A Comprehensive Look Into the Software Development Process
Kris Nicolaou, January 27, 2023
Software developers do crucial work to improve user experience across various industries. Forecasts show that application development software revenue could reach $166.20 billion in 2023. Application software is only a segment of what modern developers are working on today.
If you want to know how developers create high-quality software, this article is for you. Read on to get a comprehensive look into the software development process.
- Software development is the complex process of creating, designing, and deploying a set of codes that tell a device what to do.
- The software development life cycle (SDLC) phases can change depending on the product you want to design. However, it has basic elements, including identification of business needs, design creation, product development, testing, and deployment.
- There are different approaches to software development. The agile and waterfall methods are only two of the most common frameworks developers use today.
Defining Software Development
Software development is a broad industry encompassing various processes and disciplines. The processes involved are dedicated to the creation, design, deployment, and support of digital products.
At its core, software refers to a set of rules, instructions, or programs that tell a computer what tasks to perform. Developers can change the program anytime, and the codes are independent of hardware.
Programmers, software engineers, and software developers can be involved in the software development process. However, they have their own distinct responsibilities and roles.
Programmers are coders who write source code that tell computers to perform specific tasks, such as the following:
- Merging databases
- Processing online orders
- Routing communications
- Conducting searches
- Displaying text and graphics
Coders typically interpret instructions from software developers and engineers. They use programming languages like C++ or Java to carry out their tasks.
Meanwhile, software engineers use engineering principles to create software and systems that can address issues. They use modelling language and other tools to develop solutions that they can apply to a range of problems instead of merely addressing a single instance or a client's issue.
Software engineering solutions must adhere to the scientific method and work in the real world, like bridges and elevators. The role of software engineers has grown as products have become increasingly intelligent.
Finally, software developers have a less formal role, but they help drive the overall software development lifecycle. Their responsibilities can include the following tasks:
- Writing code
- Working across functional teams to change requirements into features
- Managing development teams and processes
- Conducting software testing and maintenance
However, software development is not limited to coders or development teams. Professionals from different industries can also help create software code, even if they are not primarily software developers.
There are three main types of software, each with its own specific purpose.
- Developers create application software to help users perform specific tasks. This category includes office productivity suites, data management software, media players, security programs, and mobile applications. People use these apps to shop online or upload on social media.
- System software enables essential functions such as operating systems, disk management, utilities, hardware management, and other operational necessities. Developers design this software to make features that allow a computer to function correctly.
- Programming software gives programmers the tools they need to create code. This category includes text editors, compilers, linkers, debuggers, and other resources.
A fourth type of software that is becoming increasingly relevant is embedded software. Users rely on systems software to control other machines and devices besides computers, such as telecommunications networks, cars, or industrial robots.
Developers can connect these devices and their software as a component of the Internet of Things (IoT).
Software development is not limited to traditional information technology (IT) industries. Scientists, device fabricators, and hardware makers rely on the software development process in project management.
Another thing to note is the difference between custom and commercial software development.
Custom software development involves designing, creating, deploying, and maintaining software for a particular set of users, functions, or organizations. Meanwhile, commercial off-the-shelf software (COTS) is for a broad range of requirements. Developers can package, commercially market, and distribute this type of software.
The Software Development Process
The steps involved in the SDLC can vary depending on the parameters of a project. That said, there are certain elements that need to be present regardless of what developers are trying to produce. Knowing these required steps can help you develop an effective process for your own project.
Identification of software requirements
In this step, you will identify and document the requirements of stakeholders and users. This stage involves market research and brainstorming. Before developing software, you must perform extensive market research to learn the product's viability.
You must identify the functions and services the end product should provide, so its target users get the most out of it. Remember that you are making the software for them. They need to find it valuable and necessary.
Fortunately, there are many ways to get this crucial information. You can ask for feedback from potential and existing customers through surveys.
During requirement specification, people involved in the process must also discuss the software's strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. Remember that the process should begin only if the product satisfies all parameters needed for its success.
Requirement analysis is also a crucial part of this stage of software development. Here, stakeholders agree on the specifications and requirements of the proposed product. This step involves preparing a detailed outline of the following:
- The components of the software project
- The scope
- The responsibilities of developers
- Testing parameters
This stage involves the contribution of developers, users, project managers, testers, and the quality assurance team. Moreover, programmers choose the software development approach they will use in this stage of the process.
The team documents the outcome of this stage in a file that teams can always check during the project implementation.
Designing the software is the next phase of the development process. In this step, architects and developers outline advanced technical specifications for the software to meet project requirements.
Stakeholders will also bring up the following factors that are crucial to the success of the project:
- Team composition
- Risk levels
- Applicable technologies
- Software architecture
This section should outline the architectural design, communication, components, front-end representation, and user flows of the software. This step creates a design document for developers and testers while reducing the chances of delays and errors in the finished product.
