The software development process is also known as the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC).
It is a comprehensive set of rules, practices and steps that enable you to turn an idea for a software product into an actual product.
Why Is The Software Development Process Important?
Following these rules and practices is important for a few reasons:
- It enables clear communication: Software development is a complicated procedure that involves many parties and stakeholders: software engineers, project managers, clients and more. As such, it can quickly get chaotic without clear communication guidelines. A well-defined software development process will help you avoid confusion by outlining the communication channels between all the involved parties.
- It optimizes the workflow: It’s not uncommon for one software project to employ multiple developers, with each one working on specific tasks. And the bigger the project, the easier it can be to lose track of each developer’s tasks. A software development process will prevent that by clearly defining the responsibilities of each stakeholder in the development process.
- It saves you money: Idling, poor communication and mismanaging the resources for your software development project can make it more lengthy and more costly. By implementing a software development process you will be able to streamline the workflow on your project and save money as a result.
7 Key Steps Of The Software Development Process
While the approach to software development varies between companies, the most universal steps of software development are as follows:
Step #1: Planning And Research
Preparation is key in software development. Before diving into a new project, you should know precisely what that project will be, why you will be undertaking it and what you wish to achieve.
The first step of the development process is all about planning and research.
At this stage, you should determine the following aspects of your project:
- Scope of the project
- Resources it will require
- Estimated costs
Step #2: Feasibility Analysis
Feasibility and software requirements analysis is the second step of the development process.
During this step, you and your team will explore the technical specifics of the project in greater detail to get a better understanding of the project’s purpose and goals.
Exploring these details will allow you to perform the feasibility analysis of your project. The goal of the feasibility analysis is to determine whether you have the necessary resources and tools to successfully complete the project.
It will also help you identify potential risks and issues you may run into during the next stages.
Step #3: Design And Prototyping
Once you assess the project requirements, the next step is to create the design and the prototype of the software product.
The design and prototyping stage of software development is similar to drafting an outline of a blog article or creating a storyboard for a video.
It is during this stage that you develop the visual and technical architecture of the product. Mockups or prototypes can be used to materialize the proposed UX wireframe and functionality of the software.
Creating the preliminary software design is helpful when communicating with your client, as a visual, tangible representation of the project is easier to give feedback to. It will also be useful in the later stages of the development process as a reference point for the developers.
Step #4: Development
Once all of the above preparations are done, it is time to move to the development stage. This is when the developers actually perform the necessary programming and bring the software idea to life.
This stage of the development process is usually the most time-consuming one, as it results in an almost finished, functional product.
During this stage, the software will go through several steps:
- Pre-alpha is the version of the software before and during the development stage. Pre-alphas usually exist as prototypes or design sketches but are far from a finished product.
- Alpha version is a rough draft of the software. It has most of the functionalities and features that were outlined in the design stage, but may still miss many important elements or contain serious errors.
- Beta version is a more complete, fine-tuned iteration of the software, but it’s still not ready for release. Beta versions go through rigorous testing to identify and resolve hidden issues or bugs.
- Release candidate is a finished beta version that has the potential to be released to the client. At this point, all of the software’s features have been designed and implemented and the testing is conducted from a user’s perspective.
Step #5: Quality Assurance
Once the release candidate version of the software is completed and approved, it enters the integration and quality assurance stage.
During this stage, the quality assurance (QA) team will perform a range of tests that simulate the real-life use of the software.
These tests will show not only whether the finished product is issue-free, but also whether it reflects the client’s original idea and meets their business goals.
Step #6: Software Deployment
This is the stage where the release candidate turns into a stable release, ready to be shipped to the client or the general public.
Depending on the nature and the complexity of the software, it can either be deployed all at once or in several stages.
In most cases, the deployment stage will be fully automated to avoid human error, cut costs and make it less time-consuming.
Step #7: Software Maintenance
Software is never really finished. This is why software maintenance is the final but also a continuous stage of software development.
During the maintenance stage, it is important to collect and analyze user feedback to identify bugs and issues that the quality assurance team might have missed.
In this stage, the software is perfected to outperform its competition and provide long-term value to the client.