In 2011, Marc Andreessen, a pioneer in the field of computer science and co-founder of Netscape, stated in an article for The Wall Street Journal that “software is eating the world.” In 2023, we can say with certainty that it has swallowed up the Earth. Every successful modern company uses software to optimize customer interaction, contributing to the digital economy. According to Statista estimates, IT costs exceed $4.5 trillion, and investment revenues have long exceeded the $273.4 billion bar. Therefore, software creation is as important a business part as BA or marketing. So that you understand how this powerful mechanism works, let’s look at the basics of software development for beginners.
What is software development: not just coding
Software development is not just the process of writing an algorithm by which a computer executes commands. This is a broader concept that includes the following steps:
- work planning and requirements preparation;
- design with elaboration of technical specifications for the executor;
- creation of a digital product (design, coding, testing and documentation of work results);
- deploying a product in a production environment;
- technical support for software with bug fixes.
These stages merge into a single production pipeline, which is known as the software development life cycle – SDLC. And, depending on the chosen development methodology (traditional or iterative), the phases can be reproduced in different ways. Therefore, the customer must be ready to take part in almost every phase of SDLC in order to guide the team in the right direction, promptly give feedback and evaluate interim results.
4 mandatory components of the software development process
Software can have different goals, structure, scope, and complexity. But, regardless of these distinctive characteristics and the size of the development team, each digital product goes through standard SDLC stages, which differ in duration and technological stack. In the previous chapter we briefly mentioned them, and now let’s explain the essence of each phase in more detail.
#1. Planning: defining the project objectives and work order
Project planning, in other words Discovery Phase, is the stage at which the customer shares the vision of the product with the development team. If a businessman knows the market and the target audience, and also understands the needs of customers perfectly, then he/she will not need marketing research.
But it is important for custom software developers to understand what a businessman wants from the team and how he/she sees a digital product. Therefore, at the planning stage, both parties agree: specify software requirements, determine project scope, form a team and agree on a budget and work plan.
As a result, the outsourcing team receives a clear plan that allows them to complete the work on time and in the right volume. Do not underestimate the Discovery Phase: a well-thought-out product strategy saves the client money.
#2. Design: documenting the planned
Everything that is agreed with the customer must be reliably documented. Thus, each team member has access to a common source of knowledge about the project, and everyone acts in concert. At the design stage, the following technical aspects of the software must be approved:
– architecture: which programming languages, databases, servers or libraries will form the basis of a digital product;
– technical specification for the software;
– interface layouts, database structures, interaction schemes of software modules, and so on.
In other words, detailed documentation is being prepared to answer the questions “What are we doing?”, “How are we doing?” and “How to check the correctness of the result?”. This includes written requirements for the software, the work plan, the procedure for testing and acceptance, as well as actions for launching the product.
The design phase can be part of the planning, so it is not always an independent SDLC phase.
#3. Creating a software solution: turning an idea into code
The software creation stage includes all work on the product: design, coding, testing and documentation of the results.
As Louis Strigley, an authoritative application architect, noted, “without requirements or design, programming is the art of adding bugs to an empty text file.” In order for developers not to spend a lot of time and money on redesigning the application interface, they should have instructions on the appearance of the product on their hands. It is important that the design requirements are spelled out in the terms of reference, and the designers have prepared a visual sample – a prototype of a web page or mobile screen. This approach will eliminate errors at an early stage of outsourced software development.
The essence of coding is reduced to prescribing instructions according to which the machine executes the program code. Moreover, the customer expects programmers to have a level at which complex functions are simplified. Therefore, visionary developers first solve the problem, and then write code to make the product as easy to use as possible.
Everything that the programmer implements in the application must be carefully checked for compliance with the requirements. Therefore, the baton is then taken over by testers who check the correctness of the software. Advanced software development companies are trying to monitor product quality throughout SDLC by implementing CI/CD pipelines for continuous testing and integration. This approach saves money on correcting defects.
Documentation can be a mandatory part of the contract between the customer and the development team. IT specialists undertake to provide the results in the form of interim reports, mockups, artifacts or other confirmations. The documentation largely ensures transparency of the work of the hired software development company in the UK such as Andersen.
#4. Product launch and technical support: providing a software solution to the world
When the code is written, tested and compiled, the application is sent to the production environment. This means that it becomes available on the market, and anyone can use it.
In order for the introduction of a new product to happen quickly and unproblematically, developers use a continuous delivery pipeline. This allows you to automate the execution of builds/tests in the central repository and the release of the product into production.
It is not uncommon for unplanned incidents to occur in the production environment that were not detected at the testing stage. In order to fix errors promptly, you need a technical support team. It responds to emerging problems, closes security holes and processes customer requests to the support service.
What is software development? As you have already seen, creating a digital solution is not pure coding. This is a complex event consisting of several stages, in which many experts are involved. Each specialist complements each other’s work in order to eventually get a high-quality product that meets the expectations of users and the customer. These are the basics of software development for beginners.