Back to Writing Understanding Non-Functional Requirements

Understanding Non-Functional Requirements

Apr 16th, 2024

Beyond the more easily spotted functional specifications that dictate what a system or application should do, there are the less conspicuous, yet equally important, non-functional requirements (NFRs). Yet, I would bet many developers who are not part of larger organizations with SAFe practices almost never document NFRs.

First, let's cover the basics, non-functional requirements dictate not what a system does, but how it performs it. They refer to the criteria that judge the operation of a system, rather than specific behaviours. From a PHP developer’s standpoint, it’s crucial to understand NFRs as this ensures we build systems that don't just work – they work well.

Understanding the Importance of Non-Functional Requirements

Contrary to what the name might suggest, non-functional requirements are not a secondary concern. They largely shape the user experience and ultimately, the success of the system or application developed. Consider a beautifully created PHP web application that satisfies all the functional requirements. Sounds great, right? But what if it takes an age to load a page, crashes frequently, or provides subpar security? That’s where NFRs come into play.

Now, let's delve into some major categories of non-functional requirements:

Performance: How fast does the system respond to user inputs or complete specific actions? As PHP developers, we need to ensure the efficiency of code so it doesn't impact negatively on performance metrics like loading time and response time.

Reliability: How often does the system fail, and how long does it take to recover? An unreliable system can be disastrous for users.

Scalability: Can the system handle increased loads and can it scale easily as demands grow? With PHP, horizontal scalability can present a challenge, but cloud solutions or strategies like load balancing can help address this.

Security: How well can the system protect data and users? A data breach can be catastrophic for your reputation, and as PHP developers, we must regularly audit our code, update security patches, and follow best practices to prevent security vulnerabilities.

Usability: Is the system easy to use and intuitive? For PHP developers, front-end development might not always be the focus.

By understanding and integrating these non-functional requirements in our PHP development process, we can build not only functional, but reliable, scalable, efficient, and user-friendly applications. This also helps ensure that at no point during the development of an application does a client, throw up their arms proclaiming that we didn't adhere to their vision.

Keep in mind that the relationship between functional and non-functional requirements isn't "either-or." Instead, it's a delicate balance that ensures the final application or system doesn't just work but works optimally in a real-world environment.

As PHP developers, recognizing the value of NFRs and how to implement them in our work will elevate our applications to an excellent standard. Always remember, functional requirements may guide what we build, but non-functional requirements ensure we build it well.