North Wales Management School - Wrexham University

What is software development?

Posted on: June 28, 2021
Man and woman sat at a computer looking at code on a screen

The UK’s tech sector is a booming industry, with tech companies having raised over $15bn in investment in 2020 alone and employing around 2.98m people nationwide. A skill which is steadily growing in demand, and which has many available job vacancies, is software development.

Software development is the designing, building, testing, and launching of computer programs, many of which you likely use in your day-to-day life. Microsoft Word, Google Chrome, WhatsApp, and many other popular tools all came into current existence through the work of a team of software developers.

Though much of the software development process involves creating the code behind programs, the main goal of software developers is to take that code and to run it, test it, and fix errors, slowly chipping away to further develop it until the end product is complete. 

What are the different types of software?

There are three main types of software, these are:

  • System software
  • Application software
  • Programming languages

System software

The system software enables all operational necessities to be in place to be able to use a piece of hardware. For example, an operating system such as Windows or macOS (system software) allows a user to operate their laptop or MacBook (hardware). System software also works between hardware such as a mouse, keyboard, and printer, and the computer they’re connected to. Without system software, your machine wouldn’t be functional.

Application software

Have you ever wondered why the programs you download onto your phone are called ‘apps’? ‘Apps’ is the abbreviation for application software. Apps are what help users to perform tasks on web and mobile devices, whether that’s using instant messenger software like Microsoft Teams or Slack at work, or browsing memes on Instagram in your free time.

Programming languages

Computer programming languages give software engineers the means to produce various kinds of code. With this code, a programmer will write programs, scripts and instructions for a computer. Programming languages come in different forms, such as scripting languages which generally run on small chunks of code and automates tasks that would otherwise be done manually by a human, and object-oriented programming languages which structure reusable code blueprints alongside data. Though there are many programming languages which are taught and used, popular ones include Java, Javascript, Python, PHP, and Oracle.

Software development roles

Though roles and dynamics may differ across teams and businesses, there are three main roles involved in software development.

Programmers and coders are responsible for writing source code in a programming language. The source code is used to program specific tasks, the instructions for which often come from software engineers and developers.

Software engineers build software and design systems to solve problems and create solutions which work in the real-world as opposed to simply working on solving individual instances for one client.

Software developers are closely involved in many aspects of a project, including writing code, deployment and testing, and also drive the overall software development life cycle (SDLC).

What is agile software development?

Agile software development has risen in popularity since the Agile Manifesto was written by seventeen software practitioners in 2001. It is a framework methodology which is employed to describe the roadmap of a software development project. 

The agile way of working values the following:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

The basis of working in an agile manner is the understanding that a collaborative approach is adopted across cross-functional teams, and all skill sets combine to work towards coming up with solutions together. Requirements for the project are broken down into incremental development stages at the start, and a continuous feedback loop helps to find and fix defects without stalling the project.

Other software development methodologies

Aside from the agile way of working, there are many other software development methodologies. DevOps is an agile-based approach which joins stakeholders from software development and IT operations together throughout the design, development, and deployment of new software, and for ongoing software support.

Rapid application development (RAD) condenses design and code construction into one interconnected step, prioritising rapid releases and iterations whilst focusing on the use of software and user feedback rather than strict planning. 

Scaled agile framework (SAFe) scales agile methodology to larger teams and organisations, and includes structured guidance on roles and responsibilities and how to plan and manage the work, and the waterfall model is a breakdown of project activities into linear sequential phases. Often considered the traditional software development methodology, each phase in the waterfall model depends on the deliverables of the previous one, and the smooth-running of the project is dependent on previous phases being completed.

What is the software development life cycle?

The software development life cycle (SDLC) is the clearly-defined processes and methodology used when a team of developers create a new piece of software. It includes the following phases:

  • Requirement analysis and specifications
  • Planning
  • Software design and development
  • Testing
  • Deployment
  • Maintenance and support

A project is managed and measured according to the SDLC throughout the creation of software in order to ensure quality, and though different processes can be grouped to different points in the life cycle, the effectiveness is due to the life cycle continuing to recycle throughout the course of a project for ongoing development and improvements.

The SDLC is driven by software developers throughout the course of a project while they work across cross-functional teams to turn initial requirements into working features, manage development teams and processes, and conduct software testing and maintenance.

How to get into software development

In order to work as a software developer, there are a number of skills employees look for. Some of these include: the ability to use one or more programming languages; critical thinking and problem solving skills; keen attention to detail; project management skills; and the capability to write and maintain software programs. 

The best way to establish and develop these skills is with a master’s degree. Our MSc Computer Science has been created for people already working in the industry who are looking to take their knowledge and skills to the next level, and is also open to people who are not currently working in a computer science role but are looking to forge a new career path.

On our Software Development for the Web module, you’ll learn how to develop web applications and will gain sought-after skills in HTML5, CSS3, Javascript, PHP and MySQL, whilst other modules will give you an in-depth knowledge on computer algorithms, data structures, and developing software for the real-world.

Study part-time with the North Wales Management School and prepare to accelerate your career into this high-demand and lucrative field.