7 Factors to consider while choosing third-party libraries for your Application

Nowadays libraries offer so much when it comes to application development. As the software industry has evolved, the amount of third-party libraries available has reached huge numbers. This is both a blessing and a challenge for app developers. Selecting those libraries that are right for you is a skill. You don’t want to integrate too many libraries, so you won’t lose control of your app entirely. You don’t want to be overly cautious and miss important capabilities in your app as well. Here are the 7 factors one should evaluate before choosing the “Right” third-party libraries.

  1. Does The License Meet Your Requirements?

What is fit for you clearly based on your context. For occurrence, if you’re developing and distributing a commercial application, then you should have all the rights to distribute those libraries that you have used with your application.

  1. When Should Library Be Updated?

For development teams and managers, the problem is now how they can handle this situation. Updates to new variants of library components are not free. Update to new variants of components means new releases of the application, which involves tests, builds, deployments etc. Oftenly small modifications are required to the code or configuration to make the application run with the new variants of the library components.

All of this requires time and money and involves uncertainties. Why would you place yourself into all of this, if these are not crucial security updates? Particularly if everything is running very smoothly with the old variant of the library and the users are happy? As they say: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

  1. Does The Library Actively Maintain?

Check out the library details like last updated date, contributors, support, does it have any known vulnerabilities? If you know these things at the beginning or while developing, you can finger it out based on that report. Besides identifying the libraries you are adding to your projects, in most cases, these libraries have their own dependency. This is even harder to go and check, but they could also introduce some vulnerabilities.

  1. Know What Libraries You Have Implemented

You should always be adequate to understand that what libraries you are utilizing at any given moment, as well as their variants and consents. You just never know when someone from the security team is going to call you about a crucial issue in a specific variant of a library, or when the legal department abruptly decides to restrict the usage of a particular license.

  1. Take Expertise On To The Library

The end user just needs the feature, they don’t care whether you have used the library to created that feature or not. If something braking your code, you must be capable to fix it. So, consider that also while selecting the library you have planned for your application. “Do you have the legal permit to modify the source code for private use?”, “Do you have access to the source code of the library?”,  “Are the creator of the library responsive to the reported issues?”  or “Are the creator of the library allowing you to apply patches?”

  1. Use Encapsulation & Polymorphism

Use the Facade design pattern that helps you to wrap the libraries in your own interface. This holds some benefits,

  • If required, It allows you to easily replace the library with another.
  • It documents which components of the library you are actually utilizing.
  • It allows you to add functionality that the library should have provided but doesn’t, and do so in a logical place.
  1. Write Regression Tests For the Library Updates

As we are updating libraries as and when it is required, then It is better to know whether they broke anything in a new release. So, to test that we need to write some tests that prove the functionality that we want to use from the library. As a reward, these tests grows as documentation on how to utilize the library.

Finding the best library for your application which matches with your requirement need not be an everlasting process. You just need to design a method while flipping over the vast range of third-party libraries that are available. Take your time to decide which one is working best for your app. The wrong decision leads you to decrease sales or push you to the legal issues. The right decision can improve your product, increase your product quality, and developer’s productivity. “You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be”.


About the Author:

He has vast experience in iOS and IoT projects. He believes that sharing knowledge is the best way to learn and grow as a developer. In his spare time, he is interested in traveling, learning new technology and playing cricket.