10 Steps to Plan Your Next Software Development Project

By Joshua Gross, 24 September, 2022

Planning is absolutely essential when you're building a piece of software. Whether you're expecting to do the brunt of the labor yourself or you will be outsourcing these efforts, it's crucial to have a clear sense of your timeline, costs, and more.

When you have a new idea, it can be tempting to hop right into the development phase. However, you're more likely than not to run into expensive and time-consuming problems if you don't create an overarching plan of attack for your project.

Are you wondering what steps you'll need to take to plan for and develop your next software project? Let's take a look.

1. Idea Generation

It might seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people skip the all-important step of creating a cohesive and solid concept for their new product. Maybe you are constantly coming up with new ideas for awesome apps and have to choose between them, or maybe you know you want to create an app but aren't sure for what purpose.

It's important to realize that there are more than four million apps on the App Store and Google Play. This means that you don't want to simply revamp something that already exists in multiple iterations. That being said, your app could be the next big thing if you come up with an idea that combines existing ideas and adds new features that users can't get anywhere else.

Some of the most popular apps have emerged because the creators made apps that solved problems they had personally. All successful businesses solve a consumer's problem, and software products are no exception. If you're struggling to come up with the perfect idea, consider problems you see around you that need a solution and whether or not you could provide that fix with your app.

2. Market Research

Once you've come up with an idea (or a short list of ideas) that you're happy with, it's not time to press play yet. First, you need to validate the idea with market research and analysis.

There are several questions you'll want to answer as a part of this step in the process, including:

  • Who is my target demographic? Who do I expect will use this product?
  • What kind of data will go into the product, and what will the output be?
  • Who is my main competition?
  • Who will my suppliers be?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the competition's products? What functionalities and features do they offer?
  • Are there regulations and laws surrounding this type of app?

Once you have confidence that your app has a target audience and that your idea is viable, you can move on to the next stages. If you realize that your idea doesn't actually hold water, don't worry. Simply return to step one and continue generating and analyzing ideas until you find the right project concept.

It's worth taking your time to get this part of the process right. After all, it doesn't matter how sleek your design is or how great the user experience is if there isn't a market out there that wants to use your product.

3. Planning

It's been said that one hour of planning can save ten hours of doing. When it comes to software development, thorough planning can also save a lot of money.

You'll want to be meticulous in the planning stage and create a complete timeline of how your project will unfold. It can feel frustrating to spend so long on planning when you're eager to get your awesome idea to launch, but you can avoid a lot of hangups and obstacles down the road if you spend some time making a map for the project.

As a part of planning, you'll want to outline all of the necessary steps that need to be taken and break them down into tasks, subtasks, and steps. You'll want to determine exactly what roles you'll need to fill when it comes to building a team and who will be responsible for what tasks. The more clearly you can define the work that needs to be done and the resources that you will need, the better you can estimate an accurate timeline and budget.

To get a little more specific, here are some of the things you'll want to get a handle on during the planning phase of your project:

  • Building a general timeline and delineating the primary stages of development
  • Conceptualizing the team you will need to build and how you plan on building your team
  • Breaking down what needs to be done into tasks and subtasks and assigning who will be responsible for what
  • How you plan on communicating with your team and investors
  • Estimates for how long it will take and how much it will cost
  • Your anticipated release dates and the different types of releases
  • The marketing strategies you plan to use
  • Documentation of everything

Remember, building a timeline isn't a set it and forget it type of thing. This is something you want to revisit frequently. It's best to treat your timeline as a living document rather than something that is carved in stone– an important part of the process is a willingness to be adaptable and flexible when necessary.

4. Build a Team

Once you have a thorough plan for your project, you'll need to pull together your dream team. It's worth noting that it can be pretty time-consuming to recruit the right people for the project, but it's also so important that you really don't want to rush this part of the project.

You have a number of options when it comes to building a team.

The first option is to build an in-house team. This means you're hiring employees, paying payroll taxes, potentially offering benefits, etc. As you might imagine, this isn't a practical or accessible option to many small app developers, but bigger companies might choose to build their own team on staff.

The second option is hiring a collection of freelancers to create your app. This can be a relatively affordable way to produce your software project if all goes well. If you run into issues with one or more of the people you hire, though, it can end up being an enormous headache at best and a catastrophe at worst.

