The key idea behind the software development process is that before creating something, it needs to be planned, as it involves significant costs. You can compare software development to building a house – in both cases, the project requires careful planning, teamwork, and a step-by-step approach. In other words, there are a few steps that can’t be skipped and can determine whether your app will be successful or not.
The software development process is also known as the software development life cycle (SDLC). It includes a series of stages, each of them is designed to ensure the quality and reliability of the final product. Skipping certain phases, such as the planning stage, or executing these stages quickly and superficially is not recommended, otherwise, you risk that the whole project will fail.
However, it’s not necessary to invest a huge amount of money all at once when you can start with small steps. This is the essence of the Agile model – making thoughtful, small investments and gradually building a better and more sophisticated product. This approach will help you get the best quality app at the lowest cost in the shortest time possible.
In this article, I’m here to guide you step-by-step through the software development process according to our battle-tested practices in TeaCode.
Software Development Process Steps Required to Build a High-Quality Product
The software development lifecycle (SDLC) consists of four main phases: product discovery, design phase, development stage and software maintenance. Sometimes you can encounter one more stage right before the maintenance: the testing phase. However, from our perspective, it’s highly tangled with the development phase, so they shouldn’t be discussed separately.
Although the software development steps are rather constant, there are a few different approaches to how those are organised and interconnected. Now, let’s take a look at the main methods to understand how they affect and shape the process itself.
Types of Software Development Processes
There are two main approaches to the software development life cycle: Waterfall and Agile. The main difference between them refers not to exact steps but the organisation of the process itself. The waterfall approach defines the development process as linear, while agile-oriented teams treat it rather as circular and iterative.
Waterfall is a traditional approach that comes from the industrial understanding of product creation. It is applied to software development and defines the development process as rigid and linear. When one phase ends, the next can begin.
Particular phases of the waterfall software development process are following one after another, and each stage must be finished before moving to the next one. It is a well-defined model where each step has specific deliverables. The waterfall model assumes all the requirements are fixed and unchanging throughout the whole development process. As you might have noticed, those are core assumptions of a Fixed-Price contract (you can read more about it in my other article).
However, I don’t think that this linear sequential model fits well with the software development process. It often leads to unsatisfactory outcomes rather than delivering the products that the market needs. Although it seems clear and structured, it can be inflexible and does not allow for changes once a phase is completed. Therefore, it’s not the best solution for middle-sized and large projects with longer timelines and complex and sophisticated requirements.
We are aware of the waterfall approach limitations and, therefore, we incorporated a flexible Agile methodology instead. It is an iterative approach to project management and software development that emphasises flexibility, collaboration, and customer satisfaction.
A key principle of the Agile model is that requirements and solutions evolve during teamwork. That approach allows for changes at every stage of the project development. Instead of following an inflexible plan, the team that works in Agile focuses on short cycles and sprints, adapting solutions to current feedback and changing requirements.
Let’s examine how it might work in practice. Instead of spending months building one feature, perfecting every detail, and then moving forward to the next one (as you would do in the Waterfall software life cycle model), we focus on deliverability. That means, we spend a few weeks creating its acceptable version and then release it to the customers to get their feedback. This is what we call an Agile Sprint.
Working on sprints allows us to immediately respond to real customer needs because it provides us with a regular feedback loop. You could think about it as software modules that are fully functional and of great software quality that can be put on top of each other during the right software development processes.
Reduced Time to Market
There is one more advantage of the Agile software development process – it allows one to do many things simultaneously. Let’s get back for a second to the house-building metaphor for software development projects. There are some required steps like an architectonic plan and building a solid foundation, but then we can do many works at once – for example, we can tile the bathroom while laying the floor in another room at the same time.
This is exactly how it goes with agile-driven software development. Although we always need to start the development cycle by learning about your project and company’s goals (through the discovery phase), once we prepare a scope and clear project vision we can build many elements simultaneously – designing and coding the backend solution or coding backend and front-end AND even conducting assurance quality tests. Although it might look chaotic at first sight, it’s a perfectly organised process managed by project managers.
Some popular Agile frameworks and methodologies include Scrum, Kanban, and Lean-Agile. These frameworks provide a structured approach to implementing Agile principles and can be adapted to the specific needs of different organisations and projects.
