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A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Fantastic Software Products

A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Fantastic Software Products

June 22, 2020

Bradley Vanderstarren

Anastasia Starovoytova

Content Manager

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:


  1. 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.
  2. Advertising: Another monetization strategy you can use in combination with others. Make the ads less frustrating for users by rewarding them for watching. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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:


  1. Asana
  2. Basecamp
  3. Casual
  4. JIRA
  5. Todoist
  6. Trello
  7. WorkBook

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. 


  • Choose your software development languages

Building on the right technologies can also make the process of development much more effective and the final solution more scalable. Here are some common technologies used for developing modern web applications:


  1. React
  2. Angular
  3. Node.js
  4. Ruby on Rails
  5. Python
  6. SQL
  7. Mongo DB

This list is not exhaustive. It serves just to give you the idea that there are many technologies you can choose for your development process. Every solution has its pros and cons. If you aren’t sure about the technology, seek advice from software industry experts.

Getting in touch with them isn’t as hard as you may think. You can communicate with these bright minds on Linkedin, software-related forums, or general question-and-answer platforms. For instance, Quora is a great information source and has many talented developers, designers, and even CEOs as community members. Getting professional insights will help you feel more confident about your choices.

If you need more "real” assistance, consider engaging a dedicated offshore software development team. These industry experts can not only advise you on technology but build a complete solution from scratch saving you time and money. Depending on the project, you can hire teams of different sizes suitable for your budget. Here are some options for you to use.


  • Start coding

After defining the functionality and finalizing the design, you’re ready to begin the software development phase. It’s the most important step in the software development process. A typical software development method is the “agile process”, which consists of a series of “sprints” whereby the software is built in pieces, incorporating feedback throughout the process. Here are the steps of a typical agile process:


  1. Project planning: the agile team defines the course, mission and end goal of the project
  2. Roadmap creation: the team breaks down development objectives in a roadmap and composes their list in a backlog
  3. Release planning: the agile process requires to schedule multiple releases as the team completes objectives in “sprints” assigned to each goal
  4. Sprint planning: the team decides upon the sprint schedule and distributes tasks among each other;
  5. Development Sprints: the team works on development tasks with the goal of completing them by the end of the sprint 
  6. Active collaboration: the team gathers for regular meetings to discuss the progress and address workflow issues
  7. Sprint review: at the end of each spring, the team reviews what has been accomplished. 

The development team must follow the requirements and design specifications to release a quality product. Once the functionality is ready, the quality assurance (QA) team will step in to test the product and make sure the software is bug-free. 


  • Get used to testing 

The quality assurance team will go through a battery of different tests to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Testing is a critical part of the software development process and shouldn’t be neglected. It’s far easier to address issues before your code is running in production. Moreover, even after the launch, testing is an ongoing process. As long as you’re supporting your product, you will be fixing bugs.

There are a few types of testing typically performed by QA teams: 


  1. Manual testing
  2. Automated testing
  3. Load testing
  4. Smoke testing
  5. Regression testing

While focusing on improving, don’t overthink it. It’s easy to get carried away pursuing perfection and thus delaying the project release indefinitely. One common phrase among the startup community is “Minimum Viable Product” (MVP), which speaks to the fact that you’re often better to launch a basic product sooner than a great product later. You risk losing investments, teammates and your energy if things drag on too long. You also miss out on the chance to get early feedback from your users and make appropriate adjustments.

Phase 3. Deployment

The deployment stage of any project is both stressful and exciting. As soon as you’re finished with testing, you’re ready to show your product to the world and your users.


  • Set up the best practices for deployment

While this step isn’t as time-intensive as the previous ones, it’s critical, so there are some things you should work out before deployment. Talk to your development team about the best practices you can use for this stage and put them down in a checklist. The checklist should contain all the important deployment steps. Make sure that it’s available to everyone involved.

At this point, you also need to think about your rollback strategy in case something misfires. It also makes sense to keep backup copies of the previous versions of your software. Using a version control system like Git and a code management platform like Github can be particularly helpful for ensuring you have the ability to revert to a previous version of the software.


  • Select deployment tools

For a seamless experience, take your time to research different deployment tools and select the most appropriate solution for your project. The right software will make the whole process automated and simple to follow.

Look at some of your deployment options below:


  1. Ansible Tower
  2. Bamboo
  3. Codeship
  4. DeployBot
  5. ElectricFlow
  6. Jenkins
  7. JuJu

When choosing a deployment tool, it’s often best to rely on the tools that are most familiar to your team rather than the newest solutions available. 


  • Deploy your software

An automated process is the best way to ensure flawless software deployment. You can do everything by hand - but why waste your time? Besides, manual deployment increases the chances of making a mistake and needs the attention of a skilled developer. An automated can be set up once and used again and again, without requiring senior developers to constantly watch it over.

As soon as you complete this development process step, you and your team have every right to celebrate the deployment of your software project! 

Phase 4. Maintenance and Updates

The next step after the deployment phase is software maintenance. It’s time to see your users’ reactions to your project and turn them into relevant updates.


  • Maintain your software

No software product lifecycle ends with the release. Maintenance is the next logical step because, with the evolution of your business and users’ needs, your software project must evolve as well.  

This phase of the software development process involves fixing old bugs, preventing new ones from appearing, adding new features, and adapting to different platforms and operating systems.

Maintenance can be costly. Sometimes it’s more expensive than the whole development cycle, but it’s absolutely necessary to ensure your product stays competitive. 


  • Build up a community

Humans love to be part of something. Appeal to your users’ sense of belonging by creating a community page for your software project on social media platforms. This is the best way to get an engaged audience, learn about your product from the customer’s point of view, and simply keep them posted. 

Another thing you can do to increase awareness of your software is to create a website. Having one will allow you to sell your product better, promote your business, and inform current users about major updates. 


  • Update and improve

Learning from your own mistakes is inevitable, and no software is perfect. You always have room for improvement. Besides, if you want to fuel your users’ interest in your product, you have to provide them with something new. Implement new functionality to delight customers and don’t forget to keep testing.

The Bottom Line

A software project can be a long-term commitment, and long-term commitments often look terrifying. Don’t let this dishearten you. Software development is a journey. While it can be challenging, you may find it’s a voyage you’ll want to repeat. Don’t miss out!

Anastasia Starovoytova

Content Manager

Anastasia is the Content Manager at Satellite, covering technology, effective team building and latest IT news.

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