What Is Software Development? A Complete Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 28 July 2022 | Published 8 September 2021

Updated 28 July 2022

Published 8 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Software development is a crucial aspect of information technology that powers computers and computer-based applications. Websites, mobile applications and complex medical, scientific and industrial technology all work on one or more types of software. You require specific skills and experience to be able to develop software. In this article, we discuss what is software development, what software developers do, various phases and processes involved in software development and the different types of software development methodologies prevalent today.

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What Is Software Development?

The answer to what is software development is that it is a collective set of repeated processes used to design, create and deploy software. It is also known as application development or software design. Programming languages and coding techniques provide the structure for software development and facilitate its functions. You may develop or create software for various professional and personal goals, objectives and processes. Software programmers work on several planned stages before the software is fully developed and is ready to use.

Software programmers use their skills in software development to carry out and execute each step of the process. Some stages which are part of the software development process are exploratory research, process flow design, data flow design, creation of flow charts, technical documentation, software testing, debugging and finally roll out. These stages and processes are collectively known as the software development life cycle (SDLC).

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What Does A Software Developer Do?

Software developers may be considered experts in information technology. Their role is not just limited to writing programs and coding. They are actively involved in every stage of software development, from ideation to roll out. The main responsibilities of a software developer are to:

  • Conceive, research, design and develop software programs

  • Write and implement efficient software code

  • Test and evaluate programs

  • Identify bugs and remove them

  • Work with other IT professionals to maintain software

  • Develop quality assurance tools

  • Work with clients to check if the software is to their expectation and make corrections if required

  • Maintain security of the software for the client, end-user or the organisation.

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4 Types Of Software

There are many types of software. Some can be single-line programmes, while some run into thousands of lines. Software programmes make the hardware or the computer systems functional and operate independently of the hardware. The software instructs the computer hardware on what tasks to perform and how to do it. The four major types of software are:

1. System software

This type of software is crucial and designed to run hardware and the computer's internal functions. It also connects other devices like monitors, printers, hard disks and mouse to the computer. It includes software necessary to operate the computer like operating systems, utilities, disk and hardware management systems.

2. Application software

These are also called end-user programs that help users to complete many tasks. For example, end users can do tasks like creating documents, browsing, designing graphics, shopping, gaming and even making calculations with application software. Such software is developed for a specific purpose and does only that task. One can choose to have application software or not, and it would not affect the computer's functioning. You can curate the collection of application software on your computer depending on your needs.

3. Programming software

When software developers start working on new software, they no longer are required to work from scratch. Some ready-made software components are already available to help them programme in several languages. For example:

  • Compiler: a computer programme that transforms source code written in a programming language to an executable program.

  • Debugger: a type of computer programme that detects potential errors and removes them.

  • Interpreter: a computer programme that continuously reads the software and translates them into machine code.

4. Embedded software

Software programmers write specialised built-in codes for specific hardware or devices, known as embedded software. Programmers may programme a microchip or create application software for hardware elements and devices. A few examples of the application of such software include robots, calculators, smartwatches and navigation systems.

How Is Software Developed?

The software development life cycle (SDLC) is a defined methodology to create high-quality software at a low cost in a short time. The SDLC consists of six stages that provide guidelines for an organisation to develop software that is tested and ready for rollout and use. The six stages help achieve this goal by eliminating risks that are incurred during the software development process.

The six stages of SDLC are:

  1. Conceptualisation and planning: Once there is an idea or a requirement, it is important to think systematically to devise strategies, consider outcomes, procure resources, prepare budgets and propose deadlines.

  2. Requirement and feasibility analysis: This phase analyses technical and financial aspects of a project, return of investment, costs and profit. The analysis stage also helps to identify risks and work out relevant mitigation strategies, and facilitates understanding and cooperation with clients and other stakeholders.

  3. Design: The software developers, architects and engineers design the complete structure of the program based on the initial idea. This phase helps the team to visualise the solution and define the hardware and component requirements.

  4. Coding: The coding or development phase is when developers start writing the code and it is typically the longest phase of any SDLC. Development teams build the architecture and functional aspects of the software and verify that the software meets client requirements.

  5. Testing: Quality assurance engineers test software for functionality, system integration and user experience to see if the software can fulfil the clients' business goals. Once the software is bug-free, it is ready to be released or rolled out.

  6. Roll out: The software developers transfer all required data and other components into the new software. The team could decide on a one-time rollout or a staggered rollout as per decisions taken in the design phase.

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Software Development Roles

To develop functional software, a team needs professionals with multiple skill sets with varying expertise and experience. The team's sizes and hierarchy is based on the project size, budgets and duration. Team members are required to interact with each other frequently and may have shared and overlapping responsibilities. These are some common job roles in software development:

  • Software engineers: work on comprehensive solutions based on engineering principles and well established scientific methods of research, experimentation and analysis. They are closely involved in designing and installing software solutions.

  • Software developers: work with specific aspects of a project and drive the overall progress of the SDLC. Even though coding may be their core competency, they also work with cross-functional teams to complete the project.

  • Programmers: take instructions from software developers and engineers and convert them into machine language using programming languages like Java and C++. They work on source codes for specific tasks like displaying text, graphics, merging databases, processing orders, routing communications and conducting searches.

In addition to these roles, every team may include product owners (usually a company or senior stakeholder) and product managers who supervise the project's goals. Quality assurance specialists test the software for errors and ensure that the final product meets prescribed specifications.

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What Are The Types Of Software Development Methodologies?

Software development is an organised process consisting of a series of structured processes, beginning from conceptualisation to implementation. These methodologies do not involve technical aspects, but give developers the freedom to choose one that allows them to tweak the six stages of SDLC. They can alter the order of the stages based on principles and philosophies that guide software development. Developers may choose a methodology based on the timeframe, team size, goals, budget or client requirements. Popular software development methodologies are:

  • The waterfall model: The waterfall model is one of the earliest and most used methodologies as it follows the necessary stages in a structured linear and sequential order. One cannot jump or go back and forth in stages in between and developers test the software only when it is fully ready.

  • V-shaped model: Execution of the stages are completed in a sequential order with the v-shaped model. Each phase to be tested before beginning the next phase.

  • Big bang model: This model does not follow any pattern and starts when funds and resources are available. It does not follow any specific process and the outcome too may not match the client's requirement.

  • Fountain model: The fountain model is an improved version of the waterfall model. You can advance or go back to any stage without completing the tasks of the previous stages.

  • Iterative model: Developers create a basic model, test it, add features and test it after every iteration. Agile, Kanban, Scrum, Rapid Application Development methodologies are based on iteration techniques.

  • Spiral model: This model combines techniques of iterative and waterfall methodologies. It is used in large, complex and expensive projects.

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