Agile’s flexibility allows the development team and your internal teams to work on both smaller and larger projects regardless of their level of complexity. Keep in mind, however, that it’s best to consult your development team before choosing the right methodology for your project (and make sure the team of your choice has experience in working that way).
So now that you know a bit about methodologies, let’s move on to the software development process itself.
Software Development Life Cycle
Everything begins with the idea. If you want to achieve a goal, you need to visualise it first. Even if it’s a vague concept, it’s your starting point that can be expanded.
This is exactly how it goes with software development. Each one of the most recognisable apps was nothing but an idea once, living only in their creators’ minds. They didn’t know how exactly the app would look like or what features it would have after 5 years of market existence. They wanted to solve a particular problem or respond to the specific needs of a well-defined group of people. Therefore, the very first features were a logical consequence of their approach.
Example? Facebook was born as a college app allowing users to evaluate or vote for photos. I bet no one expected at that moment that it would become one of the most popular social platforms worldwide (and definitely not foreseen the features it has implemented by now).
When you come up with a great idea, you might not even know how to start building the app. It’s totally okay, and it’s up to your software developer to explain the process step-by-step.
However, I know that you probably don’t want to rely solely on their perspective. That’s why now I’ll describe each stage of the software development life cycle for you. Keep in mind, however, that I’ll present our TeaCode perspective, which will vary from other approaches you can encounter on the market as it is based on our experience and professional expertise.
The second thought I want you to have while reading the following paragraphs is that the discovery phase, design, development and maintenance in real life (and in the agile approach) are not perfectly distinguished and separated but tangled and conducted simultaneously. In this article, I’ll describe them one after another to explain some aspects of software building, but it’s not (and shouldn’t be) a linear process (although it might be portrayed as such in many articles you can find online).
Now, let’s dive into the app development nuances.
The discovery phase is a crucial first step in software development. We can say that there are two stages to it. First of all, you need to discover what you want to develop, for whom and why. This is about defining target group and buyer personas (user personas), market research and competitive analysis and building a business plan. You should also verify the idea on the market using the simplest and non-development MVP tools (I described in another article what you can do to test your concept, so feel free to check it out).
The second part of “discovering” the project is aimed at understanding the project by your software development company. They need to understand your conclusions, approach and goals to help you transfer the idea into a ready-to-be-coded app.
Now, let’s investigate both aspects of discovering your app-to-be.
Market Research & Customer Analysis
Let’s say you have an amazing idea to create an online dating app with geosocial networking features. Sounds great, huh? Yes, but somebody already came up with the same idea and created Tinder, which is a highly successful working software.
Does that mean that you should give up on your dreams of creating such an app? No, but it means you need to do proper competitive research and offer something more than your competitors did. Maybe you would like to make your app culture-sensitive? You might want to create an app that helps arrange marriages or allows you to remain anonymous when chatting.
Think about what could make your application stand out from the crowd. What is its unique value proposition that you can offer to the target group?
To determine that, you need to define who your competitors are and analyse their approaches and activities (like reading comments on their social media platforms, opinions on the Internet, or taking a look at their landing pages to define what’s missing in their apps).
Define and Understand the Target Audience’s Needs
Moreover, users may download your app, but if you neglect their specific needs and preferences, it will remain unused or soon to be abandoned (or deinstalled). To gain users’ loyalty, put tremendous attention to their needs. That allows you to improve the quality of your software project and influence the final app’s success.
For example, if you create a social media app for young people, who value appearance as well as usability, they will probably care if the app’s UI is aesthetic enough. On the other hand, if you build an app for elderly people, simplicity and an intuitive user interface will be more important to them than aesthetics (or they might even have a different sense of it!).
By investing time and effort to deeply understand your app’s users and their challenges, you can provide them with the right features, solutions and functional capabilities. This approach helps you avoid costly changes and minimises the risk of making wrong decisions in the future. Ultimately, investing in the discovery stage sets the foundation for a successful and user-centric app development process. You can read more about this in the articles about buyer personas and building a go-to-market strategy.
I would suggest that if you can’t make your application useful for users and stand out on the market, it’s worth pushing the idea aside rather than blowing the budget for an application that might not conquer the market.
