Custom software development is the process of designing, creating, deploying and maintaining software for a specific set of users, functions or organizations. Since this type of software is completely customizable according to your organization’s needs, there are endless examples, uses, and benefits.
There are various steps to take when building custom software. Each step in the process has its own importance and works together with other steps to create a successful custom software development project.
The process of building custom software can be compared to the process of building a house. Both processes include numerous steps that are crucial to the overall success of the end product. Through this blog, you’ll see how these two processes relate. We’ll cover the following steps involved in the custom software process:
- Project Planning
- Project Management & Quality Assurance
- Support & Maintenance
Whether you’re building custom software or a house, the workflow method in place has a large effect on the overall success of the project. The workflow defines how a project will be completed, including how often the project owners will be updated and who is responsible for what tasks.
For example, an architect designs the overall plan for the house, construction foreman provides direction to the rest of the crew, carpenters construct the different parts of the house, and so on. Though each of these roles serve different purposes, they have a direct relationship with each other to make sure the job gets done.
The waterfall method breaks the steps of a project into different phases that each have their own tasks and objectives. By utilizing the waterfall workflow, the development of one phase can only start when the previous phase is complete. This means the project doesn’t allow for any changes to the custom application until it has completely gone through all of its phases.
Unlike the waterfall method, agile methodology doesn’t rely on the status of its preceding phase. Instead, the agile method allows multiple phases to work simultaneously within small iterative periods, also referred to as sprints. This allows the custom application to be reviewed and improved several times before the project is complete.
When it comes to building a house, the waterfall method is ultimately going to yield you the most effective results. This is because, to build a house, you must follow certain steps in order. You start by buying land, building the foundation, adding the walls, installing appliances, and so on. Each of these steps cannot ideally be completed before the following step. For example, you can’t install your shower until your drywall is up. Switching the order of these two steps would result in a house that is unfunctional.
In contrast, the waterfall method may not be the most effective workflow method for building custom software. When building software that is completely customized, it’s hard to perfectly map out your end product since it doesn’t already exist. When following the waterfall methodology, the project can become difficult and costly if the requirements are not perfectly defined and understood from the start. After all, you can’t send anything back up a waterfall. In cases like these, you should consider the agile method instead.
To learn more information about agile vs. waterfall software development methodologies visit here.
For any large-scale process, project planning is essential. Project planning builds a roadmap for software development, outlining key milestones, defining project requirements, and creating a mutual understanding of project goals. Collaborative planning ensures projects are completed in accordance with timeline and budget goals.
Part of an agile approach, user stories are short and simple descriptions of a feature, written from the end user’s point of view. User stories are commonly written to match the following template:
As a < type of user >, I want < some goal > so that < some reason >.
User stories are used by developers to gain an understanding of what they’re creating and for why. This helps them to implement the goals of the business while focusing on the intended users’ experience.
Creating a Scope & Outlining Deadlines
A project scope defines the boundaries, features, and milestones included in a particular software development project. Based on the project scope, deadlines can be determined. Successful completion of a project on scope and deadline relies on good project management; if the project is poorly managed, the project scope and deadlines can be expected to change as a result.
When building a house, you have an architect who designs the overall structure of the home. When building software, you have a UI/UX designer who designs the layout and functionality of the digital platform.
User research focuses on understanding a user’s behaviors, needs, and motivations through observation techniques, task analysis, and other feedback methodologies. This would be like when the architect meets with the owners of the house to determine what their goals are for the project.
The type of user research methodology used to gain more knowledge of your users depends on your specific project. Let’s look at some examples:
- Desk Research: study users digitally on various platforms.
- Research Interview: unbiased interview to understand product owners/users intentions .
- Focus Group: group of potential users discussing opinions on the subject matter.
- Intercept Study: gathering short questionnaires/surveys at a specific location or event to gather info that may relate to that occasion.
- Ethnographic Research: observe a user’s natural behavior when interacting with the product in their natural environment. (This method may require permission to observe in private locations, such as medical buildings.)
- Competitor Usability Testing: user tests on competing products to understand pain points in competing products.
