Software development, including mobile apps, has often been portrayed on film and television as a bunch of computer whiz kids sitting in a room, coming up with ideas until one hits. From there on out, they write the program, send it out to the public and make adjustments as needed.
Developing a new piece of software is far more scientific. This is why programmers and IT people graduate with computer science degrees. As with physics, biology, or astronomy, there is a method to computer science and software development that must be followed in one way or another to create quality software. Below, we will take a look at the software development lifecycle, and how each phase affects the outcome.
Phase One: Understanding Requirements
This phase involves as much research as it does Q&A with end users. It asks “what is the end goal for the user” and “what are the minimum specifications needed to run this software?” Understanding both the purpose of the software and what type of system it will run on helps computer scientists determine the programming language, testing environment, and necessary checkpoints required.
Phase Two: Design a Blueprint
This phase takes into account the user and system requirements. With this in mind, architects and developers create not only a road map to meet these requirements, but also take into account potential issues such as security, stability, functionality, testing, and maintenance. Once a plan is put into place, coding can begin.
Phase Three: Programing
This is where the “coding” comes in, and when the software is written. The software will go through some iterations and “beta” builds, often being numbered accordingly (ex. 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.0, etc.). These builds will be incrementally shown to the client(s) and is usually the longest part of the cycle. Think of it as building a house. It takes much less time to understand the needs of the occupants and draw up a design than it does to build the actual house. The same is true of developing software.
Phase Four: Testing and Documentation
Once the client is happy with the build, and the final beta is approved, the system will need to be tested further. Builds often take place in ideal environments within the developer’s network. This is the phase where it is rolled out to less optimal conditions. If bugs or inconsistencies are found, they are addressed. Once the final product is ready for deployment, documentation is written, so end users know the systems capabilities.
Phase Five: Maintenance
Ultimately, no matter how rigorous the testing and documentation process is, there will be hiccups and unexpected issues that weren’t found initially. This is where maintenance comes in, and patches or fixes need to be put in place. As the software is used more often and by more people, additional requests may come in for features and functions. This is where maintenance stops, and a new understanding of the requirements comes in, bringing the cycle back around to the beginning.
This can be a long, arduous process and often, one person cannot complete the full cycle by themselves. If a single person or even a small group has an idea for the next best app or computer program, it may be a good idea to speak with an established software and technology developer who knows not only the market but is well established in going through this software life cycle. With experience comes speed and expertise, so outside developers should be looked at as an asset.
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