Starting a business may take a lot of time and effort. The startup is rarely so in tune with its niche that it requires a minimum investment to stay relevant on the market. In most cases, newly created companies need a solid product development strategy. Investing in such a strategy can also be justified whenever a company wants to improve an already existing product.
The process of creating a piece of software can be accomplished through various approaches. One of them is called SDLC. It is a closed cycle in which each stage influences the subsequent stage's actions and gives instructions for the future. Below you can find some of the most crucial steps to take when developing a new software product according to this approach.
Here you can see the main stages of software product development
Step 1: Concept Creation
Creating a concept for a new product is an important step. It is something that will affect all the following stages of the development process. There are over 4 million applications on Google Play and App Store, according to Statista. So you can always try combining a few already existing ideas together while adding your own twist. Another technique you could use is creating software that would resolve some of your personal needs. If you have a specific need, there's a high chance that other people are facing the same problem.
Step 2: Market Research
Regardless of the level of confidence you have for your product, market research and analysis are a must if you want it to be relevant to the niche and your target audience. This stage should answer the following questions:
- Who is the target audience for the product? Who's going to use it?
- What kind of data will go into the product?
- What kind of data will be the product's output?
- Who will be your competitors?
- What are the main functions and specifics of your competitors’ products?
- Who will be your suppliers?
- What are the relevant laws & regulations for your product?
Some companies want to improve an already existing software product. By doing thorough research on the current market situation and target audience, they might be able to eliminate possible mistakes at the beginning, such as:
- Product's quality below the satisfactory level;
- Noncompetitive pricing;
- The product's target market is too small;
- The product is a poor fit for the existing market;
- The product was released too soon or too late;
- Lack of promotion for the product and poor brand awareness of the company.
Step 3: Creating an SRS
SRS or Software Requirement Specification document is a specific type of documentation required for a successful software development process. It contains information about how the product should behave, what functions it should perform, what load it should withstand, etc. While writing an SRS, prior market research should be considered. The SRS is one of the most critical stages of the software development process and is used as a reference for designers and programmers while creating the software product.
At the same time, creating a specification is more of a team effort. The client can define the requirements for the product, while the development team will supplement them in more detail based on market analysis and implementation specifics. This allows the client to get a complete project specification.
The basic structure of the SRS document should include the following:
- Introduction. This is the phase of the software development process where you describe the software tool that is about to be developed. Here you explain all the terms you're about to use in this document. Such explanations shouldn't contain any other unexplained terms. Everything should be described as simply as possible. It is also required to provide a list of references that might be helpful.
- Overall description. In this part of the SRS, you should mention the general product features and the operating environment it will be run in. It would be great if you include a PDF diagram reflecting the overall interaction of the system. While writing the overall description part, include the design and implementation constraints – coding languages and standards, operational environment-based restrictions, etc. Finally, you should mention user documentation, if necessary.
- System features. At this point of the software development life cycle, you should provide a list of your product's features and explain them. Each feature should have an original name and be described separately. After you've named the feature, you should thoroughly explain how it should work and what problem it should resolve. Mention its stimulus and response sequences, how it should be launched. Do this kind of description and explanation for every project feature.
- External interface requirements. Specify how your product will interact with the world. What are the APIs, how is it possible to get access to specific data, what are the soft interface requirements, etc.
- Non-functional requirements. Some requirements cannot be described as a specific feature; for example, performance requirements. It's not a project feature, but it requires some additional work on the project's optimization. You should also mention the software quality attributes, including the quality of the code and what metrics to use to determine it. Finally, this part of the SRS should be dedicated to describing the product's security requirements.
Basic Requirements for the SRS Document
When writing an SRS, you should use the following principles as your guidelines:
- Be on-point, don't use complex sentences;
- Be as specific as possible. The other person reading the SRS should be able to understand exactly what you meant;
- Use DFD-diagrams. The specification cannot be complete if we do not know what is at the entrance to the described software and what is at the exit. Use visualization whenever possible.
Step 4: Design Development
At this phase of the software development life cycle, the product’s actual concept is built. Software architects and designers make UX/UI decisions according to the information provided in the SRS. UI or User Interface is a graphical interface of the application. UI design will make the application visually appealing for users. UX, on the other hand, stands for User Experience, and it determines the way users will interact with your app. Good UX means that your software is easy to navigate, intuitive, and gives users a feeling of accomplishing their tasks.
This is a critical stage as often design and user experience are the keys to the app's success. Statistics show that over 88% of users are likely never to revisit a website after having a poor user experience.
A good design should be simple and intuitive for users to understand. Think about how many functionality sections you want it to have and the main navigation features. The best way to do that is to imagine using the application yourself.
Step 5: Developing the Product
This is the step in the software development process when you turn the design and documentation into an actual piece of software by writing a code. This step is, in many ways, a backbone to the whole project. So, it usually takes a while to finish. There can be two substages - the creation of the MVP and the development of a full-fledged application. Agile is the most powerful methodology for any app building.
