily, and if possible have the client sign off on appropriate documentation.
  3. Design: With the approval of a specification document, you can start your software design. You map out the flow of the program, mock up an interface (or rapid prototype), design the database, and flush out any business requirements not defined in the specifications.
  4. Implementation: After you have the design all set, you can sit down and code. I'm sure that is what most of us do best. The implementation makes the design work.
  5. Quality assurance: In this phase, you test the application from start to finish, looking for problems with the code or logic. Next to requirements, the client often has the most involvement in this phase. They will know immediately at this point if something is seriously wrong with the application.
  6. Integration and rollout: In the past this would involve moving from machine to machine to upgrade to the new version of the software. With Web applications, those days are over. In the Web world, rollout is easy. Just tell people to point their browser to the new application.
  7. Maintenance: Over time, businesses change - and so do requirements. The application will need to change to meet those changing business requirements. Often in the maintenance phase you go through the whole software development process in a smaller way, specifying requirements for changes, defining the specifications, modifying the design, and so on.
  8. Retirement: All good things must come to an end. In this phase we put the application to rest. Business requirements have changed so much over the years that it's more cost effective to replace the application than to modify it.
As you might have guessed, the phases often overlap. Often requirements and specifications are lumped into a single phase, for example. And some design work may be done during specifications; or during the implementation. Debugging is done during both the implementation and testing phases. Having the client involved in all phases of the project is often critical for its success.

There are different models of software development using these phases. The waterfall model is the most common. It moves from one phase to the other in tandem. The rapid prototype model starts by building a rapid prototype, or mockup, of the application. A specification is built from the rapid prototype, and the rest of the phases continue one after the other. The rapid prototype or waterfall models encompass full applications.

There's a third model called the iterative model, that follows the whole process for each individual application feature. The intent of this model is that release cycles will come every few weeks. This model works really well during large projects. You wouldn't want to be halfway through development on a yearlong project and then find out that everything you've done is wrong. I often like to use this model for the maintenance phase also.

My Development Methodology
The rest of this article will specifically talk about how I myself develop during the implementation phase of a project. I'm going to explain my method for organizing code and approaching development. Every template I write starts with a documentation header. Good documentation is often crucial when modifying code at some future point.

First, I include a description of the template. Why am I creating this template, what code does it contain? I'll also include the name of the file and the date it was created. When working as part of a team, I'll specify the name of the creator (me), and my company name, if I'm developing for a client.

Second, I'll specify where the code fits into the flow of logic. Is it an include file, a custom tag, a form page, or something else? If there is a multistep process, what step does this file represent? What file represents the previous step? What file represents the next step?

Next I'll document any file dependencies such as custom tags, include files, or ColdFusion components that need to exist in order for this template to run correctly. Then I'll document variable dependencies. What variables must be defined for this template to properly process? Do we need any URL variables? Form variables? Are they required or optional? If they are optional what are their default values?

Sometimes it may seem like a lot of work to create this documentation up front, but you'll thank yourself down the line. It takes minimal extra effort when you create the page and can save loads of time during the maintenance phase.

Documentation aside, I try to keep each template as modular as possible. That means that each template does only a single set of related actions. Here are the common types of templates you'll encounter during your development:

  • Application.cfm & OnRequestEnd.cfm: The Application.cfm is a page that ColdFusion runs at the beginning of every request. I use this page to set up the basic application, directory locations variables, and datasource names. OnRequestEnd.cfm runs at the end of every request. It is not used often.
  • Header and footer: I usually have only one header and footer file in a site, called header.cfm and footer.cfm respectively. The header contains the standard navigation and most common graphical elements of the site. The footer contains any disclaimers at the bottom of every page. I use a cfinclude to put these two templates into every other template. Between the header and footer goes the individual content. I don't put the header information in the Application.cfm and footer information in OnRequestEnd.cfm is because I like to reserve those files for processing code, not display code.
  • Index: The index template is your home page. Some Web servers are programmed to look for default.cfm instead of index.cfm, but many will look for both.
  • List page: A list page is a page that lists data based on certain criteria. For example, if you are creating a page that lists all the users who have registered on the site, you might name this page register.cfm.
  • Input: Input pages are pages that accept input from the user. In standard Web development an input page will contain an HTML form. I like to distinguish an input page by putting an "i" at the end of the file name. A file that accepts input for a user registration would be registeri.cfm.
  • Processing: Processing pages are those that a form submits onto. These pages usually verify the data, and then insert or update it to the database. I like to distinguish these with a "p" at the end of the file name. In our registration example, the registration-processing page would be registerip.cfm. That signifies that we are processing the registration input.
  • Update: Pages that update data are very similar to input pages, except the forms are already filled with data. I like to distinguish these files with a "u". A registration update page would be registeru.cfm. The processing page for the update registration functionality would be registerup.cfm.
  • Verification: Verification pages are pages that lie between input and processing. They display all the data to the user and give the user an option of changing data before it goes into the database. If you want to have the user verify their data before committing it to the database, use a verification page.
  • Delete: A delete page is one for deleting data. I distinguish these files with a "d" character. For example, to delete a registration, the file would be named registerd.cfm. Often these pages will trigger a flag to make the data inactive instead of completely deleting the data.
I've worked on sites that have tried to put a lot of the functionality into a single template, such as create, edit, and delete. I've had much better luck maintaining templates that don't do everything in a single template. There's also less processing because you don't have to figure out which "actions' of the template you're supposed to be executing. Using this method can make code less portable than having everything in a single template. If consistent naming conventions are used, this is rarely a problem.

