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System Design: Step-by-step

📖 Cracking the Coding Interview

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There is no "perfect" system

There is no single design for any system that works perfectly. There are always trade-offs. Two different people can come up with different designs, with both being excellent given different assumptions.

Your goal is to:

  1. Understand the use case
  2. Scope the ...

Step 1: Scope the problem

You can't design a system if you don't know what you're designing.

First, ask questions to clarify what you need to implement. Then make a list of all major features and use cases that your design must cover.

For example, if you're designing TinyURL, that list mig...

Step 2: Make reasonable assumptions

Depending on the type of system you are designing, you need to estimate its scale: how many users will access it every day, how much data you will store and process, etc.

You should be careful when making assumptions. Incorrect assumptions can dramatically change th...

Step 3: Draw the major components

Draw a high-level diagram of what your system looks like:

  • Include major components such as servers, databases and important processes
  • Describe the flow of your system from end-to-end

Step 4: Identify the key issues

Once you have a basic design in mind, focus on the key issues. Identify the bottlenecks and major challenges of the system, and then adjust your design to handle them.

In the TinyURL example, a challenge you might consider is that some URLs are frequently accessed, whil...

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