Thirdly, you can hire a full-service software development company to build your product. There are a lot of benefits to choosing this option– for one, you're hiring a team of experts that have a history of working together and producing great products. If you string together a team of freelancers, on the other hand, you are essentially gambling on their ability to work well together as a team. Hiring a software development company also offers more predictability when it comes to quality, precise quotes for projects, and ongoing maintenance and support services than freelancers.

5. Design and Prototyping

Conceptual designing is the next step in your project plan. It's not time yet to start playing around with color schemes, typography, and other aesthetic considerations. Instead, you'll want to focus first on the architecture and functionality of the project. By making UX decisions that make your software easier to navigate and intuitive for your user, you're setting yourself up for success.

Once you have your project's architecture done, you can start thinking about the user interface and how you can make your app visually appealing to your users.

UI and UX are key to your project's success or failure. 88% of users that have a bad user experience on a site are less likely to return to it, which means that you really want to get it right the first time.

As a part of your design process, there are a lot of different tools to help you build wireframes and prototypes. There are options available for all budgets, ranging from simple and free to powerful and pretty pricey.

6. Development and Coding

Now it's time to take your design and documentation and transform it into an actual piece of software. It might feel like it took a long time to get to this stage, but you'll be glad you did all of the front-loaded work to make this step in the process as seamless as possible.

Developing your product will be one of the longest parts of the project. You might find it useful to break this part down into two different stages: creating an MVP and developing a complete app.

Building an MVP

Building a minimum viable product (MVP) is an increasingly popular step in the software development process. Rather than setting out to create your finished product from the get-go, creating an MVP can end up saving you time and money in the long run. When you release your polished finished product and skip the MVP stage, you might find that you have to work backward to make costly and time-consuming changes.

When you make an MVP, you're creating an early version of your product that only has the most essential features necessary to test the product with users. This is a stripped-down, bare-bones version of the final product you expect to offer down the road that you can use to collect data and feedback about your product before you launch it with all the bells and whistles.

Creating the Final Product

Not all app creators choose to build an MVP, but it can be very useful as a part of the final development process. Through the data and feedback collected, developers can help fix any app problems or make changes. This is also when you can add any additional features that weren't considered essential enough to be included in the MVP.

7. Testing

Testing your product can involve a quality assurance team and your developers working together to ensure that there aren't any errors in the code and that the final product meets all of your initial business goals. It's worth putting in quite a bit of time and energy at this stage, as it will greatly impact the quality of your final product.

User acceptance is one of the most vital tests you'll want to perform. This is when you enlist a group of users that would realistically use your app and have them explore your product first-hand. You can then gather data about their experience, including personal interviews, in order to gain valuable insight into how users view your product. From this stage, you can incorporate any changes you've determined are worth making to your final product before launch.

8. Preparation for Launch

Before you launch, there are a number of steps you'll want to take.

These include:

  • Building awareness among your target audience through social media campaigns, email campaigns, or other marketing tactics
  • Setting up a competitive pricing model for your app
  • Selecting your launch date
  • Considering having a soft launch to earn early customers and receive more feedback

9. Launching Your Software Development Product

Now you've reached the most exciting part of the process– launching your product! As a part of this stage, you'll want to create a communications plan for your team, fully train your employees, and ensure perfect timing. Ideally, all of the phases of the launch will happen simultaneously.

10. Post-Launch and Ongoing Maintenance

Your hard work isn't done once you've launched your product. You'll want to set up a plan for regular software updates and further polish the product based on the needs of your end-users.

Finding the Right Team to Help Create Your Next Software Development Project

No matter how amazing your idea is, you'll find that the final product can only be as strong as the team that creates it. For this reason, the "building your team" phase of software development is perhaps one of the most essential. You'll want to make sure that you seriously consider the pros and cons of the different options here, which, for most people, will come down to hiring a team of freelancers or hiring a software development company.

At Planetary, we specialize in helping our clients turn their ideas into reality. Working with huge companies like Google, Amazon, and Univision, as well as small startups, our team of experts is made up of the very best people for the job around the globe. If you think we might be the right fit for your next software development project, reach out and tell us about your project.