You’ve made use of some of the best free software out there when it comes to both your company and your professional life.
But now, you want to make your own. You’d like to learn about how to create software that improves your work life — or just allows you to play a fun game.
But what is software development?
What are the different kinds of software that you can create? What are the specific phases you need to go through to ensure that everything works out well? What does the process of creating a piece of software look like?
In this post, we’re prepared to answer your most burning questions about software development projects.
Read on to become an expert.
What Is Software Development?
Before we get into anything else, let’s make sure you’re clear on what exactly software development is.
The good news is that the definition is pretty much identical to what the name implies.
Software development is the process of creating a unique piece of software written in one of the many programming languages. Essentially, it’s created through the process of writing numerous lines of code.
This code is kind of like an instruction manual for your computer, which it will follow to the letter. Think of coding as a kind of “language” that you use to communicate with your computer.
You might also have heard software development referred to as software design, or even application development and creation.
The “purpose” of this newly-developed software can be pretty much anything you want it to be.
Maybe you want to make a new operating system (like Windows or Mac OS X Lion.) Perhaps you want to create a smaller, individual application. This means something like Microsoft Word or Google Chrome.
This brings us to the next part of understanding the process of developing software. You need to know that there are two main development paths to follow. They’re software application development and systems software development.
Let’s take a deeper look at them now.
Systems and Applications
There are two kids of software development projects that you can work on: systems software and application software.
Systems software is all about your computer’s hardware. This means that systems software projects relate to entire operating systems. It actually coordinates the things that hardware, and even specific programs on a computer, must do.
Think of systems software as a kind of task manager.
On a smaller level, you have applications software.
This is likely something you’re a bit more familiar with. Application software can be things like games, apps on your phone, Power Point, spreadsheets, and much more. These are basically the “programs” that you open to play with or use on your computer.
They’re used within the systems software (the operating system.) This is because they’re individual applications.
How to Develop Software: The Process
As you’ve likely come to realize by now, software development projects can be seriously complicated.
Therefore, it’s important to be as organized as possible in the development process. It’s all about segmentation, testing constantly throughout the process, and moving slowly.
After all, one tiny error in a line of code can completely throw off everything else.
Of course, there are countless different software development methods, or SDMs for short.
You might have heard of things like development guidelines, process models, and even the complicated software development life cycle. The good news is that, unless you’re actually the one writing the code yourself, you won’t have to deal with any of that.
Instead, you just hire a software developer who has the skills to bring the software you need to life.
Still, it helps to roughly understand the process. There are six main “phases” of software development. Let’s take a quick look at them now.
1) Requirements Analysis
The first phase of software application development is known as requirements analysis.
As the name implies, here, you’re basically setting goals for your software. You’re deciding who it’s for, the features it needs, and what it can help to improve or accomplish.
You’ll also decide if it’s going to be a systems software or an application software. (The good news is that part will be pretty obvious.)
You could speak to customers, those in the boardroom, or the client that’s asking for the software to determine their needs and expectations.
This is also where you’ll likely set a development timeline.
You’ll need excellent communications skills to succeed in software development.
Not only will you sometimes need to manage expectations. You’ll also have to be able to explain complex software lingo to people that don’t know anything about it.
2) Software Design
This is the fun part — where you bring your ideas to life.
You start to develop algorithms, fine-tune features, and more.
It’s important to remember that not everything will be perfect during this phase. You should think of it as more of a loose sketch that you’ll edit over time. Don’t see it as a final blueprint that you have to follow to the letter.
As you’ll quickly come to realize, software development is a lot of trial and error. You’ll always tweak lots of things throughout the process.
3) The Implementation Phase
Now, it’s time to get to work.
During the implementation phase, you’ll actually start to write out your code. You’ll use the “loose sketches” you made during the software design phase to help you. You’ll also refer back to the ultimate goals of your software here.
Remember that you’re not going to be going in a “forward” direction all the time during this phase.
You’ll encounter lots of stops and starts along the way.
4) Testing and Debugging
So, you’ve designed the perfect piece of software on the first try. You’re ready to release it to the public or start using it at your company! You don’t need to run any tests, because you know it’s perfect.
Now, it’s time to come back to reality.
During the testing phase, you’ll actively look for errors. You’ll put your software through different scenarios and see how it responds. You’ll improve your software, discover bugs, and more.
This phase is exactly why it’s so important to have a software risk management plan in place before you begin a project. (Learn more about that in this post.)
The truth is that, as much as we’d all like it to, software development doesn’t always work out right the first time.
You need to do your due diligence when it comes to understanding your risks, the actions you’ll take to reduce them, and even how you’ll monitor your software. You’ll also need to think about how these potential setbacks could impact your schedule.
You’ll think about things like loss size and even your total risk exposure.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially in the world of software engineering projects.
5) Software Deployment
Now, you’re finally ready to send your software out into the world!
In some cases, you might need to send the software out to your customers. Maybe once you’re finished developing it, you need to train your employees on how to use it.
Perhaps you’re finally ready to put your piece of software on the app store, and are ready to start collecting your millions like Kim K.
Remember that “going live” doesn’t mean the software project is completely finished for good. You’ll still need to make sure that things are working properly.
6) Continuous Maintenance
Even after the testing phase is over, the truth is that you may still run into normal errors.
Nothing, not even the best-designed software, works perfectly all of the time.
New bugs will come up, and you’ll have to fix them. You might realize that you need a few more features, and will have to add them. You’ll even use feedback from your customers to make your software better.
As with anything else, maintenance exists to ensure that you never stop improving your software.
What Is Software Development? Wrapping Up
Now that you can answer the question, “What is software development?”
We bet that you’re more than ready to start making a few pieces of software yourself. Perhaps you’re interested in working with a software development professional that can help you to bring your ideas to life.
Would you like to learn more about different apps, operating systems, and programming in general?
If you’re obsessed with all things tech, you need to keep coming back with our blog. We’ll keep filling you in on all the latest software development news you can’t afford to miss out on.