Understanding software development begins by understanding what software is. Software is defined as a set of instructions and programs, independent of hardware, that command the functions and actions of computers.
There are four main types of software and they include:
- System software: These provide primary functions like disk management, operating systems, hardware management, utilities and other necessary functions for computer operation.
- Programming software: These are software used by developers to code. They provide them with tools such as text editors, linkers, compilers and debuggers, among others.
- Application software: These refer to applications that allow users to perform tasks and operations. They include security programs, data management software, office productivity tools, eCommerce applications, social media apps, etc.
- Malicious software (Malware): These are software that harm the functionality of devices. They include viruses, ransomware, spyware, Trojans and malvertising, among others.
The process of developing various types of software is called Software development. By definition, software development refers to a set of activities dedicated to the designing, creation, testing, deploying and supporting software. Software engineers, software developers and programmers often do this task.
Types of software development
Software development is a multi-faceted process that involves different components and stages. Here is a list of the different types of software development that also define the different types of software developers.
- Web development
- Mobile development
Mobile development, also known as App development, entails creating applications that run on mobile devices. These applications are mostly native that run on either iOS or Android, although there exist hybrid apps that can run on all the conventional mobile operating systems.
Mobile app developers require skills and knowledge of Java, C, C++, Swift (for iOS), Android and HTML5.
- Application development
This entails building applications that run on various computer operating systems like Windows, Mac and Linux. Simply put, application development entails creating computer programs that assist users in performing basic functions for their business or personal lives. Web application development requires knowledge of key frameworks such as Python, C#, C, C++, VB.NET and Java, among others.
- Software tools development
These entail developing tools for software developers to use in developing their software programs or to test their codes. They are also critical for ensuring developers maintain industry standards when developing their software products. Knowledge of Python, Java and C++ is necessary to be a software tools developer.
- API development
Application Programming Interface (API) development refers to the building of extensive software products. It entails developing foundation frameworks for standard procedures, tools and types of graphical user interface interactions and rules for database access. It is upon these foundational frameworks that other developers can build other compatible applications and systems.
- Embedded systems development
This type of software development involves the creation of embedded systems like Arduinos, Raspberry Pi’s and Beaglebones, among others. Notably, the software is customized to match the software systems that your devices run on.
Embedded systems developers require knowledge of Embedded C, Python, Assembler, Java and Arduino.
- Security Software Development
This entails specializing in developing software tools used to counter the imminent threat of cyberattacks. Developers specializing in software security should know the top programming languages, particularly the language of the system being guarded.
Overall, developers lie in two main categories: front-end developers and back-end developers.
Front-end developers specialize in creating the visible aspects of software that users interact with, including graphics, buttons, text blocks, etc. The key competencies of front-end developers include:
- Responsive designs for applications
- Cross-browser development
- Knowledge of SEO
Back-end developers work on the server-side of a software product. They are responsible for defining the functional framework for software. The key competencies of back-end developers include:
- Knowledge of top programming languages, including Python, PHP, Java, Python, Rust, etc.
- Knowledge of database management frameworks such as SQL, MySQL, Oracle, MongoDB, Redis, etc.
- Knowledge of API tools such as SOAP, GraphQL and REST, among others.
- Knowledge of versioning control tools.
Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)
Conventionally, software development companies divide a software development project into different phases. These phases are arranged in a logical/ systematic order, which is commonly known as the software development life cycle. The cycle comprises of 7 phases and they conclude:
Phase 1: Requirement analysis
Here, the development team and the client come together to develop a compendium of all the items required to execute the software development process from start to finish, the core features of the software, and the function it aims to perform. This phase also entails developing a comprehensive plan for quality assurance and risk mitigation.
A comprehensive list of software requirements provides the team with a comprehensive understanding of the scope of the project, allowing for the specification of timelines.
Phase 2: Feasibility study
A Software Requirement Specification document is a key document for conducting a feasibility study for your software development project. It helps detail every element of the development process.
The key elements of a feasibility study include budget requirements, legal/regulatory compliance, operation feasibility, technical requirements and the timelines for project execution.
Phase 3: Design
The design phase is where the architecture of the software is defined based on the client’s vision.
Phase 4: Implementation
Here is where all the magic happens. Following the plan outlined during the planning phase, developers begin coding to develop and put the various elements of the systems together. The implementation phase is often divided into units/modules, which are divided across the team of developers implementing the progress.
The coding process is the longest and requires the team of developers to work with the tools defined earlier to implement the program. The different elements are then put together to form one unit of a software product.
Phase 5: Testing
Before deployment, the developed software has to be tested and this happens in phase 5. The purpose of testing is to assess the functionality of the entire software, identify bugs that need to be fixed, and to check whether it satisfied the needs of the target users.
Insights and results from the testing are then used to fix bugs and to adjust product design to fit the needs of target users. Re-testing continues until the software is stable, bug-free and satisfies the needs of the users.
Continuous testing during the coding phase can help shorten the testing phase. While it can extend the implementation phase, this approach can be instrumental in getting it right the first time.
Phase 6: Deployment
After a successful testing phase, it is deployed. If the software is meant for internal use in a business, it might be necessary for the developers to conduct an induction process to help users understand how to use the software.
Phase 7: Maintenance
Maintenance happens continuously after deployment and includes fixing bugs that may have been missed, upgrading the software to a newer version and/or enhancing software features and functions.
Adherence and addressing the unique needs of each phase are critical for the success of any software development project.
Popular SDLC methodologies
There are different approaches to implementing SDLC. Some of the top methodologies for software development include:
- Waterfall model
This is the oldest and most widely used software development model. Here, the phases and activities are aligned sequentially. The outcomes of a preceding phase influence the input and the conduct of the next phase. Characteristically, the waterfall model has intensive documentation, especially given the outcomes of every phase determines the conduct of the later phases.
The incremental approach stems from the waterfall model as it comprises a series of waterfall models. Essentially, the SDLC is conducted repeatedly using the waterfall model, only with each version of the software that is released, new functionalities are added. Every repeat cycle is also a maintenance phase for the initial version of software.
- Agile model
The agile methodology provides room for continuous iteration and testing through the development process. In this method, the project is split into smaller segments, each to be completed within 3 weeks. Through the development, the different builds are iterated until the entire product conforms with the initial vision, is stable, and satisfies the needs of users.
- Spiral model
The spiral model allows developers to adopt best features and elements of other models like the waterfall, incremental and agile models. Essentially, this process entails rapid prototyping and concurrent designing and software development.
While it is a great model that borrows from the conventional and highly utilized models, the spiral model comes with higher risks that developers have to be aware of.
The V-model of software development is an extension of the waterfall model. However, it departs from the linear approach, and instead, development takes the form of a V-shape. The V-shape aims to demonstrate the relationship between the phases of development. The integration, test and verification phase is compared to the initial design, the system verification and validation to the architecture and the operation and maintenance to the initial concept.
- Big bang model
The big bang model is predicated on the idea of implementing all that is available without comprehensive planning. The project requirements are identified, understood and integrated as they come. This model works best for smaller projects conducted by a small development team. It also only works best for projects that do not have strict timelines.
Software development has many components to it. The success of a software development venture is predicated on your understanding of what software development is, the skill set required, the different phases of a software development lifecycle and the various methodological approaches. Hopefully, this article has provided you a detailed understanding and a guide to some of the critical elements of software development.
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