12 Software Development Best Practices to Follow

June 28, 2017 | 
12 Software Development Best Practices to Follow

Due to the growing cultural uptake of technology, there is a demand for developers to build great, reliable software applications. To ensure that your projects will succeed, consider following these software development best practices:

12 Software Development Best Practices to Follow
Look for the right resources.

Resources come in three categories: people, software development tools, and the software development process. Investing in the right software development tools is essential. If you are considering internal development, there are software development tools you can use.

When it comes to people, the biggest issue is always overheads—for training, developing, scaling, and equipping. That is why I highly recommend outsourcing software development. To help you with this, I wrote an article tackling some considerations when outsourcing software development.

Choose the right process.

The success of the software development life cycle relies heavily on the method you will adopt. Common software development models and methods include the following:

  • Waterfall model - Often considered the classic approach to the software development life cycle, this software development model describes a development method that is linear and sequential. It has distinct goals for each phase of the development. Once a phase is completed, the development proceeds to the next phase, and there is no turning back.
  • Prototyping model - In this software development model, a prototype (an early approximation of a system or product) is built, tested, and reworked as necessary until an acceptable prototype is achieved, so that a complete system or product can be developed. It works best in scenarios where not all of the project requirements are known in detail ahead of time. It is an iterative, trial-and-error process which is taking place between the developers and users.
  • Spiral model - This software development model combines the idea of iterative development with the systematic, controlled aspects of the waterfall model. It is a combination of the iterative development process and sequential linear development models (i.e., the waterfall model with a huge emphasis on risk analysis). It allows incremental product releases or refinement through each iteration known as a spiral.
  • Agile software development - Agile methodology anticipates the need for flexibility and applies a level of pragmatism to the delivery of the finished product. It demands a cultural shift in many companies as it focuses on the clean delivery of individual parts of the software and not on the entire application. In any agile environment, it is likely that several methodologies are being used. One of these methodologies is extreme programming, which is based on the idea that testing must be done regularly for successful development to happen quickly. In many cases, the tests must be written even before the code. Another widely used agile methodology is scrum. Scrum brings everyone in the team together, including the business stakeholders, to agree on features. Then, specific goals are set for a 30-day sprint, at which point the agreed-upon software is delivered. The third agile methodology is lean development (lean programming), which strips software development down to the basics.

Choose the one that suits your project best, then adhere to it throughout.

Plan and estimate.

We all know the saying, “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” So before carrying out your project, you should come up with realistic estimates for schedule, available resources, and budget. If your goals are too ambitious, you should re-negotiate with stakeholders and prioritize the most important and achievable ones. You can get a consultation with an outsourcing software development company and define realistic guides, metrics, and costs. Any good outsourcing company will do this with you for free.

Break down the project.

Agile software development methodologies are a great way to complete big projects efficiently by breaking them down into little steps. Discuss with stakeholders how you will break down your project for better control, tractability, and risk mitigation.

Define the requirements.

Aligning the finished product with the business objectives requires effective requirement gathering, an essential part of the software development life cycle. It is crucial for stakeholders—customers, business leaders, and team leaders—to discuss and agree on precise project and stage-by-stage requirements. As you gather the specifications, identify which are primary and which can be sacrificed if needed.

Select a system architecture.

The system architecture is defined as a set of conventions, rules, and standards used in a computer system’s technical framework, as well as customer requirements and specifications, that the system manufacturer follows in designing the system’s components. The system architect should choose the architecture that is suitable for your project, taking into consideration the requirements and limitations and also identifying the threats and anti-patterns in the system.

Here are five architecture patterns commonly used for organizing software systems:

