About analysis

Lino is for writing customized database applications. A development project starts when the customer explains their needs to the analyst. This document describes some concepts we use when developing Lino applications.

The functional specification

The functional specification of an application is a document which describes what an application is expected to do.

Writing this document is the job of the analyst. The analyst communicates directly with the customer and formulates their needs. The salesman uses this document when discussing with the customer about the price. The developer uses this document in order to understand what he is being asked to implement.

A functional spec is important when doing software development in a team. In a small team the salesman, the analyst and the developer can be a single person. But even then it is important to write function specs for your projects because they are part of your general project description and your offer to the customer.

For a Lino application, the functional specification should include the following elements.

  • A textual description of your database structure, i.e. the list of models (tables) to be used. Each model has a list of fields (properties).

    It is important to choose meaningful names and to agree with your customer on the meaning of certain words which will be the vocabulary used in your application.

    While vocabulary is important, a picture says more than a thousand words. There are many methodologies for visualizsing a database model (UML, IDEF1X), but our favourite method is described in the A Local Exchange Trade System tutorial.

  • Another thing to discuss with your customer during analysis is the menu structure and the content of the main page (dashboard).

  • On multi-user applications you also need a description of the different user types.

The prototype

Lino encourages writing quick prototypes. We often write a prototype for a project even before issuing a first cost estimation.

The goal of such a prototype is to have something to show to your customer that looks a little bit like the final product, and with wich you can play to test whether your analysis of the database structure is okay.

It is important to get some fictive data which corresponds more or less to the reality of your customer. Having an appropriate choice of examples and original documents will help the developer to get a grasp and to write demo fixtures.

The technical specs

As soon as the developer has written a prototype, they can start writing and maintaining "technical specs", i.e. a tested Sphinx document tree which uses the demo database in order to show its content.

Specs are both a visualisation of your demo data (which you might show to your customer) and a part of the test suite of your future application.

Example of a technical spec: The LETS application specs (v1)

End-user documentation

  • The layouts of detail forms are another thing to discuss with your customer during analysis, and therefore they should be part of a specification.