When you know what you want to build and for whom, you should test your idea with real people before you invest a penny in creating the app. Here the MVP comes in handy.
MVP stands for a Minimum Viable Product and, contrary to popular beliefs, it’s not the simplest version of your app. It’s rather an approach or tool to verify an idea than building a “product”. There are many MVP types you can use to validate your concept – it could be an offline service to assess the demand for your solution, a short promotional video or a landing page with a subscription form. Building a clickable prototype or the simplest app are just two of many other ways you can verify your idea with real users. For more information check my article on what is MVP and why you need it.
The feedback you collect will help you decide whether it’s reasonable to invest money in building the app (even after a few modifications) or whether it would be better to abandon the idea (as people do not need such an app). You’ll also gain some insight into how much people are willing to pay for your app, which is useful when it comes to the next step – building a business plan.
I highly suggest you run such MVP-driven research before you decide to move on with the app development.
Having all the knowledge, you can create a business plan and choose the monetisation model for your app. That will also give you some insights into the income you might expect during the first months after the release (based on some assumptions, of course).
At this stage, you should also be aware of how much money you can spend on app development. That will help you with cost estimation and timeline, which are crucial when it comes to negotiations with a software development company.
I explained some aspects of budgeting in my article about how to estimate software development costs (you can also check the costs of building an MVP). Here, I just want to encourage you to share your budget amount openly with the developer as its role is to help you allocate it in the way that will bring you the best value. Keep in mind that it’s in your contractor’s interest to make your app successful (and your business growing) because that means long-term and fruitful cooperation for both sides.
When you know what you want to build (even if it’s still a blurry idea), you can start looking for a contractor (you can check Mike’s suggestions on how to choose the best one). Together, you will transform the idea into a well-planned project.
This stage is crucial for the people you hire to understand your business, goals and end-users. They need to be onboarded into what you are about to build to help you make the most of it through software design and software creation.
Don’t be surprised if the development team will start challenging you at this point. They should question your ideas and confront them with the requirements during workshops (at least, we do that!). The team will also likely try to test your risk management and see how well you’ve prepared for any unforeseen events. Do not take it personally. It’s for the sake of your project so that it meets your and your users’ specific expectations, but also legal requirements.
At this stage, you and your development partner also have to determine your app features and functionalities precisely. You need to define the actions a user should perform to complete a specific task. To do that, the development team will create user stories and user flows.
User stories are brief descriptions of a feature or functionality from the perspective of a user. They are based on user personas and describe who the user is, what the user wants to do, and why they want to do it. User stories are short and written in a simple language without going into details.
An example of a user story can be: “As a bank customer, I want to see a list of recent transactions to keep track of my spending” or “As a restaurant owner, I want to create ads on the internet to attract more customers.”
User stories help to identify the differences between the users’ needs. Notice that one persona group usually needs a few user stories. So if you work on your app and you’ve created six personas, you can end up having about twenty or more user stories.
User flows are diagrams or visual representations of a user’s steps to complete a specific task or goal (the ones you’ve defined as user stories). They help identify different paths a user can take and highlight potential roadblocks or issues.
In other words, it is a kind of graphically presented path that must be followed to, for example, buy a product in an online store.
The user flow might include steps, such as selecting a product, adding it to the cart, entering shipping and billing information, and completing the purchase. The user flow might also show alternative paths, such as if the user decides to remove an item from the cart or if there is an error during the checkout process. Overall, user flows help the team identify potential issues and ensure that users can easily complete their goals.
Software Architecture & Technical Requirements
It is also the time to think about software architecture. When creating software architecture, you need to make choices and compromises that software developers call trade-offs.
Looking for the Perfect Balance
They must carefully consider various factors and requirements and suggest the most suitable solutions based on the project’s goals, constraints, and priorities. It is all about balancing competing objectives such as performance versus scalability, flexibility versus simplicity, and development time versus maintainability of the actual software.
The key lies in finding the right balance that aligns with the project’s specific needs and constraints, ensuring that the chosen trade-offs lead to an architecture that is effective, sustainable, and meets the desired goals of the software system. For example, if you want thousands of users to actively use the app at the same time, your infrastructure must be prepared for that to create a smooth experience in the next phase.
