Most Software Products are Over-Engineered

Have you ever thought about how much of your software is over-engineered? I refer Over-Engineering as the excessive and unnecessary complexity in software design, which often leads to bloated, convoluted, and hard-to-maintain products. An increasing trend of over-engineering has got me thinking, are we doing it right? What are the reasons? How to embrace simplicity in software system design?

Below are the reasons I see generally happening around me, though this is not the full list.

Imagining Unnecessary Use Cases:

The developers often imagine use-cases that are not currently needed or may never be needed at all. This leads to the inclusion of unnecessary features and functionalities that only serve to complicate the software product.

Instead, you should focus on addressing the core problems and real-world use cases and developers should ask the right questions ensuring that their software remains lean and effective.

Premature Maintenance Planning:

When developing a software product, it is not uncommon for developers to imagine a large team maintaining the product in the future. This can lead to the inclusion of numerous tools and utilities aimed at supporting the imagined team. Ironically, this approach creates maintenance issues in the present, as the team must now manage the added complexity and redundancies introduced by these tools.

Avoid adding tools and integrations which are not business-critical. In most cases, a well-documented and well-tested code is great for maintainability rather than having 10 different tools and integrations.

Over-Optimization of Code:

In an effort to create the most efficient software product possible, developers may over-optimize their code, making it difficult to understand and maintain. While optimization is essential, striking a balance between optimization and readability ensures the code remains maintainable and more accessible to other team members. Here is a short example:

Overly optimized code:

function countVowels(str) {
  return str.split('').filter((char) => 'aeiou'.includes(char.toLowerCase()))

const inputStr = 'Over-Engineered Code'

More readable code:

function countVowels(str) {
  let total = 0
  const vowels = 'aeiou'.split('')
  for (let i in str) {
    const char = str[i].toLowerCase()
    if (vowels.includes(char)) {
  return total

const inputStr = 'More readable code'
console.log('>> ', countVowels(inputStr))

The Gold Plating Syndrome:

Developers can sometimes become overly attached to their software, aiming for perfection rather than practicality. This can lead to "gold plating," the process of adding unnecessary features, enhancements, and optimizations that do not directly contribute to the software's core functionality. In turn, this creates a bloated product that is difficult to maintain and scale.

Misalignment with User Requirements:

Over-engineered software often fails to address the actual needs of its users. By focusing on imagined use cases and potential future scenarios, developers may overlook or misunderstand the real-world requirements of their target audience. This can lead to a product that is both confusing and frustrating for its intended users. This can lead to a product that is both confusing and frustrating for its intended users, making it difficult to change the product's direction as needed.

Developer's desire to showcase technical skills

Some software developers try to create complex, intricate, or over-engineered solutions in order to demonstrate their skills, knowledge, and expertise in a particular programming language or technology. While it's natural for developers to be proud of their skills and want to display their proficiency, an excessive focus on showcasing technical skills can lead to over-engineering, decreased readability, and maintainability issues.

Miscommunication among team members

Miscommunication can lead to confusion, requiring additional time and effort for clarification, rework, or fixing errors, thus slowing down the development process. It's essential to foster open communication, actively listen to team members, and provide big picture understanding of project goals and expectations.

How can we simplify?

Consider the following suggestions, which will be especially true for Startups, small businesses, and small teams looking for a bright future for their products.

  1. Focus on the Core Functionality:

Concentrate on delivering the core features that address users' primary needs. Resist the urge to implement every possible feature or use case. This approach will help you keep the product simple and user-focused. Developers should ask questions about user needs, and focus on core functionalities. Identify the real-world use cases and the likelihood of their occurrences.

  1. Adopt an Agile Development Methodology:

Embrace Agile methodologies like Scrum, and XP, which encourage iterative development, collaboration, and continuous improvement. This will help you adapt to changing requirements, prioritize features based on user feedback, and avoid over-engineering.

  1. Adopt SOLID Principles:

Design your software with modularity in mind, which allows for the easy addition and removal of features as needed. This approach will help you build a flexible and maintainable product that can evolve over time without becoming overly complex.

  1. Prioritize writing clean, readable, and well-documented code.

This will help ensure that your software remains maintainable as it grows and evolves, reducing the risk of over-engineering and making it easier to address user needs.

  1. Embrace the KISS Principle:

Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS) is a valuable design principle that encourages simplicity and clarity. By adhering to this principle, you can avoid unnecessary complexity and focus on building a user-friendly product.