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What you should pay attention to during the software design process

Every software solution goes through a series of phases that take it from a raw idea to a fully functioning system. Each step along the way has particular challenges, and it’s essential to be aware of what these are so you are better prepared to mitigate them. In this article, we will look at the software design process and some of its pitfalls.

Software design is the third phase in the software development lifecycle alongside planning, requirements, building, documentation, testing, deploying, and maintaining. You will see other models that have 5 or 8 phases, but, in general, they pretty much cover the same thing. What’s important is not the number of steps but what needs to happen at this particular stage if you want to end up with a quality software solution.

What is the design phase?

In the design phase, the requirements gathered during the previous steps are turned into a system architecture from which your development team can start programming.

The documents generated during this stage or artifacts, as they are more commonly called in the industry, show the architecture that a system should have, its components, how they interact with each other, how the interface should be like, performance requirements, etc. The more complex the project, the more extensive the list.

UML schemas, site trees, flow charts, database designs, or screen designs highlighting how the graphic user interface (GUI) should look like. These are just a few examples.

What are the key challenges?

Lack of user feedback

Sometimes, software development teams tend to forget about users and stakeholders once the requirements phase is completed. This is a big mistake. You need to make sure that your target audience is involved in the software development lifecycle. And this includes the design phase.

Let’s say you are designing a new invoicing system for a company. It’s important that you include people from the shipping, accounting, finance department, and any other department that will use it. Invite them to meetings, show them your designs, and explain what you have in mind. Their domain expertise can provide insights that you wouldn’t usually get because the end-users aren’t always involved in drafting the initial request.

Constant changes in requirements

No matter how much time and energy are put into the requirements phase, you can never have a complete and consistent list. This means that any changes in terms of requirements will be felt directly in the design phase. Up to a certain point, you can modify or extend a software solution, but it can lead to high costs and delays past that point.

That’s why you should focus on initially developing an MVP or Minimum Viable Product. The initial phases and discussion in the software development lifecycle are theoretical for the most part. Not to mention that the client, most likely, has a vision in his head of how he wants the software to look like. A vision which might not look as good when put in practice.

Giving the client a chance to see part of the product or some of the functionalities at the initial stages goes a long way towards reducing the number of requirements changes further on.

Stakeholder influence in design

Any significant software development project will likely have quite a large group of stakeholders. Each one with specific needs, requests, and opinions on what the finished solution should look like. Sometimes these can even be conflicting😊.

Communication is critical here. You need to manage expectations and be clear about the tradeoffs. Because make no mistake, it is impossible to please everyone. Time and budget constraints make sure of that. A solution that is reliable and quick to market might come with a cost increase. Security concerns might lead to a less friendly user interface or login process.

All these issues will tax your communication and negotiation skills as you try to obtain stakeholder buy-in. 

How can QTeam Solutions help?

Custom software development projects have many challenges, and that is why it’s essential to have the right partners on this journey. We’ve helped companies, big and small, develop, improve and implement bespoke software and AI solutions. And we can do the same for you.