Even if you do not realize it, you probably interact with several pieces of software daily. This could be from checking apps on your smartphone, playing a computer game, using social media, and having a video conference call. So how does all this software get developed, and what are the different kinds? Keep reading to find out.
What Is Software Development?
Simply put, software development refers to the entire process of designing and creating software that’s intended to perform tasks. The steps involved in this process comprise what is known as a software development life cycle. An overarching view of the software development life cycle includes the following steps:
General Analysis and Requirements Gathering: Project managers and relevant stakeholders start by determining what the product is meant to do and identifying the intended users. They also decide on a list of requirements for implementing their vision.
Product Design: This is when the blueprint for the product is created. This stage is for figuring out hardware and software specifications and identifying which programming languages, frameworks, and the like are required.
Coding: At this stage, software developers start writing and running the code required to create the software. They may also conduct preliminary unit tests to detect potential errors and issues as early as possible.
Testing: The software is put through multiple rounds of testing to ensure that it works as intended.
Deployment of Product: The product has been tested, has met predetermined quality benchmarks, and is released for public use.
Product Maintenance and Operations: Once the software has been released, it needs to be monitored and maintained to keep it usable for existing and new users. This included fixing issues, keeping back-end systems up to date, making periodic updates with the latest patches or third-party vendors, adding new features, and designing refreshes.
Three Types of Software Development
1) Application Software: Most software used by everyday users fall under this category, and they frequently run on desktop and mobile devices. Everyday examples are Skype, Facebook, Safari, Google Workspace, and Microsoft office.
Application software can be native (developed to run on a single operating system) or hybrid (usually apps that can run on multiple platforms like Android and iOS). Hybrid software is designed to look native but can integrate with various hardware and software specifications.
Application Software is generally one of two types; general purpose or custom made. The former is software created to regularly serve a considerably large number of people. It tends to be easy to access and navigate and is relatively inexpensive. The latter is meant to cater to specific and narrow requirements, often accessed by a limited number of users. As an example, think of software developed to serve the employees of a single company.
2) System Software: This refers to many software types designed to initiate and operate device hardware so that application software can run on it. Think of it as the mediator that allows a smooth collaboration between the hardware and what makes it usable.
System software can be cataloged into a few types including, operating system (OS), utility software, middleware, and embedded software. There are more types, but these are the most commonly used and developed.
Operating System: The software that mediates communication between the user and the computer/device. You use the OS (e.g. Microsoft Windows, Macintosh, Chrome, Linux) to interact with the device hardware/software without using a programming language.
Utility Software: The software performs activities, generally in the background, that maintains and updates device security, performance, and usability. Antivirus or anti-malware software is a common example.
Middleware: Middleware boosts many features offered by the OS. It is beneficial for data management and authentication and is indispensable for developing applications. It enables seamless interaction between data, software, and users.
Embedded Software: Often called firmware, this refers to software intended to run in an unfamiliar hardware environment. For example, software designed for self-driving cars, a Roomba, etc. It is common in robotics circles, including operations with IoT and virtual assistants.
3) Programming Software: Allows software development companies and developers to create other software, such as websites and apps. Typical examples are version control systems, compilers, debuggers, containers, automation frameworks, and integrated development environments (IDE). Programming software translates source code into directives that a computer or device can understand.
Some developers/testers/experts assert that programming software is a sub-category of system software. While many valid points support this notion, it is to understand their differences by dividing them into two categories. Remember that programming software may need system software to run, but not vice-versa. An OS is required to run an IDE or access GitHub for the most part.
Software is created and used for various purposes, which is why there are different types of software produced. Furthermore, identifying the goals of the intended software will reveal which type should be developed. Lastly, when developing software, teams follow the software development life cycle. This process illuminates a project’s goals, keeps it on track while providing direction, and ensures the final product is as successful as possible.
“Any fool can write code that a computer can understand. Good programmers write code that humans can understand.”
– Martin Fowler