The next stage involves developing and implementing the project’s design parameters. Here, developers write code based on the specifications and requirements that the stakeholders specified.
Front-end developers create interfaces and back-ends. Meanwhile, database administrators store relevant data in the database. The programmers involved in the process also test and check each other's code.
After completing the code, developers deploy the software to a simulated environment for the implementation stage. Doing so allows them to test a prototype version of the product to make adjustments.
Software testing is a crucial phase of the software development process. Unit testing and integration testing allow developers to spot and address any potential defects.
The testing phase is crucial for checking the software for bugs and verifying its performance. In this stage, expert testers assess the product's functions to ensure it performs according to the project’s requirements analysis document.
Testers rely on exploratory testing if they have experience with the product software to validate the performance of each component of the software.
After validation, they will tell developers of defects they find in the code. If coders confirm the flaws are valid, they must improve the program. The team will repeat this process until the product has no bugs and behaves as it should.
The systems development team can deploy the product once they are confident about the software’s functionality, stability, and usability.
During this phase, organizations can choose to give access to the products to all the customers or a limited number of users.
The developers should also ask for feedback from external customers to determine areas they need to improve.
After they are satisfied with the feedback they receive from users with early access, the developers can make a public release of the product.
Another part of the product management process after deployment is providing maintenance and support. Programmers and coders must work continuously to ensure that the product demonstrates proper functionality even after deployment.
Different Approaches to Software Development
There are several approaches to the software development process. Although some software development methodologies are more useful in certain projects, they all have their own crucial advantages and disadvantages. After reading this section, you will be able to determine which approach will work best for your project.
Teams use the agile development method to minimize risk when adding new features to a product. The goal of using this unique approach is to allow frequent alterations or changes in the development project.
Developers use the agile methodology by developing software in short time boxes or iterations that usually last a week to a month.
There are several types of agile software development. These include scrum, extreme programming (XP), crystal, and feature-driven development (FOD).Pros
- Enables quick response to changing client requirements
- Allows continuous delivery of software
- Promotes constant interaction between users, developers, and testers
- Removes any guesswork through constant communication
- Challenging assessment of the effort required at the beginning of the process
- Constant changes to customer requirements could stall the process
Another popular approach to the SDLC is the waterfall methodology. This model specifies the software development process in a sequential flow of work and tasks.
This method requires developers to complete any tasks before moving on to the next stage of the development process. The rigid linear approach of the waterfall model does not allow the team to go back to the previous stage to address new requirements.Pros
- Easy and simple to understand, even for new developers
- A rigid model allows for easy project management
- Effective for small projects
- Documentation can take a lot of time for testers and developers
- Inapplicable to projects that require continuous maintenance
- Amendments to the product after the testing stage can be problematic
- Developers cannot use valuable feedback from customers while the development phase is ongoing
Rapid application development (RAD)
Rapid application development (RAD) refers to a condensed methodology that produces a high-quality solution even with low investment costs. This approach helps developers adjust to changing requirements in a constantly evolving market.
With this development model, developers must complete requirements planning, software design, development, and cutover. The user design and construction stages repeat until the user confirms that the software meets all requirements.Pros
- Effective for projects with a well-defined business objective
- Useful for time-sensitive assignments
- Requires a development team with highly skilled developers knowledgeable about the application stage
- Requires approval after every construction phase
The spiral development method is a risk-driven approach that involves the creation of prototypes early in the process. This way, developers can specifically address risk areas at the start of the life cycle.
Developers analyze prototyping results and determine other risk areas to address. Often, they prototype areas like algorithm performance and user requirements. The team continues prototyping until they resolve and address these high-risk areas.Pros
- Reduces risk
- Effective for critical large-scale projects
- Enables the addition of new functionalities at a later stage
- Continuous prototyping can be costly
- The success of the project hinges on the risk analysis phase
- Inapplicable to low-risk projects
- Prototyping may continue indefinitely
These are only some of the most popular process models of software development. If you are still uncertain of what model to use, then take a closer look at your project and requirements.
The right approach to use should be based on the nature of the business application and the required deliverables. If you want, you can also review the advantages and disadvantages of the given models and develop a unique model for your project.
Automation can be a crucial component in the software development process. It can help save time, minimize errors, and reduce manual effort. It can also ensure reliability and consistency in the software development process.
Know More About Software Development With Brain Box Labs
Before starting software development, you should equip yourself with relevant information to streamline the process. Determine the development stages your own process should have and the right methodology to use.
You can even consult a professional software development company to help you build your desired solution. Reach out to Brain Box Labs and discover how we can provide impressive results through solid software development.