When it comes to tech companies, it seems like everyone has some sort of algorithm. Google has an algorithm for its search results pages, YouTube has an algorithm that recommends videos to a person based on their viewing history, and social media companies use algorithms to suggest friends and topics in which the user might be interested.
But what is an algorithm, exactly? The average person probably couldn’t tell you, at least specifically. We’re all familiar with the end result of algorithms, but not the process that they go through to output answers.
Succinctly, algorithms are a set of directions given to a computer. From there, it’s about giving the algorithm data to provide the desired end result. Take that Google example, for instance: Google has created a set of instructions that they believe provides the best possible search results. By inputting those instructions, the algorithm takes care of the rest.
But how do you make an algorithm? Where does one start? This guide will give you your first look at how to build an algorithm.
The first step in building an algorithm is simply to identify and understand the problem that you are wanting to solve. Web developers are generally very good at diagnosing these sorts of issues, so it would be a good first step to talk to someone in the field.
Again, the key is to grasp the root of the problem and to begin to understand how a computerized function could automate a solution. Alongside grasping the problem’s purpose, try to also break the problem into multiple, independent parts. This is something developers do; they call these segments modules, and it simplifies the process of providing a solution to the problem. It also begins the process of breaking your algorithm into steps.
By using modules, you can determine what functions you will use to solve the problem and create pseudocode, which is similar to computer code but is informal and high level. Pseudocode is a code template for the implementation stage of building an algorithm. You can also create flowcharts to describe the flow of the algorithm and any conditional logic.
The primary deliverable of the design stage is a foundation for your code. In the analysis stage, you can evaluate the efficiency of your code for your algorithm. Efficient code reduces the usage of computer memory and the time that it takes for a computer program to run. The goal of the analysis is to achieve optimal functionality of code, but this standard may vary according to your expertise in coding.
A good example of an algorithm that relies on analysis is something like Targets Trading Pro, an algorithm that automates the buying and selling process for traders. Not only does an algorithm like this need to run smoothly on the back end, but it also has to produce results for those that use it. The analysis is crucial for these sorts of algorithms to succeed.
A computer program should not consume excess memory resources when it is running because computer programs operate alongside other programs that need memory resources and disk space. You can manage memory resources by evaluating what kind of memory you will need to store and what data structures you will use to efficiently store data.
A computer program should be able to run quickly rather than slowly because time is an essential resource in computer programming. You can utilize different data structures and discover which one is the most efficient for your problem because some data structures operate linearly or by mapping. When you search a linear data structure, the computer accesses every item, and the time that this takes depends on the size of the data structure. When you search a data structure with mapping features, time is reduced when a certain element needs to be accessed.
In this stage of the algorithm-building process, you write functional code to implement the algorithm. In terms of coding, you need to have experience with at least one programming language. If you are familiar with many programming languages, then choose the one that you are most comfortable with. If you do not have coding experience but are part of a team, then have the most experienced programmer write the code so that you can examine the code and at least try to understand it.
If you have enough coding experience and are willing to write the algorithm in terms of code, then you will need to understand your algorithm and write efficient code. You should be aware of how each line of code will be executed and what each line of code will do. Efficiency and compatibility are key factors in writing the code, so be aware of the execution time and possible exceptions that could occur when a user is running your code. Take heed of all possible inputs that your program can receive and handle every input accordingly.
Once you have completed the initial coding of your algorithm, test your code by repeatedly using different data values that may break your code. Doing this will help to evaluate a real-world scenario in which a user does not cooperate with the flow of your program.
Debug your code to attempt to remove any flaws or bugs that may be present. The debugging process can help to make your code and algorithm more efficient because it helps you understand what exactly is happening at each line of code and determine the necessity of each line. You can clean your code and improve it with debugging because you can see how functions operate with each other and their practicality.
The testing step can be a recurring process because you may have to go back to the design phase and remodel your systematic approach on how to build an algorithm that solves your specific problem. Additionally, you may discover new functions that you were not aware of during the implementation stage, and the testing stage combines all aspects of the algorithm into one efficiently functional package.
Building an algorithm can be a simple but repetitive process. You design a solution, analyze the algorithm, implement the algorithm by writing code and test the algorithm by using different data values for your variables when you execute the program. The entire process is cyclical, which means that you may have to go back to a previous step to fix an error that you did not notice while you were writing the code. The key to the design of an algorithm is to understand the problem you are addressing, to continuously break it down into its subcomponents and to repeatedly test. improve and optimize your solution.