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When Less Is More: The Danger Of Over-Engineering

With decades of combined experience in software development, we have encountered numerous challenges in software projects and have earned ourselves a reputation for rescuing systems and projects from failure. One of the most common and costly mistakes we often encounter in the world of software development is over-engineering.  

In software development, over-engineering typically occurs when technical decision makers such as CTOs, System Architects, Technical Leads and unsupported less experienced developers, etc. create a solution that is more complex than necessary.  

Our Head of Quality Assurance, Mu, explains that over-engineering is just like killing a tiny bug with a Gatling gun instead of using a more simple and effective method such as fly spray or your sandals (as long as the fly is on an inanimate object).

In this article, we’ll explore the dangers of overengineering and discuss how to avoid it. We’ll provide real-world strategies from our senior developers to help you avoid over-engineering when you work on a software project.


Why do people over-engineer software products?

Over-engineering is far from nefarious. In fact, most cases are the result of the best intentions meeting inexperience. Here are some of the most common reasons why over-engineering occurs in software projects:

1. Desire for technical excellence. 

As the saying goes, “The road to hell is paved with the best intentions”. Engineers may want to create the latest and greatest products and specify a complex architecture, pioneering (yet widely unsupported) technology choices, and cryptic coding patterns or styles. However, this desire for perfection can actually lead to unnecessary complexity, wasted time and money.

2. Lack of clear requirements or documentation

Without well-defined requirements or scope, there is the risk that developers can take matters into their own hands and make technical decisions that may seem right to them, but can lead to avoidable complications in the future.  

3. Poor team collaboration and communication

When team collaboration is poor it often results in different understanding of project goals and a lack of awareness of the full scope of the project. This can lead to the development of unnecessary features and the (semi) development of solutions that aren’t feasible. 

4. Lack of technical knowledge and experience

Without experience and with limited knowledge, inexperienced engineers can overlook simple frameworks that offer efficient solutions to their problems and opt for complex technologies that end up potentially causing more issues, leading to unnecessary complexities that make software harder to maintain and modify in the future.

5. Looking too far into the future


James, our DevOps engineer, with over 10 years of experience in software development and currently helping our client fixing over-engineering, has shared his thoughts with us about the cause of over-engineering. 

He said, “Looking too far into the future without considering the constraints of available resources is like chasing a dream without a solid foundation. You will use much expertise in different technologies for adding features which wastes time and effort. ”

Simply put. When developers try to predict and prepare for future needs, they end up adding complex features and technologies that go beyond what is necessary for the current project. This can distract them from addressing the immediate requirements, making the software more complicated and costly to develop.

What Are the Negative Consequences of Over-Engineering?

Over-engineering in software development brings about negative consequences due to several key reasons:

1. Overload of features and functionalities

When you build a solution that is more complex than it needs to be, it accumulates overlapping features and functionality which can result in a poor User Experience. 

2. Longer debugging and troubleshooting

As the codebase becomes bloated and more complex, it becomes harder to understand and debug, causing delays in identifying and fixing issues.

3. Higher development time and costs


With over 25 years of software engineering experience, our CEO Vincent Trienpont explained how over-engineering wastes effort and burns costs.

He said, “Over-engineering adds unnecessary complexity, requiring more time and effort (costs) to develop and maintain the software. But if you stay with simple technology, make it as simple as possible, and follow good code standards then you can build and test out a product faster. ”

4. A Greater technical debt

Unnecessary complexities make the code harder to modify and increase the risk of future bugs and maintenance issues.

By understanding these negative consequences, you can focus on the present moment and build a solution that meets the needs of the users and meets the required goal. On the topic of Technical Debt, it’s another major issue we encounter often in existing software systems. 

How Do I Avoid Over-Engineering?

I’m glad you asked. Here are a few tips from our experienced development team you can follow to avoid over-engineering:

 1. Use an iterative approach

Our head of Projects & Delivery, Justin MacCarthy, with around 30 years of experience in the tech industry, has told us the secret of delivering successful projects.


He said, “It’s better to do small steps and then once you get the feedback you can optimise everything upfront”

By breaking down the project into smaller, the task is more manageable and It is easier for you to make changes to the project as needed, and you can ensure that the final product meets the needs of users.

2. Validate requirements

To avoid over-engineering, your development team should thoroughly analyse and review the requirement to identify ambiguities or gaps. Then engage with the client to establish clear acceptance and clear criteria.

Creating a clear record of changes made to the requirement is also important to make sure that everyone is aware of the updated requirements and keep transparency.

3. Foster open communication

Establishing effective communication leads to project success. One strategy we use to foster open communication is creating a regular schedule for regular check-ins and status updates throughout the project using tools like Slack or Google Meet.

At Trienpont International, we encourage proactive communication by facilitating knowledge sharing either online or in-person where experienced developers help younger developers solve problems. 

4. Follow DRY, KISS, YAGNI

These are three great software concepts to help developers avoid over-engineering.

  • Keep it Simple, Stupid (KISS):  If you are trying to solve a problem, don’t try to use the most complex algorithm you know. Opt for simpler ones that will solve the problem at hand. 
  • Don’t Repeat Yourself (DRY):  If you have code that is duplicated in multiple places, extract it into a function or class. This will make your code easier to read and maintain.
  • You Ain’t Gonna Need It (YAGNI): If you are not sure if you need a feature, don’t implement it yet. Wait until you know that you need it.


Over-engineering is a painful and unwanted problem in software development but there are ways to avoid the issue.

The strategies to fight against over-engineering are understanding requirements, communicating with your team, and following DRY, KISS, and YAGNI to avoid implementing unnecessary features.

At Trienpont International, we always foster proactive communication between experienced developers and younger developers to make sure that everyone is on the same page and has the same goal. We care about scalability and are aware of impossible functionalities. 

If you want to build a software product, but don’t want to waste your effort and costs on over-engineering, contact us, and we will discuss how we can help you.

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