Welcome!

You will be redirected in 30 seconds or close now.

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

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
The increasing popularity of the Internet of Things necessitates that our physical and cognitive relationship with wearable technology will change rapidly in the near future. This advent means logging has become a thing of the past. Before, it was on us to track our own data, but now that data is automatically available. What does this mean for mHealth and the "connected" body? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Lisa Calkins, CEO and co-founder of Amadeus Consulting, will discuss the impact of wea...
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
Increasing IoT connectivity is forcing enterprises to find elegant solutions to organize and visualize all incoming data from these connected devices with re-configurable dashboard widgets to effectively allow rapid decision-making for everything from immediate actions in tactical situations to strategic analysis and reporting. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Shikhir Singh, Senior Developer Relations Manager at Sencha, will discuss how to create HTML5 dashboards that interact with IoT devic...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Klein, CEO and Co-founder of Rachio, will discuss next generation communities that are using IoT to create more sustainable, intelligent communities. One example is Sterling Ranch, a 10,000 home development that – with the help of Siemens – will integrate IoT technology into the community to provide residents with energy and water savings as well as intelligent security. Everything from stop lights to sprinkler systems to building infrastructures will run ef...
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to massively disrupt IoT. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, AJ Abdallat, CEO of Beyond AI, will discuss what the five main drivers are in Artificial Intelligence that could shape the future of the Internet of Things. AJ Abdallat is CEO of Beyond AI. He has over 20 years of management experience in the fields of artificial intelligence, sensors, instruments, devices and software for telecommunications, life sciences, environmental monitoring, process...
The demand for organizations to expand their infrastructure to multiple IT environments like the cloud, on-premise, mobile, bring your own device (BYOD) and the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow. As this hybrid infrastructure increases, the challenge to monitor the security of these systems increases in volume and complexity. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stephen Coty, Chief Security Evangelist at Alert Logic, will show how properly configured and managed security architecture can...
We’ve worked with dozens of early adopters across numerous industries and will debunk common misperceptions, which starts with understanding that many of the connected products we’ll use over the next 5 years are already products, they’re just not yet connected. With an IoT product, time-in-market provides much more essential feedback than ever before. Innovation comes from what you do with the data that the connected product provides in order to enhance the customer experience and optimize busi...
A critical component of any IoT project is the back-end systems that capture data from remote IoT devices and structure it in a way to answer useful questions. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle large data sets, but they are not well suited to many IoT-scale products and the need for real-time insights. At Fuze, we have developed a backend platform as part of our mobility-oriented cloud service that uses Big Data-based approache...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ericsson has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Ericsson is a world leader in the rapidly changing environment of communications technology – providing equipment, software and services to enable transformation through mobility. Some 40 percent of global mobile traffic runs through networks we have supplied. More than 1 billion subscribers around the world re...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus inter...
We're entering the post-smartphone era, where wearable gadgets from watches and fitness bands to glasses and health aids will power the next technological revolution. With mass adoption of wearable devices comes a new data ecosystem that must be protected. Wearables open new pathways that facilitate the tracking, sharing and storing of consumers’ personal health, location and daily activity data. Consumers have some idea of the data these devices capture, but most don’t realize how revealing and...
The IoTs will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and share the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the development proc...
trust and privacy in their ecosystem. Assurance and protection of device identity, secure data encryption and authentication are the key security challenges organizations are trying to address when integrating IoT devices. This holds true for IoT applications in a wide range of industries, for example, healthcare, consumer devices, and manufacturing. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lancen LaChance, vice president of product management, IoT solutions at GlobalSign, will teach IoT developers how t...
There is an ever-growing explosion of new devices that are connected to the Internet using “cloud” solutions. This rapid growth is creating a massive new demand for efficient access to data. And it’s not just about connecting to that data anymore. This new demand is bringing new issues and challenges and it is important for companies to scale for the coming growth. And with that scaling comes the need for greater security, gathering and data analysis, storage, connectivity and, of course, the...
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, will provide tips on how to be successful in large scale machine lear...
Digital payments using wearable devices such as smart watches, fitness trackers, and payment wristbands are an increasing area of focus for industry participants, and consumer acceptance from early trials and deployments has encouraged some of the biggest names in technology and banking to continue their push to drive growth in this nascent market. Wearable payment systems may utilize near field communication (NFC), radio frequency identification (RFID), or quick response (QR) codes and barcodes...
The IETF draft standard for M2M certificates is a security solution specifically designed for the demanding needs of IoT/M2M applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Brian Romansky, VP of Strategic Technology at TrustPoint Innovation, will explain how M2M certificates can efficiently enable confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity on highly constrained devices.
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
Manufacturers are embracing the Industrial Internet the same way consumers are leveraging Fitbits – to improve overall health and wellness. Both can provide consistent measurement, visibility, and suggest performance improvements customized to help reach goals. Fitbit users can view real-time data and make adjustments to increase their activity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mark Bernardo Professional Services Leader, Americas, at GE Digital, will discuss how leveraging the Industrial Interne...
You deployed your app with the Bluemix PaaS and it's gaining some serious traction, so it's time to make some tweaks. Did you design your application in a way that it can scale in the cloud? Were you even thinking about the cloud when you built the app? If not, chances are your app is going to break. Check out this webcast to learn various techniques for designing applications that will scale successfully in Bluemix, for the confidence you need to take your apps to the next level and beyond.