UNDERSTANDING EVERYTHING ABOUT SOFTWARE DESIGN PROCESS
Software Design plays a vital role in deciding whether to move an application into development. Hence, it is imperative to follow the various steps involved in designing an interface that users will love and prefer. But before getting into the in-depth processes of software designing, let us understand what it means and why it is important.
In this article, we shall answer the following questions:
- What is Software Design Process?
- Why is Software Design important?
- What are the principles of good Software Design?
- What are the stages of the Software Design Process?
- What are the various tools used for creating Software Design?
What is Software Design Process?
Software Design Process is a high-rank, technology-independent concept that describes a system that will be able to accomplish the established tasks in the requirement analysis phase.
According to the IEEE, Design is defined as both the “process of defining the architecture, components, interfaces and other characteristics of a system or component and the result for [that] process.”
Why is Software Design important?
Software Design gives a foundation to construct your software structure. Hence, it is an essential step. It precedes creating or enforcing the product in every engineering field. For example – when constructing a building, it is inconceivable and impractical for the builders to go straight to the ground and start the construction before establishing detailed designs with engineers, as it would be perilous.
Design is the initial and the most crucial phase of the software development methodology, as the entire application will build upon the choices made in this phase. Here, designers will have to settle between suggested solutions and available resources.
What are the principles of good Software Design?
Many principles are employed to organize, coordinate, classify, and set up software design’s structural components. Software Designs become some of the most convenient designs when the following principles are applied. They help to generate remarkable User Experiences and customer loyalty.
The principles of a good software design are:
- Anticipation of change
- Sufficiency and completeness
Dividing a large software project into smaller portions/modules is known as modularity. It is the key to scalable and maintainable software design. The project is divided into various components and work on one component is done at once. It becomes easy to test each component due to modularity. It also makes integrating new features more accessible.
Coupling refers to the extent of interdependence between software modules and how closely two modules are connected. Low coupling is a feature of good design. With low coupling, changes can be made in each module individually, without changing the other modules.
The process of identifying the essential behavior by separating it from its implementation and removing irrelevant details is known as Abstraction. The inability to separate essential behavior from its implementation will lead to unnecessary coupling.
- Anticipation of Change
The demands of software keep on changing, resulting in continuous changes in requirements as well. Building a good software design consists of its ability to accommodate and adjust to change comfortably.
The aim of good software design is simplicity. Each task has its own module, which can be utilized and modified independently. It makes the code easy to use and minimizes the number of setbacks.
- Sufficiency and Completeness
A good software design ensures the sufficiency and completeness of the software concerning the established requirements. It makes sure that the software has been adequately and wholly built.
What are the stages of the Software Design Process?
The stages of software design process are:
Stage 1: Understanding project requirements
Stage 2: Research and Analysis
- Focus groups
Stage 3: Design
- Creating user stories
- Data flow diagrams
- Technical Design
- User Interface
Stage 4: Prototyping
- Low Fidelity Prototyping
- Medium Fidelity Prototyping
- High Fidelity Prototyping
Stage 5: Evaluation
STAGE 1: UNDERSTANDING PROJECT REQUIREMENTS
Before you start designing software, you need to make sure that you know all the project requirements. These requirements can comprise your users’ pain points, their difficulties, and what issues you need to address while creating a software design specifically. You may also define a design goal for yourself.
STAGE 2: RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS
This stage comprises research about the target audience to create user personas, analyze the data collected, and determine the user design basics concerned with the user requirements. The decisions made in this stage become the foundation of building the entire software.
Thorough research can be conducted through:-
Interviews – Sitting with your users and questioning them about their problems can provide you with first-hand information and honest opinions about the issues they are facing and the solutions for which they are searching.
Focus Groups – You can also make focus groups of your target audience (2-3 people per group), to conduct and observe discussion about a specific issue that prevails with software design. It will help you to understand their preferences, opinions and pain points more clearly.
Surveys – By sending out questionnaires to your target audience about a specific issue, you can easily find their opinions and attitudes towards their problems and preferences in software design. Also, it is less time consuming than interviews and focus groups. You can gather a more significant amount of data in a shorter period.
Once you’ve gathered all the information through your research, you can analyze it and determine the factors you’ll focus on in your software design to ease your target audience’s needs and make your product the preferable choice.
STAGE 3: DESIGN
After you’ve gathered and analyzed your data, you start to design your software. This stage majorly consists of the following components:-
Wireframes act like the “skeleton” of the software you’re designing. It is used to design the software at a structural level. Wireframes are used to determine the basic structure, elements, features, navigation and look of the software before adding content and graphics. They lack color, fonts, symbols, or any other substantial design components.
They show each page’s bare essentials – what goes where, how the page looks and may act as a prototype of the actual software design. Wireframes help a client to clearly understand how things are going to be placed on the software. As it is devoid of artistic effects, it allows the client to focus solely on the features and decide what they want.
Wireframing is a vital step in the designing process. It helps you to gain a deep understanding of your project structure before the artistic influences take place. This step helps to save time and effort in the later stages of the process.
It is a systematic process. Wireframes are easy to edit and amend. You can edit the wireframes till you achieve complete satisfaction and the structure matches your business needs.