If you need integration with other tools or APIs (that enables individual applications to work with one another) this is the time to incorporate these requirements into your project. Let’s assume that your goal is to create a travel app where users can buy airline tickets. Now you have to figure out how to integrate it with the airline system. Will your app handle the purchase or will it be managed by a third-party solution? How will you manage the confirmation or issues?
Keep in mind that depending on how custom the integration is and how niche the system you need to integrate with is, the higher the price.
Security and Law
Besides that, your development team determines what input and output data is necessary and how you will handle data privacy and security regulations during and after the software creation. It is also time to establish a secure hosting environment (on-premises, cloud-based or hybrid, but most of our solutions are cloud ones and serverless) and find the ideal server size and capacity.
Project Scoping & Cost Estimation
All the arrangements we’ve done (with all the user flows and stories, core features specifications and software architecture) are now given to our clients in the form of product documentation. It’s important to make sure that the client’s idea and vision are understood by the contractor and defined well enough in order to start implementing it. There’s another benefit to providing the client with such documentation. Having it, a client is not bound to this particular contractor; they can take it to another company if they are not satisfied with the cooperation.
Defining the scope, we also create a long-term plan for project growth, considering future features and scalability of the actual software. However, keeping the big picture in mind, we focus on paying attention to short-term details. This approach allows us to start working on the project right away even without having the full scope figured out. We can adapt to changing requirements and incorporate feedback, ensuring a successful software development process.
The Basis for Estimation
The scope also leads us to the costs. As I explained in my article about estimations, it is impossible to assess app development costs properly if the requirements are not precisely defined. For this reason, going through the discovery process is the best way to gain reliable insight into the costs. However, based on my experience, I can assure you that your requirements will change during the process and so will the final price. Therefore, it’s good to remember that the costs are approximate and assessed based on the current state of things.
What is more, since the app development doesn’t end with its deployment, you should be aware that some additional costs may occur. You have to take into account the costs of maintaining the application or adding new features. Although you can check how to estimate app development costs in my article, it’s always good to ask a software development agency for a reliable estimation and requirement analysis.
The Way to Raise Funds
It’s also a good moment to think about how to acquire external investors or to revalidate whether you want to jump into this investment at all. Having well-defined product documentation and a detailed scope will allow you to convince investors that you have an innovative and solid project planned that is worth helping financially. So the discovery part is not only an investment in the project but also a chance to get funding.
Getting your app funded and attracting investors can undoubtedly be a challenging and time-consuming process. Investors are cautious with their money and want to ensure it is well-invested that’s why you need to be prepared before you start pitching. In our article, we have gathered various strategies that can help you get substantial resources for your app development and guide you through the stages of startup funding.
Now, you can think about a preliminary deployment plan, marketing activities and announcements. Don’t skip the marketing part – it helps to ensure that your software product will be successful in the market and people will find it easily.
What’s better than a well-driven campaign while the team is still developing software? You don’t waste any of your precious time and your project can become recognizable before being finished.
Discovery is an Investment, Not a Cost
Remember that, according to Agile principles, no stage, including the discovery phase, is considered “fully” completed and may be revisited in later stages according to the project’s needs.
Our reliable software development team’s goal is to comprehend our client’s business and technical requirements as well as to understand how the digital product can address users’ needs. Thinking about these aspects in the early stage of development will help you save some money in the long term and define the direction the project team should follow. If you still feel lost in the discovery phase, feel free to read my article about it!
If you went through my discovery stage description, you know why it’s important. If you’ve already prepared user stories and user flows – great! If not, I recommend going through it before you move on to the design part. Well-prepared user stories and user flows define what has to be done and help designers understand the user’s path, making it more straightforward, user-friendly and stunning. All of this allows them to create a good design.
The design consists of two processes: User Experience and User Interface. They are put together in order to create a cohesive and user-friendly product design. Let’s talk about them in detail.
User Experience Design
UX stands for User Experience, which is the sum of all the user’s reactions and feelings associated with a product. The better the User Experience, the more probable that your app will succeed. Easy, right? But how to achieve the goal of building the best possible user experience?
It’s the whole branch of the interdisciplinary science of how to build UX properly to provide a seamless experience, guide attention and evoke particular feelings and associations. Although it seems simple, to design a great user experience you really need a skilled and experienced designer.