Since the release of ColdFusion MX, I have been moving most of the functional code inside CFCs. For example, the verification page will call methods, which verify the data, but won't actually verify the data. If an error is returned, it displays the appropriate error. The process page will call a method to commit the data to the database. I've been storing the CFCs in the session scope, so I don't have to worry about excessive parameter passing from one template to another. The input page collects the data, the verification page stores it in component properties, and the processing page commits it to the database.

Other Development Methodologies and Frameworks
There's often a lot of confusion as to what a methodology is, what a framework is, and what the differences between them are.

A methodology is an organized approach to writing and organizing your code. What I've defined in this document is a rough methodology that I use for code development. A framework is a collection of code used as a template for writing applications. There is often a tradeoff for using a framework in your development and that is that it will most likely contain code you don't need to use. The performance hindrance of unused code is offset by the decrease in a development schedule. Using a framework will also make your code more consistent. In performance critical -applications you probably won't want to build your application within a framework.

Here are some common methodologies and frameworks used throughout the ColdFusion world:

  • Fusebox: Fusebox is one of the most popular methodologies out there. Fusebox 1 was a strict methodology; although current versions provide some semblance of a framework. The most current version is Fusebox 4 and more information can be found at www.fusebox.org. Anyone looking at Fusebox should also take a look at the Fusebox Lifecycle Process (FLiP), which handles the full software development life cycle.
  • cfobjects: cfobjects is a framework used to apply object-oriented principles to ColdFusion development. It is developed to work with pre-CFMX versions and consists of a lot of custom tags, plus a toolbar for ColdFusion Studio (HomeSite +). More information can be found at cfobjects.sourceforge.net.
  • Mach-II: Mach-II is a framework used to apply object-oriented design principles to ColdFusion from development. It's relatively new in the world of development and was spun off development that was originally supposed to be Fusebox MX. You can find more information about Mach-II at www.mach-ii.com/. Macromedia has developed some of their site using the Mach-II framework.
Summary
This was intended as a high-level overview of approaches to development. No matter what type of development you are doing, you'll need a methodology - having one that you always follow keeps things consistent if nothing else. When working with teams, it's best to decide on a common methodology that all developers will use. Not every methodology will work in every situation. It's best to document the methodology that you are using as developers enter and leave your project.

