Blog / Software Development FAQs Answered

Blog - Solidify Your Shift-Left Commitment With Applause In-Sprint Testing

Software Development FAQs Answered

Everything is digital. We can access nearly all services or aspects of our lives via our mobile phones. We’re just a few button pushes away from ordering a pizza, completing a tax return, watching a blockbuster movie, or turning off the lights in the kitchen.

Software development organizations create and maintain these experiences. Everything from the initial planning through writing code and addressing defects must be done by software development teams.

But how exactly does it all work? Follow along in this blog as we answer several software development FAQs to shed light on this complicated but crucial field.

What is software development, and how does it work?

Software development is the process of planning, designing, coding, testing, managing, launching and updating digital products, such as computer systems, mobile and web apps, and connected hardware devices. Software development essentially turns a strategic or creative idea for a digital product into a reality through a series of steps and methodologies.

While the software development life cycle varies between organizations, businesses and industries, most software development projects follow this trajectory:

  • Gather requirements to understand the goals and expectations

  • Create a plan that outlines the scope, timeline and resources required

  • Design the software architecture, including the placement of different features and how they will interact with each other

  • Write the source code that dictates how the product’s user flows will function

  • Test the product for functional, non-functional or usability issues

  • Deploy the product — usually as a phased or limited initial rollout

  • Maintain the software to address ongoing issues, customer requests and product enhancements

What programming languages are best for software development?

Thousands of programming languages exist for different purposes. Thus, the “best” programming language depends on the project’s requirements, performance needs and team/developer competencies. What works best for one project might be a terrible fit for another.

Some of the more commonly used general-purpose programming languages include Java, JavaScript, Python, C++, C#, PHP, TypeScript, Ruby, Swift, Kotlin and Julia. There are also domain-specific programming languages for specific tasks or functions, such as:

  • SQL, PL/SQL and MySQL for database queries

  • HTML and CSS for creating and stylizing web pages

  • MATLAB, SAS and R for data analysis

  • VHDL and Verilog for hardware circuit design

Many programmers and even some testers learn several popular languages to broaden their skill sets. As new languages emerge, programmers should keep up with trends to increase their career opportunities.

What tools and technologies are commonly used in software development?

Software development typically entails the use of many different open source and third-party tools and services. The choice of tools or services typically depends on which programming languages the team will use as well as project requirements, development approach and other team preferences.

Some types of software development tools include:

  • Project management tools. As teams work on a project, it’s important to keep track of expected deliverables and work in progress. Project management tools, such as a Kanban board, help organize teams and tasks.

  • Integrated development environments (IDEs). These tools provide an environment for developers to effectively write, debug and test code. IDEs typically include a code editor, compiler, debugger, automation tools and more features to facilitate efficient and effective code.

  • Code review tools. The tools enable developer collaboration for processes like peer reviews to help promote better overall code quality.

  • Version control tools. These tools enable developers to manage and contribute code to a codebase. Multiple developers collaborate on a project, and there’s no guarantee all the code will work when combined. Version control tools enable the team to store earlier versions of the code and revert back if needed.

  • Continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) tools. When incremental code changes are ready, CI/CD tools automate the process of integrating these updates with the app to deliver it as quickly and reliably as possible. These tools build, test and merge the changes with the source code, then deploy it out to users.

  • Bug tracking systems. Organizations use these tools to track and prioritize issues with the code — everything from severe functional defects to minor non-functional problems.

Additional tools and services exist to document, integrate, test, deploy and host apps, though other members of the organization might handle these tasks — who uses them and how all depends on the organization and available resources.

How can I improve my software development skills?

It’s an ongoing commitment for developers to improve their skills, as new programming languages and development approaches can emerge over time. The most fundamental thing a developer can do to improve is keep an open mind. Developers that refuse to adapt to new strategies will find fewer opportunities to advance.

Keeping up with new programming languages, frameworks and libraries will help developers stay current with trends. Another way to keep sharp is to contribute to open source projects, which fosters collaboration with developers outside of the office walls — not to mention helps thousands of developers and organizations who might later use your code. If open source contribution isn’t of interest, a personal development project, such as a simple mobile app, can also be a great way to hone or pick up new skills.

There are additional social opportunities that enable developers to grow. Coding contests and hackathons tap into developers’ competitive instincts as a challenge to accomplish a certain task. Conferences also present opportunities to both learn from expert speakers and establish new professional connections. Improving soft skills can also go a long way toward standing out on a team or boosting a resume.

What are the best practices for software development methodologies?

There are a number of software development methodologies that organizations and teams follow to complete their work. Some development methodologies are rigid, while others focus on a specific area of improvement. Many teams use some of the tenets of multiple different methodologies to develop high-quality software efficiently.

Here are some popular software development methodologies along with a high-level explanation of how they work:

  • Waterfall. The development methodology takes a sequential or phased approach from planning through release. Waterfall emphasizes comprehensive planning, detailed documentation, and formal reviews after each stage in its linear and methodological approach to software creation. Many software development teams used Waterfall in the 20th century, but some have since moved away from it due to the inefficiency and slow turnaround associated with the methodology.