In UX design, choices are usually influenced by research, data analysis, and testing outcomes, rather than personal aesthetic preferences and subjective opinions. Experienced designers are the ones who can use this data and transform it into how the app behaves and looks to respond to users’ needs and preferences. The easier users can achieve their goals using your app, the fewer steps they need to take to do that and the more intuitive the interface is, the more they like your solution (and become loyal!).
So, we can say that attractive UX is a goal that you must achieve through specific treatments. The good news is, you can shape the user experience by going through a few specific stages.
Low Fidelity Prototyping
In its basic form, a prototype is an expression of design intent. Prototyping allows designers to present their designs and see them in action. In the context of digital products, prototype models are simulations of the final interaction between the user and the interface. Depending on what the product team needs their prototype to do, it can simulate an entire app or just a single interaction.
Often people confuse prototypes with simple pre system design phase sketches, non-clickable wireframes or mockups. However, what is essential for prototypes is interactivity.
Typical features for Lo-Fi prototyping are visual attributes of the final product such as shapes of elements or hierarchy. At this stage, only key elements are included to test functionality rather than appearance.
Two popular techniques to test lo-fi prototyping are:
- Paper Prototyping happens when one person “acts as a computer” and rearranges the sketches based on user choices. This testing method involves physically manipulating the sketches to simulate user interactions.
- Clickable Wireframes provide a clear overview of the page structure, layout, information architecture, user flow, functionality, and intended behaviours. They can include elements such as navigation menus, content areas, and call-to-action buttons, but lack any interface elements like images, icons or even colour schemes. They might be created in Figma – a collaborative web app for interface design we use in TeaCode.
High Fidelity Prototyping
High-Fidelity (Hi-Fi) prototypes are built based on high-fidelity designs (more about them in a second!) and perform as closely as possible to the final product. Teams typically create High-Fidelity prototypes when they have a solid understanding of what they’re going to build, and they need to either test it with real users or get final design approval from stakeholders.
The core features of High-Fidelity prototyping include visual design with all the interface elements, most or all of the content that will appear in the final design and interactivity. Therefore, we can say that high-fidelity prototypes are interactive versions of high-fidelity designs.
At this point, you literally see exactly what you want to build, so you can look at the cost estimate again and verify the budget after all the changes that have taken place so far. Such verification is to help you make sure that you and your development team are still within the budget.
When you reach this stage – congrats! Now, you have an interactive version of the product (not only product documentation) that can be presented to potential investors to raise external funds or feedback (good luck with fundraising!).
You can (or even should) constantly test the experience of your users to learn what you can change to make your app better. There’s always something to improve, and if you listen carefully enough, your users will tell you that! Keep in mind that when you enhance your app, you should always aim to make the user experience better.
Remember, the better user experience your app or website has, the more attractive it is for potential users. It means they will be more than happy to use it and… pay for it.
If you have successfully gone through the Low-Fidelity prototyping stage, this is the right time to come to design your app. This is the huge moment when you can see your idea visualised and finally coming into shape. This part is called User Interface Design (UI) and it’s the time when designers will create your app’s user interface by choosing colours for your app, adjusting the typography and planning an iconography to be understandable and visually attractive.
Although the company experience is important, there’s another aspect you might want to explore – a designer’s background. The greater the designer’s knowledge of the development specifics is, the faster (and thus cheaper) the process goes. Having technical knowledge about software development enables designers to create designs that are not only user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing but also technically feasible and practical. This is what we call the Development-Driven Design (DDD) – a situation when the designer knows how to realistically look at the project and understand its limitations, and thus – avoid doing more than is actually possible. That’s why hiring a design-only agency might not be the best option from the effectiveness perspective.
The design of your app is usually created in two stages: Low-Fidelity and High-Fidelity. Such a division helps designers focus on specific elements at each stage of design development and run tests on them separately.
While Lo-Fi prototyping is about creating simplistic prototypes to test and iterate general ideas, Lo-Fi design is about using minimalist or unfinished visuals to communicate concepts effectively.
While creating Low-Fidelity designs, designers use basic elements like shapes, simple typography, and limited colour palettes. This is intentional to convey ideas or concepts without investing too much time or effort into small details.
