Thoughts on YAGNI

The link at the very bottom is an article focusing on a design philosophy YAGNI which is one of the topics we’re supposed to cover in class, though we haven’t gotten to it yet as of my writing this. The name is an acronym of “You Ain’t Gonna Need It” which is basically means if the situation doesn’t immediately call for something to be done, then don’t bother with it. The acronym’s meaning is also the main reason why I chose to write about this topic; it sounded funny to me. The article goes on to describe four “costs” that YAGNI mitigates. The first is the cost of build which is the time and effort spent on analyzing, programming, and testing something. The second is cost of delay which is the cost of pushing back other priorities in order to work on what is deemed more important. The third is cost of carry, the complexity that something brings to software and how that modifying and debugging more difficult. And the last is cost of repair which is self-explanatory. By only working on what is immediately important, the chances of wasting time or changing the program are reduced significantly.

What I find interesting about YAGNI is that in a way, it’s telling people to wing it. The biggest reason for that is because in everyday life, sometimes plans change because of unforeseen circumstances. Let’s take for example someone meticulously planning out a program while taking multiple scenarios into consideration and designing different components to compensate. But it later turns out that many of these scenarios are either unlikely or are taken care of by other things outside of the program that this person didn’t even know about. That in turn causes cost of carry because of all the components complicating the core program, cost of build from the time and effort wasted on designing and implementing these components. These are a lot of headaches that are solved by just being lazy and that’s kind of funny to me.

Something else I noticed is that YAGNI is a really simple design philosophy, to the point where it isn’t strictly constrained to software design. Another example I’ll bring up is how when I was younger, I would waste time writing essays by agonizing over small minute details. And a piece of advice I would often get is to write out my first draft no matter how horrible and worry about fixing the details when the time comes. That isn’t to say that drafting out an outline isn’t important; this applies both to essay writing and software design. The truth is that there should be a balance between YAGNI and other design principles which the article does acknowledge even though it does downplay it.


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