- Card Sort: have users organize content or group cards that can be categorized in the same group, write group names for each group, and order each group by priority.
UX and UI design are two similar, but different, elements that contribute to consumer experience. While user experience design is focused on problem solving and user interaction, user interface design is the design of the visual elements of the application.
User Experience Design
Also known as UX design, user experience design focuses on how information is organized, how users will navigate, and how users’ needs will be addressed. Where would a user expect to find that? When designing digital products for your audience, it is important to take the laws of UX into consideration to improve their overall experience.
User Interface Design
Also known as UI design, user interface design focuses on the user’s visual interactive experience, such as tapping a button or swiping through images. What happens when a user clicks on this, or taps on that? User interface design creates an emotional connection with the user and contributes to the presentation, look, and feel of a product.
In general, software development can be broken down into two specializations: front-end and back-end. Front-end development focuses on the visual elements of a website or app that a user interacts with, while back-end development focuses on the parts of a website or app that users can’t see.
If custom software is like a house, then front-end development is everything that you can see and interact with, like the furniture, decorations, appliances, and lights. Meanwhile, back-end development is what you can’t see, like the electrical wiring and plumbing system.
Also known as the server side, back-end development includes the behind-the-scenes elements that the user doesn’t see. Back-end development is in charge of the server and communication between the front end and database. A database is simply where the information is stored so that users can view or interact with it when desired. Overall, the back end works closely with the front end to deliver the final product to the end user.
Custom software integration allows you to take multiple pieces of software and bring them into a single application. Integration creates a multi-functional application that can help with your organization’s efficiency. Integrating with existing 3rd party databases is done through the use of APIs, or application program interfaces.
In the house building process, deployment would be when the house is finally ready to open to visitors.
Software deployment is the process of making your digital product available in a production environment for the public to use. Some steps involved in this process include alpha and beta testing. Alpha testing is performed by our team to determine any potential issues and bugs, while beta testing is performed by real users of the software application in a real environment.
Alpha testing is the initial testing phase of your digital product to ensure that it meets business requirements and functions properly. This is typically performed by our internal quality assurance employees, as well as some members of your own team. Alpha testing is generally restricted to less than 100 people to eliminate apparent issues before releasing the product to actual users.
Beta testing is performed after alpha testing is complete. Beta testing is a testing phase in which the nearly completed digital product is given to a targeted group of users to see how it performs in the real world. While alpha testing involves less than 100 people, beta testing can involve anywhere from 100-1000 users to gain a larger volume of helpful feedback about the product.
After beta testing is complete, your digital product is moved to a live production environment such as The Google Play Store or Apple App Store.
Project Management & Quality Assurance
Project managers are like the construction foremen who are in charge of the crew and overall project. Quality assurance then makes sure that all of the pieces that are holding the house together are in shape. For example, QA would be like making sure the electrical is set up correctly. The quality assurance team would test each light switch and built-in appliance to ensure it was all wired properly.
Project management is the process of achieving all project goals within the given constraints—scope, time, and budget. Common activities included in project management include the following:
- Measuring progress
- Delegating tasks
- Allocating resources
- Communicating effectively
Quality assurance is a process that ensures all software development processes, methods, activities, and work items are monitored to ensure proper quality of the software.
During this process, QA professionals check to make sure the platform is completely usable. They look for any potential issues that may be present in the software. This could include elements that may be confusing to the typical user, or buttons, links, and CTAs that don’t do what they’re supposed to do. Effective quality assurance results in a product that has been tested thoroughly, making it of high quality, without bugs, and fully understandable to users.
Support & Maintenance
After your house is built, it still requires routine support and maintenance to keep up with your evolving lifestyle. Your custom software is no exception, receiving ongoing fixes and improvements after the project is complete to ensure maximum success as time progresses.
Software support refers to fixing broken software or “bugs” with reactive development, while software maintenance refers to improvements to the software’s performance through proactive development.
As you can see, building custom software is a lot like building a house. Neither of these processes are done spontaneously. Instead, they require careful consideration of your specific needs, goals, and expectations. WynHouse Software’s development process makes these aspects a priority.
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