Lo-Fi design can be useful in the early stages of the design process to quickly communicate and share ideas.
Hi-Fi design focuses on more detailed design work and honing visual elements. Designs created at this stage are close to the final appearance of the software product. Based on them, the team creates hi-fi prototypes for user tests.
Hi-Fi design incorporates complex visual elements, typography, colour schemes and graphic assets, paying close attention to detail and aesthetics. It aims to create an eye-catching and consistent User Interface that reflects your brand identity and provides an immersive user experience.
The colours, design elements of typography used in the UI should reflect a company’s branding – a unique identity for your project. Branding is important because it helps create a consistent look and feeling across all aspects of your software product and the brand (company) itself. It’s something that you’ll build brand awareness on. Therefore, if you have already established your branding, it is worth applying it in your software project as well.
However, it can happen that you haven’t thought about branding yet. Then, if you want to establish and maintain a strong brand identity, you may need to create a brand book. It is a document that contains all the elements that make up your brand, from its founding principles like mission, vision, or values, to its visual identity logo, colours, and visuals. Once you have a brand book, it is important to maintain that consistency across all UI elements, including the website, mobile app, social media and other touchpoints.
More Than Colours
For example, if your company’s branding is focused around the colour green, the UI of your app may incorporate various shades of green and use a font that complements the company’s logo. Or if your company’s branding is focused on being family-friendly and approachable, your UI may use a conversational tone and language that feels welcoming and easy to understand.
What I mean is that branding is not only a logo. Logo just represents the brand, while the branding creates experience and associations. Think about big companies like Coca-Cola and their ads – users not only associate it with the drink but also with bringing friends and family together and sharing happiness with each other (let’s mention the iconic Coca-Cola Christmas truck!). That’s an approach that allows you to maintain clarity and builds a strong brand identity.
As you see, the UI doesn’t just apply to your app, it can help define the identity of your entire company. This is a very important phase that will allow customers to distinguish you from the competition. If you would like to learn more about the design process, read Patrycja’s ultimate guide to web & mobile app design.
When your brand book is ready and you already know what elements and style should be used in your app, designers can implement these rules and continue working on the UI.
Testing the Design – What Options Do You Have?
First of all, as you probably already noticed, you can test both the UX and UI design. There are several types of tests that your team can use to evaluate the user-friendliness of the product.
Polls, surveys and interviews based on designs are effective methods for gathering customer feedback. However, it’s important to use these approaches wisely and thoughtfully. To receive proper feedback, it’s best to ask a clear and simple question.
You can also provide people with your prototype and ask them to go through some scenarios like purchasing some products, registering or sending a message. You can conduct tests that involve comparing two versions of the design to determine which performs better (A/B Testing). Some tools allow you to record peoples’ faces and voices during this task so you can see their emotions and hear their thoughts. That’s priceless sometimes.
In many companies, such tests are conducted by designers, but your project might be even more beneficial if there’s a social scientist in the team. Such a person usually has broad knowledge and experience in conducting social research and drawing conclusions, so they can reveal patterns or suggest not-that-obvious improvements. What is more, such a researcher watches over the process, so you can be sure that the conclusions are reliable and accurate (if you would like to consult your research idea with our social scientist, just let me know!).
As you can see, this whole design process is really mostly about creating and testing. It’s important to get feedback before you release your product on the market because you need to be sure that it will be received well. We repeat the process of creating, testing and implementing changes until both you and our team are satisfied with the results. No wonder we call the whole software development process a life cycle!
Design in the Product Lifecycle
When the designs are ready, your software company should provide you with design files (we share ones in Figma) and with interactive, clickable prototypes (depending on what was built) that can be presented to investors or used to gain feedback from users.
So, now you already have your branding and app visualised. You don’t need to have all the mentioned-above design types built nor even detailed visualisations of all screens to start bringing your app to life. That’s the beauty of agile – you can go further step by step, one part after another. While your designers are working on another part of the app, developers can code what already was prepared. Isn’t that great?!
In fact, you’ll return to the design phase multiple times when you realise that some features (and therefore screens) are missing or something might be enhanced from the user’s perspective. And each of those changes will be implemented by the developers.
