The use of a weak element that will fail in order to protect other elements in the system from damage.


a chain is only as strong as its weakest link

This suggests that the weakest link in a chain is also the least valuable and most expendable link—a liability to the system that should be reinforced, replaced, or removed. However, the weakest element in a system can be used to protect other more important elements, essentially making the weakest link one of the most important elements in the system. For example, electrical circuits are protected by fuses, which are designed to fail so that a power surge doesn’t damage the circuit. The fuse is the weakest link in the system. As such, the fuse is also the most valuable link in the system.

Applying the weakest link principle involves several steps:

  1. identify a failure condition.
  2. identify or define the weakest link in the system for that failure condition.
  3. weaken the weakest link and strengthen the other links as necessary to address the failure condition.
  4. ensure that the weakest link will only fail under the appropriate, predefined failure conditions.

The weakest link principle is limited in application to systems in which a particular failure condition affects multiple elements in the system. Systems with decentralized and disconnected elements cannot benefit from the principle since the links in the chain are not connected.

The weakest link in a system exists by design or by default—either way, it is always present. Therefore, consider the weakest link principle when designing systems in which failures affect multiple elements. Use the weakest link to shut down the system or activate other protective systems. Perform adequate testing to ensure that only specified failure conditions cause the weakest link to fail. Further, weaken the weakest element and harden other elements as needed to ensure the proper failure response.

You could find many helpful examples of using the weakest link in design, for me, the most interesting examples you could find in car designs. The question here, is this principle implementable in the digital world?

Well, I Think we already implement similar principles, but not this one. for example, when we are securing a system, there is an intended failure in many cases such as block the user or even the mac IP Address. but we show in the same time a mercy, by implementing error tolerance principles.

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By Desigeers, For Designers ✍️

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