More Stories By Jeffry Houser

Jeffry is a technical entrepreneur with over 10 years of making the web work for you. Lately Jeffry has been cooped up in his cave building the first in a line of easy to use interface components for Flex Developers at www.flextras.com . He has a Computer Science degree from the days before business met the Internet and owns DotComIt, an Adobe Solutions Partner specializing in Rich Internet Applications. Jeffry is an Adobe Community Expert and produces The Flex Show, a podcast that includes expert interviews and screencast tutorials. Jeffry is also co-manager of the Hartford CT Adobe User Group, author of three ColdFusion books and over 30 articles, and has spoken at various events all over the US. In his spare time he is a musician, old school adventure game aficionado, and recording engineer. He also owns a Wii. You can read his blog at www.jeffryhouser.com, check out his podcast at www.theflexshow.com or check out his company at www.dot-com-it.com.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Disruptive macro trends in technology are impacting and dramatically changing the "art of the possible" relative to supply chain management practices through the innovative use of IoT, cloud, machine learning and Big Data to enable connected ecosystems of engagement. Enterprise informatics can now move beyond point solutions that merely monitor the past and implement integrated enterprise fabrics that enable end-to-end supply chain visibility to improve customer service delivery and optimize supplier management. Learn about enterprise architecture strategies for designing connected systems tha...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to require a new way of thinking and of developing software for speed, security and innovation. This requires IT leaders to balance business as usual while anticipating for the next market and technology trends. Cloud provides the right IT asset portfolio to help today’s IT leaders manage the old and prepare for the new. Today the cloud conversation is evolving from private and public to hybrid. This session will provide use cases and insights to reinforce the value of the network in helping organizations to maximize their company’s cloud experience.
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, will discuss the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. The presentation will also discuss how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics to discuss are barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold.
Whether you're a startup or a 100 year old enterprise, the Internet of Things offers a variety of new capabilities for your business. IoT style solutions can help you get closer your customers, launch new product lines and take over an industry. Some companies are dipping their toes in, but many have already taken the plunge, all while dramatic new capabilities continue to emerge. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Reid Carlberg, Senior Director, Developer Evangelism at salesforce.com, to discuss real-world use cases, patterns and opportunities you can harness today.
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices – computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors – connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be!
Noted IoT expert and researcher Joseph di Paolantonio (pictured below) has joined the @ThingsExpo faculty. Joseph, who describes himself as an “Independent Thinker” from DataArchon, will speak on the topic of “Smart Grids & Managing Big Utilities.” Over his career, Joseph di Paolantonio has worked in the energy, renewables, aerospace, telecommunications, and information technology industries. His expertise is in data analysis, system engineering, Bayesian statistics, data warehouses, business intelligence, data mining, predictive methods, and very large databases (VLDB). Prior to DataArcho...
Software AG helps organizations transform into Digital Enterprises, so they can differentiate from competitors and better engage customers, partners and employees. Using the Software AG Suite, companies can close the gap between business and IT to create digital systems of differentiation that drive front-line agility. We offer four on-ramps to the Digital Enterprise: alignment through collaborative process analysis; transformation through portfolio management; agility through process automation and integration; and visibility through intelligent business operations and big data.
There will be 50 billion Internet connected devices by 2020. Today, every manufacturer has a propriety protocol and an app. How do we securely integrate these "things" into our lives and businesses in a way that we can easily control and manage? Even better, how do we integrate these "things" so that they control and manage each other so our lives become more convenient or our businesses become more profitable and/or safe? We have heard that the best interface is no interface. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Co-Founder & CTO at Octoblu, Inc., will discuss how thes...
Last week, while in San Francisco, I used the Uber app and service four times. All four experiences were great, although one of the drivers stopped for 30 seconds and then left as I was walking up to the car. He must have realized I was a blogger. None the less, the next car was just a minute away and I suffered no pain. In this article, my colleague, Ved Sen, Global Head, Advisory Services Social, Mobile and Sensors at Cognizant shares his experiences and insights.
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) ir...
Can call centers hang up the phones for good? Intuitive Solutions did. WebRTC enabled this contact center provider to eliminate antiquated telephony and desktop phone infrastructure with a pure web-based solution, allowing them to expand beyond brick-and-mortar confines to a home-based agent model. It also ensured scalability and better service for customers, including MUY! Companies, one of the country's largest franchise restaurant companies with 232 Pizza Hut locations. This is one example of WebRTC adoption today, but the potential is limitless when powered by IoT. Attendees will learn rea...
From telemedicine to smart cars, digital homes and industrial monitoring, the explosive growth of IoT has created exciting new business opportunities for real time calls and messaging. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Ivelin Ivanov, CEO and Co-Founder of Telestax, will share some of the new revenue sources that IoT created for Restcomm – the open source telephony platform from Telestax. Ivelin Ivanov is a technology entrepreneur who founded Mobicents, an Open Source VoIP Platform, to help create, deploy, and manage applications integrating voice, video and data. He is the co-founder ...
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to create new business models as significant as those that were inspired by the Internet and the smartphone 20 and 10 years ago. What business, social and practical implications will this phenomenon bring? That's the subject of "Monetizing the Internet of Things: Perspectives from the Front Lines," an e-book released today and available free of charge from Aria Systems, the leading innovator in recurring revenue management.
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges.
There’s Big Data, then there’s really Big Data from the Internet of Things. IoT is evolving to include many data possibilities like new types of event, log and network data. The volumes are enormous, generating tens of billions of logs per day, which raise data challenges. Early IoT deployments are relying heavily on both the cloud and managed service providers to navigate these challenges. In her session at 6th Big Data Expo®, Hannah Smalltree, Director at Treasure Data, to discuss how IoT, Big Data and deployments are processing massive data volumes from wearables, utilities and other mach...
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Erik Lagerway, Co-founder of Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice s...
While great strides have been made relative to the video aspects of remote collaboration, audio technology has basically stagnated. Typically all audio is mixed to a single monaural stream and emanates from a single point, such as a speakerphone or a speaker associated with a video monitor. This leads to confusion and lack of understanding among participants especially regarding who is actually speaking. Spatial teleconferencing introduces the concept of acoustic spatial separation between conference participants in three dimensional space. This has been shown to significantly improve comprehe...
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, will discuss single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in software-defined storage (SDS) purpose-built for Windows Servers and Hyper-V, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Gridstore™ is the leader in software-defined storage purpose built for virtualization that is designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Using its patented Server-Side Virtual Controller™ Technology (SVCT) to eliminate the I/O blender effect and accelerate applications Gridsto...