So, let’s move on to the next phase of the software development cycle which is product development.
Product Development Phase
Once the design is created (or at least a part of it) and the team has received the requirements specification, the coding part begins. This is the moment when developers build the front end and back end of your app.
Of course, the coding stage, like any of the previous stages of software development, can be outsourced to an external software development company. The reasons for outsourcing can vary from a lack of required resources or available skills to the desire to focus with your own team on the company’s core products and services. If you want to learn more, I recommend you to read an interesting article about the pros and cons of outsourcing software development by Mike.
At this stage, the development team’s goal is, of course, to deliver a high-quality digital product (at least when you choose the Time & Material billing model, you can learn more about that in my article about Fixed-Price risks). Having all the information needed, hand in hand with you our team priorities tasks based on their impact, dependencies and urgency, and then defines the scope and goals for each Agile Sprint. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, our team avoids a strict waterfall approach – instead, we incorporate flexibility for changes at every stage of the project with Agile methodology.
Working in sprints means focusing on deliverability – we create an acceptable version of a given feature and test it right away to be able to improve it, rather than spend months polishing it without any user feedback. This helps make the app user-friendly while working as efficiently as possible and allowing the team to meet the deadline and stay within the budget. Did I mention that it’s great for complex projects?
Although developers can perform initial tests during software development processes themselves, and conduct regular code reviews to see if any bugs appeared, Quality Assurance Engineers (also called just “testers”) are responsible for conducting comprehensive tests.
Developers use unit testing to verify the correct functioning of individual elements and to see if they meet functional requirements. Module testing, on the other hand, is performed to verify that the modules interact correctly with each other and produce the expected outputs when given certain inputs.
Testers help developers avoid the need for extensive debugging and rework later in the development process. They provide developers with feedback on the code quality, allowing them to make improvements on an ongoing basis. If any issues appear, developers introduce enhancements and bug fixes to the prioritised tasks.
It is essential for developers to cooperate with testers and implement Quality Assurance processes to ensure high-quality deliverables. This may include functional testing (e.g. checking if the app can handle users’ inputs correctly or compatibility with different operating systems), performance testing (evaluating how the app works in varying conditions such as high user traffic) and security testing (ensuring that the app is secure against various types of attacks, protecting all sensitive information), and other types of testing that is a vase topic for another article.
What tests we perform may vary depending on the project, including automated and manual testing. It’s not possible to run 100% automated tests that’s why manual testing is also essential for the quality assurance process.
In manual testing, human testers go through the app to check whether it allows them to fulfil goals previously defined in user stories. They are to certify whether the system operates according to the client’s expectations. Additionally, they can provide feedback to the project manager on the website’s appearance and usability, considering it from a user’s point of view.
It is good if some of the manual testers don’t know the details of the project. Not knowing how the app works from the inside allows them not to be biased and to focus on certain aspects only when going through different scenarios.
On the other hand, manual testers who are fully aware of how the product should work in detail might conduct more detailed and sophisticated tests that can help to discover any malfunctions that are not that obvious or accessible for newbies.
Test automation, on the other hand, is a technique that employs software and algorithms to validate a digital product with minimal human involvement. The responsibility of the automated tester is to create suitable scripts or testing programs and supervise their course. In some cases, you can use pre-made software testing platforms, but this is not always possible.
Developing automated testing is a challenging and costly process, but in the long term, the benefits are substantial in terms of time and cost savings in comparison with manual testing. Once the tests are created, they can be executed automatically and require only minimal human supervision (and adjustments). That approach allows you to minimise the need of engaging people, while still having each app version properly tested.
This is the moment for you to test your app. You can test it as you like – go through testing scenarios or navigate like a regular user.
We can also conduct some tests on external users asking them to do some tasks like logging, purchasing or subscribing. You can use tools like UsabilityHub or UserTesting.
When you’re testing, your product manager and development team collect and incorporate the feedback and refine your product until it’s ready for release.
Alfa and Beta Releases
In some cases, you might want to show your app to real users but in a highly-controlled way. Instead of opening the app for the whole market, you might offer it in early access for those who are willing to test and help you discover and fix bugs. Those users are fully aware that the app is not perfect and might be buggy and agree to that.