  • Layered architecture - In this approach, the code is arranged so that the data can enter the top layer and work its way down each layer until it reaches the bottom. Along the way, every layer has a particular task, such as checking the data or reformatting the values for consistency. This way, different programmers can work independently on different layers. Since there is a separation of concerns, it is easy to update and enhance layers separately. It is best for teams with developers who do not understand other architectures yet, new apps that need to be developed quickly, business or enterprise apps that need to mirror traditional IT processes, and app development projects that require strict maintainability and testability standards.
  • Event-driven architecture - This architecture builds a central unit which accepts all data and then delegates it to the separate modules handling the particular type. Overall, this pattern easily scales, is easily adaptable to complex (often chaotic) environments and extendable when new event types appear. It is best for user interfaces (UIs), app development projects where the individual data blocks interact with just a few of the many modules, and asynchronous systems and data flows.
  • Microkernel architecture - In this architecture, the basic routines for displaying a file and editing it are part of the microkernel. The extra features layered on top are called plug-ins, which must include a fair amount of handshaking code for the microkernel to be aware that these are already installed and ready to work. It is best for tools used by a variety of people, app development projects with a clear boundary between basic routines and higher order rules, as well as those with a fixed set of core routines but a dynamic set of rules to be frequently updated.
  • Microservices architecture - From the name itself, this pattern aims to create a number of different small programs and then a new little program every time someone wants to add a new feature. It is similar to the event-driven and microkernel patterns but is mainly used when the different tasks are easily separated. It is best for corporate data centers with well-defined boundaries, development teams that are spread out (often all over the world), rapidly developing new businesses and web apps, and websites with small components.
  • Space-based architecture - This architecture is designed to prevent functional collapse under high load by splitting up both the processing and storage between multiple servers. It is best for social networks, high-volume data (e.g., click streams and user logs), and low-value data which can occasionally be lost without huge consequences.
Deal with change.

Along the way, while the project is in the development or deployment stage, certain changes may occur. Goals will change due to change in stakeholder requirements or a need to refactor the timelines, costs, or customer needs. Instead of resisting change, you should deal with it as early as possible and come up with a contingency plan. Make sure to incorporate the necessary changes in a way that will affect the original plan as little as possible.

Gear Inc. can integrate with your existing project management methodologies seamlessly for maximum effectiveness. We act as an agile development company, helping us respond more effectively to unpredictability through incremental, iterative work cadences and empirical feedback.

Test and validate.

Diligent test planning is imperative when validating the developed functionality. To ensure that bugs are caught at the earliest possible stage and resolved cost-effectively, you should use automation tools and well-established processes. You should also make sure that those responsible for your QA testing are present at every stage of planning and development. If you are following agile software development, check out these testing tips.

Have proper documentation.

Documentation is always an important aspect of any project, especially when specified by stakeholders. Software development process documents such as project plan, software requirement specification (SRS), test plan, test report and status report can be used as references by others who might use or work on the software in the future.

Here are some helpful details about the software development process documents mentioned above:

  • Project plan includes the following: project scope and objectives, deliverables, process to be employed, timeframe and milestones to produce the deliverables, organization and staffing to establish, responsibilities of the persons involved, steps to undertake and, of course, budget.
  • SRS captures the following types of requirements: functional, performance, interface, maintainability, reliability, safety, quality, operational, and resource.
  • Test plan describes the scope, approach, resources, and schedule of intended test activities. It determines the test items, features to test, test environment, testing tasks and who will do those tasks, degree of tester independence, test design techniques, entry and exit criteria to use (and the rationale for the choice), and any risks that require contingency planning.
  • Test report has four types: Test Item Transmittal Report (identifies the test items being transmitted for testing, from the development to the testing group, in the event that a formal beginning of the test execution is desired), Test Log (used to record what occurred during the test execution), Test Incident Report (details any event that occurs during the test execution and requires further investigation), and Test Summary Report (summarizes the testing activities associated with one or more test design specifications.)
  • Status report may include all or some of the following: project start and completion dates, milestones you have passed, percentage of the project completed, accomplishments worth mentioning, important meetings attended, threats or potential risks to the projected timeline, description of problems you have encountered and resolved, and personnel or equipment limitations. It can be done on a weekly or monthly basis.
Conduct reviews.

Like testing, review is an effective way of detecting bugs. Be sure to review all codes and software development process documents.

Have parameters for measuring success.
Identifying and agreeing on parameters is essential for measuring success, which should be done during project planning or deployment. Common parameters include:

  • SLA (Service Level Agreement) - A contract between a service provider and its customers that documents what services the provider must deliver and defines the performance standards the provider is required to meet
  • CMM (Capability Maturity Model) - A methodology for developing and refining an organization's software development process, describing a five-level evolutionary path of increasingly organized and systematically more mature processes
Apply and impart lessons learned.

Every project you are handling is an opportunity to learn new things. If you want to improve, you should apply everything you learned to your next projects. And it will be even more beneficial for your company if you will share those lessons with colleagues and stakeholders.

Over to you

These are just some of the software development best practices you can adopt. These can serve as your guide as you start accomplishing your tasks and, along the way, you will develop your own best practices.