Creating an MVP
MVP or Minimum Viable Product is a great way to assess the viability of the product idea. At the same time, it’s a cheaper option than creating a complete application right away. It is a simplified model of the software product, which allows you to receive a fast response and evaluation from the target audience. Users who are already interested in the simplified version of your app are exceptionally valuable as they're able to provide genuine feedback and potentially become your first customers. The MVP development cost is usually lower than building a full-fledged product.
An MVP should present only the vital features of your application, don't overcomplicate them. After receiving the users’ feedback, you can add new features or fix the already existing ones.
Creating an MVP is a useful yet not entirely necessary phase. The client can create the fully-fledged application right away, skipping the MVP phase if they want to.
Creating the Final Version of the Product
At this point, the software product is created. A team of developers uses the feedback received from users at the MVP stage to fix any malfunctions in the app. At the same time, new features can be added to the product.
While the product’s planned functionality and architecture are being created, it can be sent for the next step of the software development process – testing.
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Step 6: Testing the Product
Before launching the product on the market, it must undergo strict quality assurance. Among all phases of software development, this one allows you to ensure that the application's code does not contain errors and the business goals were met during the development process.
The testing procedures can be performed by a QA team and the developers themselves. The more effort you put into this process, the higher quality your product will achieve. Eventually, it will cause the growth of client flow towards your product.
One of the most important tests the product should undergo before being released on the market is user acceptance. It is an opportunity to determine whether the product is completely ready for the market. To complete this testing, you need to recruit a group of users. Depending on your software project, they can be either field experts, stakeholders, or ordinary customers. Cooperate with your sales department to find people who are actual users of your application. If you want to get the most out of this testing, you can conduct personal interviews with some users to get a deeper insight.
Besides the ratio between the passed and failed tests, here are the main points to pay attention to when you're evaluating your app's performance during the testing stage of the software development life cycle:
- System stability. This metric is measured by the number of unexpected fails of the product during the system testing;
- Coverage of the testing procedures. Count how many tests you have written during the planning development phase and how many actually passed through implementation. This will help you determine if some features of the product were left untested.
- System's usability. This metric can be counted from the number of test procedures that didn't go down because users didn't figure out how to do them.
- Contract compliance. This metric will give you insurance that the product is still in compliance with the initial requirements, even if some changes were made after the testing step.
Step 7: Creating the Marketing Strategy
There are hundreds of applications out there, and you need to make your product stand out from the crowd. To get yourself noticed, you can try one of these steps:
- Create a custom pre-launch list of emails. For this to happen, you'll need to have at least a landing page for your app so that people can learn more about it. Also, don't forget to include a call to action in the emails to encourage potential users.
- Add a media package to your product. Basically, it is a package with some of the most important information about your app, logos, etc. It might be a great way to increase your visibility.
- Document the process of software development. By doing so, you'd be able to share your unique story of the application development process with the users. People are usually eager to follow along and might feel more connected to your brand.
- Optimize the title, description, and keywords on the platform you're about to launch your app on.
- Offer early-use benefits. It might give you even more visibility before your product's launch. You can start with discounts for pre-orders or some other sort of incentives for early users. It is a great way to promote your product and gather some feedback at the same time.
Step 8: Preparing for the Launch
This is one of the last stages of the software development life cycle. To successfully launch a product, you need to pay attention to each of these aspects:
- Awareness of your potential customers. You should support the launch of your product with maximum advertisement. Social media or email campaigns can help you raise awareness about your offering.
- Set up competitive pricing for your product. Make sure that you're not going below the production cost.
- Choose the launch date. There are several things to consider before you release the result of your software product development process into the market. Consider your own schedule, launch campaigns of your competitors, and your target audience’s overall level of readiness for your product.
- Consider having a soft launch. Offering your services to a low-risk clientele first might be very beneficial for your business. You can offer a lower cost or some additional benefits to a customer in exchange for feedback or a reference.
Step 9: Launching the Product
The launch phase for service packages or applications doesn't differ much from any other product. Here's how you should do it step by step:
- Create a communications plan for your team. Your company's employees should all be on the same page about what they should or shouldn't say during promotional events. You should also agree on how your launch presentation will look.
- Provide training to your employees. It is not just the delivery team who needs training. Make sure your sales managers know all the differences between the various versions of the product, cases when it would be beneficial to offer the client an upgrade, etc. Provide thorough training to your marketing and product teams, as well as customer support agents. They should all be able to use the same language about the service you offer.
- Ensure the perfect timing. After you've picked out the date for your product's launch, ensure that all of its phases will go simultaneously.
Step 10: Post-Launch and Maintenance
The final step of the development process is setting up a plan for regular software updates. It is your chance to polish the product by changing its features according to the end-users needs. It can be slight changes in design or functionality. You can also ask your development team to add some new features if the need arises.
The post-launch phase can be quite extensive, depending on the needs of the client. It can imply expanding and updating the marketing strategy after the launch, looking for new distribution channels, and attracting new customers. It also involves creating and implementing an SEO strategy, testing the product by clients, and finding ideas for its improvement.
A software development circle is a process that can vary from company to company depending on its needs. Each step of the process can be carefully tailored to the requirements of each client. There are plenty of companies out there, such as KeyUA, that can help you achieve your software development goals in a short time. You won't have to worry about any part of the development or integration process, as the professionals will do that for you.
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