Those semi-released apps are called Alfa- and Beta-versions. An app in its Alfa version is at its really preliminary stage, while the Beta version looks more like a final app. By showing them to people, you can gain priceless feedback and improve your app before it reaches a broad audience. Therefore, you can be sure that when that happens, you have a rock-solid piece of software program.
The feedback we’ve gained, combined with test results, guides us in determining whether the software is ready for release. Once ready, we deploy it to the final production environment while closely monitoring for any potential errors using automated systems. Additionally, we actively engage with users, listening to their feedback and promptly addressing any issues that may arise. Through this meticulous approach, we ensure that our software is not only reliable but also delivers exceptional value to our users.
As a result of the deployment stage, the whole team should have access to the codebase in the repository, CI/CD pipelines, production and staging environments. Our team makes sure to keep the development documentation up-to-date throughout the deployment process, including codebase annotations and technical guides.
But of course, after the right software development process, which seemingly ends with releasing your application, the work is not finished yet! As soon as people start using your application, they will find new bugs, which of course developers should fix immediately. And since we care about customer satisfaction, we also offer ongoing application updates to the latest operating system patches or updates of used third-party software.
Types of Software Maintenance Activities
Maintenance activities are essential aspects of software development that involve making changes to software after it has been released. Detecting and fixing defects early prevents them from becoming more expensive as if they were ignored. Taking care of it also improves performance which leads to better user satisfaction and reduces the likelihood of costly support calls (e.g. I bet you would like to solve the upcoming problem with overloaded infrastructure caused by increasing the number of users in advance).
So, maintenance activities actually help you save money by reducing overall costs for your business associated with the app’s unexpected shutdown, crash or minor but severe bugs that can affect the conversion rate and business profitability.
There are several types of maintenance the development team can undertake to keep your software project running at peak performance. Here are the most common types:
Corrective maintenance: fixing reported issues on an ongoing basis
Preventative maintenance: adapting, changing or fixing activities to prevent performance degradation and avoid faults
Perfective maintenance: adding new functions and removing useless ones to adapt to the market and users’ needs after software deployment
Adaptive maintenance: adapting the software to new or changing requirements and environments (e.g. software updates) to make sure that the software stays relevant and useful
During the product maintenance phase, you should have regular updates, including bug fixes and security patches covered by the development team. Make sure your development team also updates the development documentation reflecting changes and improvements in the project.
Here We Go Again…
You may think that it is the end of the software development life cycle but this process is like a never-ending story (until you remove your app from use). Each correction and improvement in the product maintenance phase requires the cooperation of developers and testers. However, if you want to improve your application significantly or add new features, you have to go back to the very beginning – to the discovery phase.
Why? You need to check whether the investment makes sense, verify the requirements again and estimate the costs and scope. When you add a new feature to your software project, your team may need to work on its design, for example when you introduce a social media feature into your app or when you totally rearrange a form or payment methods in a food ordering app. All these changes then have to be coded, tested and deployed, and so coming full circle, you’re back in the maintenance phase again.
In our Agile approach, all stages are conducted iteratively, with each iteration advancing the project by a manageable portion of work. It means that no stage is considered “fully finished” and may require enhancements if, for example, the conditions or market change.
A well-thought-out software development process allows you to improve the quality of your web or mobile project and influence the final results. Keeping in mind all the steps of the software development life cycle, you ensure that a user has a positive emotional experience while using the app or website. This positive experience can lead to increased engagement, loyalty and, ultimately, the final app’s success. When your app is successful, so is your business.
The whole process can be overwhelming, but working with an experienced development team increases your chances of success. If you have any questions about the software development process, don’t hesitate to contact me on LinkedIn or send me an email.
Good luck with your software project!
Gabriela is a lead project manager and keeps in mind that the crucial thing in project management is always seeing the business objectives. She takes care of clients' business outcomes, and that's why clients usually give her a lot of independence.
As a web developer, she understands teammates, which is an asset in project management. UX designer background is handy when clients ask her for advice or consult their app ideas. Having this knowledge, she can address their confusedness or curiosity.
Data analysis and research have no secrets from her as she's a physicist. She knows how to discover data patterns and dependencies, which brings additional value to her everyday work.