2. Creating User Stories
User stories are a raw, casual and natural description of features of a software. They are written from the user’s perspective so that the user can conveniently navigate the software design without facing issues.
All user stories are a component of the agile approach. All agile user stories include atleast one or two sentences and sometimes even a whole set of dialogue. The following points should be kept in mind to write good user stories:-
- User stories should be written from the user’s perspective, as they convey how a user is going to employ the software.
- User stories should be discussed and collaboratively worked on so that all details are taken into consideration.
- User stories should be simple and to the point.
- Keep refining your user stories.
- It would help if you start with Epics and then break them down into user stories. Epics are more significant stories that cover major topics. They later break down into user stories. This step will help to cover all the issues in a better manner.
- Your user stories should be clear and easily available.
User stories help you to cover the requirements of your users on time concisely.
For Example, suppose you are developing a food delivery app. The users would be both the delivery person as well as the customers. Some of the user stories may look like the following:-
i) As a customer, I want to link my debit card to my profile for quicker payments.
ii) As a delivery person, I want to upload my preferences for delivery areas.
iii) As a customer, I want to give feedback on the quality of food received.
3. Data Flow Diagrams (DFD)
In software design, flow diagrams, or Data Flow Diagrams (DFD), can show the different levels of concepts in the system. They are of 3 types:-
- 0-level DFD: – It is also known as the fundamental system model. It shows the complete system requirement in a single bubble, with inward and outward arrows denoting data movement.
- 1-level DFD: – Multiple processes/bubbles are shown at this level. It shows the system’s main aims here and breaks down the 0-level DFD into more detail.
- 2-level DFD: – It takes 1-level DFD in more depth. It records specific details about the software’s functioning.
4. Technical Design
Technical Design explains how to carry out the functionality of a system into codes. It is the backbone of the project as it guides all the implementation. Technical Design document lists down every technical detail of the entire software design or the design of a particular feature. The development team makes this document.
It is also referred to as “technical blueprint/system blueprint/software blueprint. It includes communication interfaces, input and output details, software requirements, software architecture, etc.
It provides a detailed description of:-
- considerable hardware components and their functions,
- functions of the elements of software
- order of aspects of software
- data structures
- data flow
5. User Interface
The user interface comprises all the parts of a software with which a user can interact. While making the user interface, the aim of designers is that the user must be able to use the interface easily. It also aims at making the use of user interface enjoyable and pleasurable. There are three types of user interfaces:-
- Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) – The users interact with graphics on digitally regulated panels. E.g., Computer desktop.
- Voice Controlled Interfaces (VUI) – The users interact through their voices with these interfaces. E.g., Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa
- Gesture-Based Interfaces – Users engage with these interfaces through bodily movements. E.g., VR Games
STAGE 4: PROTOTYPING
A prototype is the draft of a product that gives a good visual representation of the final product. A prototype is more detailed than a wireframe. Prototypes help to test layouts, figure out if everything matches the pre-established requirements and gather user feedback. They also assist in saving time and money.
Types of Prototyping:
1. Low fidelity prototyping
Low fidelity prototyping approach includes sketching on paper. It is mostly used during the early designing stages and is a quick way to create a rough software design model. It allows you to make changes swiftly and conveniently. It helps in brainstorming for new ideas and trying out new ideas before settling on the final design.
2. Medium Fidelity prototyping
Medium fidelity prototypes assist you in deciding if the requirements are met or not. It is viewed as a work in progress. Wireframes and task flows can be made using various computer-based tools to present a basic but more formal prototype to the client.
3. High Fidelity prototyping
They are often misunderstood as the final product because they are of high quality and most realistic. Hence, high fidelity prototypes also take a lot of time to be made. These prototypes are required when there is a need for superior visual and functional accuracy. Even though they may not convert readily into code, they act as a reference for designers.
STAGE 5: EVALUATION
This stage of the Software Designing Process involves user testing. It evaluates the degree of requirement fulfillment and checks repeatedly if the software design is smooth, simple and direct. This stage is essential to figure out the design problems and debug it before launching the design.
What are the various tools used for creating Software Design?
Many tools can be used for designing software. The top 6 most effective and commonly used tools are:-
Draw.io is a tool used to create diagrams in Confluence and Jira. You can easily create flowcharts, process diagrams, ER diagrams and much more. It also assists you in designing your own unique shape libraries.
Jira is a highly efficient software development tool used to plan, track, release and report your work. It also allows you to choose a workflow or make your own workflow. It easily integrates with the tools that you already use.
Mockflow is a web-based wireframe tool for designers to plan, build and share their work. It is cloud-based and provides its users with an extensive library of mock components, icons, stickers, etc.
The sketch is a vector graphic editor for MAC users. It is used for the user interface, mobile, web and icon design.
Marvel provides intuitive designing and prototyping tools that help software designers to wireframe, design and prototype fast.
It provides a platform for designers to share, organize and collaborate on their designs. It facilitates better collaboration between designers and engineers.
Software Design Process is the first and foremost step one takes towards building efficient software, making it the most crucial step. It is a user-focused process. It prioritizes the user requirements, needs and limitations. It plays a significant role in attracting users to the product and generating user loyalty. Using various tools and diligently following the software designing process’s multiple steps, one can build superior, highly efficient and user-friendly software designs.
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