  • Agile. This methodology aims to improve upon the Waterfall method by proposing 12 simple, plain-language principles. While others have interpreted Agile in various ways over the years, the simplest explanation of the methodology is that it intends to break development work into smaller iterations, foster better team collaboration, prioritize the customer’s needs, and conduct regular meetings called ceremonies to align team expectations and goals.

  • DevOps. Taking cues from Agile, DevOps intends to further promote collaboration across disparate organizations — most notably, development and operations teams, as the name suggests. Through better collaboration, the use of automation and continuous monitoring, DevOps aims to both promote shared responsibility for software quality and accelerate delivery of the product.

  • Scrum. Scrum is less a development methodology than a way of redefining work according to various roles, collaboration, and a customer focus — and for that reason, it is now used beyond software development. Scrum empowers a Scrum Master role to remove impediments to product owner and development team roles, defines artifacts in the backlog that teams will work on, and conducts meetings similar to Agile to monitor progress and improve efficiency in the future.

  • Kanban. This visual project management approach has roots in software development and Lean manufacturing, and it can help optimize workflows in many industries. The approach uses a Kanban board, which visually represents all tasks — this helps foster collaboration across the team and limit the sprawl of work in progress.

These are just a few potential software development methodologies a team might choose. Other development methodologies include rapid application development, feature-driven development, behavior-driven development, test-driven development and Extreme Programming. The goal with any software development methodology should be to improve work efficiency and quality. If any development methodology becomes too prescriptive or clashes with the team’s preferences, it risks losing effectiveness and might necessitate a change.

What is Agile software development and how does it work?

Agile is an iterative and incremental approach to software development. Agile places emphasis on customer needs and team collaboration as a means of creating better digital products faster.

While Agile software development has contorted to fit some organizations’ or thought leaders’ ideas of what it should mean, the actual premise of Agile is very straightforward. The Manifesto for Agile Software Development, written by 17 software development practitioners in 2001, states the following:

Thus, Agile doesn’t require tools, a prescriptive process or specific team roles — it’s simply about adhering to the principles of the Agile Manifesto. Some basic and expansive frameworks exist to help guide teams in their Agile journeys, including Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming and Scaled Agile Framework, but these are not required to adopt and embrace the approach.

In practice, Agile tends to involve teams developing iteratively, releasing software incrementally, incorporating customer needs, adapting to changing requirements, collaborating across teams and improving continuously, all to ultimately deliver better products more efficiently.

How can I ensure software security during the development process?

Potential threats and vulnerabilities will always exist in software systems. Mitigating the risks of cyberattacks requires an ongoing, multi-pronged approach. Cybersecurity must be a shared responsibility across the entire organization, including during the software development process.

Some ways in which software development organizations can prioritize cybersecurity include:

  • Secure coding practices, such as using guidelines like OWASP, code minification and secure code reviews

  • Security testing through approaches like static code analysis, dynamic application security testing and penetration testing

  • Threat modeling to reveal potential architecture vulnerabilities during the design phase

  • Access control and applying the principle of least privilege to reduce the effect of breaches

  • Strong authentication, authorization and encryption methods to ensure proper access to features and data

  • Input validation to improve defenses against attacks like SQL injection

These methods are just the beginning. The business should establish firm cybersecurity directives and clearly communicate those to all employees, including for software development projects.

What is DevOps and how does it relate to software development?

Attempting to alleviate challenges and foster integration between Dev and Ops teams, DevOps is a set of practices that aims to improve collaboration for the sake of creating better digital products, more quickly and more reliably. While there are few definitive rules for applying DevOps, it generally follows some or all of these principles:

  • Collaboration between development and operations teams — and even other teams, such as design, product and security — to alleviate challenges by means of shared responsibilities and improved communication

  • Automation to remove low-priority, repetitive tasks from teams’ to-do lists, thereby improving the overall consistency, efficiency and quality of the development lifecycle and the product

  • Monitoring and feedback to learn from how the product works in the user’s hands and improve it in future iterations

  • Prioritizing security and quality throughout the software development life cycle, especially in a DevSecOps model

DevOps relates to software development because it is a common approach to the task. Some development organizations have started to remove “dev” and “ops” differentiation from job titles, preferring simpler terminology, such as “engineer.” As these two traditionally siloed departments blend, teams can expect to take on different responsibilities, such as developers provisioning infrastructure and fixing defects earlier in the life cycle or operations teams managing CI/CD pipelines and container orchestration.

The idea of DevOps can even apply outside of software development, wherever two departments need help collaborating to improve efficiency, such as sales and marketing. The concept is less about producing software and more about improvement and efficiency.

Published: August 15, 2023
Reading time: 10 min

5 Threats to Streaming Content Protection

Protect streaming media revenue against its many emerging threats

Why Retail Digital Quality Matters More Than Ever 2

Against a challenging economic backdrop, our 2023 State of Digital Quality in Retail report highlights global retail testing data trends and how retailers can successfully address their quality issues

‘Tis The Season: What Shoppers Want in Winter 2023

In October 2023, Applause conducted its annual holiday shopping survey to gather research on consumer trends ahead of the festive season.

Make Every Day World Usability Day

Take time today to consider how well your digital experiences serve different audiences

Get Ready for the European Accessibility Act

Read the highlights from our recent webinar on how to prepare for the new law

Crowdsourced Software Testing FAQs

We answer some common questions about crowdtesting