With new software applications, platforms and solutions popping up every day, software development can seem like a huge challenge to newcomers. However, it’s also very open to innovative ideas and, with people always craving better solutions, you can find a niche for your product.
To explain the software development process and make it easy to understand, we’ve compiled this guide on how to develop a software product step by step. For your convenience, we’ve split it into four phases. Ready to build your software project and bring your ideas to life? Let’s do it then!
Phase 1. Idea
The idea is the very essence of your project and the driving force for you and your team. While it’s easy to want to dive right into development, clearly articulating the goals of your project upfront is critical to the overall project’s success, so make sure to follow through these steps first.
- Define the customer niche that your product will target
A properly defined niche clarifies the target audience and required features for your project. With this in mind, you can develop an accurate estimate of the cost and effort required to build your project. For instance, a weather app is simpler and cheaper to make than a product lifecycle management solution where you have to implement complicated business scenarios, create user interfaces, develop multi-layer solution architecture, etc.
It’s okay to choose a popular niche with a large market opportunity. But if you want to come up with a product that will be able to compete, you need to be passionate about what you’re going to create. Finding a problem, gap, or underserved need in the industry of your choice and dedicating yourself to developing software that addresses the issue is a proven method. Nothing compares with software that has a thoughtful, well-defined purpose.
- Look at your competitors
Go through several of your competitors’ websites and products to understand the competitive landscape and see what’s in demand. You’ll want to catalog the offerings of your competitors to understand where the gaps are in the market. It’s usually not enough to pick up a few ideas to your liking and then reimagine them a little. Make sure to go through a detailed competitive analysis to discover your rivals’ strengths and weaknesses so your product can capitalize on the market opportunity.
This step in software development requires you to investigate the features that help your competitors attract users. Try their software out, read customers’ feedback and visit their social media accounts. Competitors with existing products have tried to tackle the same issues you’re addressing, so gather as much info as possible and use it to your advantage to give your users a better product.
- Scope the product development project
Think through the scope of your project critically. How does it meet your business needs and goals? Do you have enough resources to build it the way you are planning? Is your budget enough? What is the timeframe for your project? These are very important aspects of building any software product, no matter how big or small.
You also need to be realistic about this initial development planning. Something will always go sideways. It doesn’t mean that you’re bad at project management. It’s simply how life works.
- Set the overall design
The visual appearance of your software program should correspond to the expectations of your target audience and business niche. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t push the boundaries with innovative UI/UX. Web design is a rapidly changing discipline and developing a unique style will help you stand out among other solutions. It is often the visual component that initially draws users in, after all.
You can get some ideas by looking at competitive products. Look at the aesthetics of your competitors’ software and create a mood board by saving the designs you like. Share the mood board with your team to brainstorm on the visuals.
- Plan your monetization strategy
If you think that it’s too early to think about monetization, you’re wrong. The sooner you have it planned out, the better, as revenue generation will inform key decisions about features and design. Many developers implement monetization strategies into their software from the start. For instance, a mobile app may be designed around encouraging in-app purchases by users to unlock additional content.
Here is a list of examples to get you thinking about product monetization:
- Microtransactions: Also known as in-app purchases, these are a simple and popular way to generate revenues from mobile apps. This strategy can be combined with other monetization models.
- Advertising: Another monetization strategy you can use in combination with others. Make the ads less frustrating for users by rewarding them for watching.
- Subscriptions: The model enables you to set a monthly price for the full version of your software. It usually includes a free trial period and several subscription plans available to people with different needs and financial capabilities.
- Perpetual licenses: The classic software monetization model. Users make a one-time payment to get permanent access to your software. For this strategy to be useful, you need to come up with a high-quality product that your users will be willing to pay for. Otherwise, you risk scaring them away.
- Assemble your team
It is the project (and its budget) that determines who is going to join your team. Finding the right people can be tricky: you’ll want a team that’s reliable, professional and comfortable for you to work with. It’s better to spend some time on hiring than stumble upon serious problems in the middle of the software development cycle.
You may invite someone you already know, find a candidate on job search websites or hire a freelancer. If you want to build a larger, high-quality team for the same budget, consider a dedicated offshore team, like what Satellite offers. Offshore development teams are much cheaper than local developers, and the recruitment process goes much quicker than the traditional hiring model. Find more information about this option here.
Phase 2. Design and Development
The journey has started. It’s time to create your UI/UX design and develop your software to bring your project to life. This phase is usually the bulk of the project for a time and budget perspective, so managing it well can mean the difference between success and failure for your product.
- Design your product
During this phase, you’ll define the software architecture and create a design document containing all the software requirements. The requirements document is one of the most critical elements of the project and a detailed design document will help you and your team keep everything in check as you build the product. Following the architecture and requirements, a wireframe or prototype is often built to help you quickly iterate on the design of the product.
This is also the right time to consider using project management tools. Having one document isn’t enough, especially as your team expands and product becomes more complex. To keep tabs on the workflow, consider one of the following project management software platforms:
The list goes on. There are many project management solutions out there, and each of them has a range of useful features that help boost your developers’ efficiency and let you keep track of progress. Choose the software that suits your needs the best, helps your teammates onboard and distributes tasks among them.