11 types of software development you should know

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If you’re looking to invest in a digital product or build a custom solution, it’s smart to get started by learning what the software development landscape looks like today. It might seem that programming is a pretty straightforward activity. You write code, test it, deploy it, and finally implement it – right? 

But in reality, software development has grown to be a far more complex area. The various types of software development require completely different mindsets, approaches, and skillsets. 

In this article, we cover the most important types of software development in use today to give you a clear idea of what each type means and how they differ from each other. This knowledge will prepare you to hire the best software developers for your next project. 

Table of contents:
1. Backend development
2. Frontend development
3. Fullstack development
4. Web development
5. Mobile development
6. Desktop development
7. API development
8. Software tools development
9. Cloud computing development
10. Database development
11. Embedded systems development
Wrap up

11 essential types of software development

1. Backend development

Backend software development focuses on the things happening in the application backstage. All of these parts are invisible to users – they’re not part of the UI. Backend development includes server-side behavior connected to server databases, application programming interfaces (APIs), and other internal structures that power the app. 

While the frontend part of the software is an abstraction that simplifies the application functionality and allows users to access it, all of that functionality is there because of what’s in the backend. 

The end-users can’t see what’s happening on the backend – and they don’t need to because they can easily take advantage of the functionality through the frontend and User Interface (UI). 

A typical application backend includes servers that handle requests, databases that store user data, and APIs that integrate the app with other software. Backend development is a critical part of any software development project because it forms the core of the application’s functionality.

Software developers use a great number of programming languages, frameworks, and tools for backend development, some of the most popular ones being Java, Ruby, and Python. 

2. Frontend development

Frontend software development is all about the part of the software that’s available to end-users. This type of software development consists of building and graphical coding elements displayed on the User Interface of the application, system, or website. 

Frontend developers build UIs and other parts that manage all the client-side behavior. The UI plays a key role in delivering a great user experience in the application, allowing users to access the application’s functionality. Practically every piece of software out there relies on some graphic components – even web browsers or operating systems.

The UI is where you typically scroll, click, and input information. An intuitive and user-friendly interface is critical for navigating through the software functionality. 

In frontend web development, JavaScript, CSS, and HTML are three core technologies in use today. In mobile app development, you’re looking at a completely different set of frontend programming languages depending on whether the app is a native one or not. 

3. Fullstack development

By now, you know that backend and frontend development work together to deliver the application’s functionality. While the end-users navigate the frontend to use its features, the backend ensures that they’re all delivered. The combination of client-side and server-side development is called fullstack development. 

In a typical software development project, you might start looking for a frontend and backend developer. These developers will know several technologies that are come in handy in their area of expertise. 

But then there are full-stack developers. These are top experts who are skilled in both these areas of software development. They can help you build comprehensive software that has all the features you need and perfectly aligns them with the UI and other frontend matters. 

Hiring a fullstack developer instead of two software developers responsible for the frontend and backend of your app might also be cost-effective.

4. Web development

Web development means building an application accessible through the internet or an intranet. This type of development can take on many shapes – from a simple single static page to complex web applications like social networks. 

Within web development, you will find both frontend development and backend development technologies. The most important frontend technologies for web development are CSS, HTML, and JavaScript. On the backend, you’re most likely to find Java, PHP, Ruby, C+, and Python. 

Some of the most important backend development issues for web applications are database development, API development, application security, infrastructure, and networking.

5. Mobile development

Also called mobile app development, this approach focuses on building applications for mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, and wearables. Whether it’s productivity apps, games, social media apps, or online marketplaces, the mobile app market is exploding. 

Mobile development is about building applications running on mobile devices that come with specific limitations. That’s why mobile developers use a different set of tools compared to other types of software development process. 

It’s possible to build mobile applications that go perfectly along with the operating system of the mobile device – this is called native app development.

An Android application needs to be written in Java or Kotlin, while an iOS application requires Swift or Objective C. This means that in mobile development, you’re basically building two different applications and need to hire two different teams with two different sets of software development tools. 

To address this problem, many companies choose to build hybrid, cross-platform, or web applications that work on mobile devices. That way, they invest in one team that can deliver the app to multiple platforms. 

Naturally, this approach doesn’t come without a catch. Native mobile development is still considered more high-performing than hybrid or cross-platform approaches. But there are many interesting advancements in this area due to the high demand more for mobile apps, so it’s worth keeping an eye on this area. 

6. Desktop development

Desktop app development focuses on building applications running exclusively on desktop operating systems such as Windows, Mac, or Linux. Practically every user out there has been in touch with a desktop application at one point or another. If you’re reading this article on your computer’s browser, you’re using a desktop app right this moment!

Due to the emergence of mobile apps and cloud computing technologies, desktop development is much less common today. 

Installing an application on a local server and forcing users to update it on their own is a significant access barrier and downside of this technology when compared to the cloud or mobile world. Still, enterprises keep on investing in desktop applications because of their secure and reliable nature.

7. API development

API development is all about expanding software beyond its boundaries. An application programming interface (API) works as a liaison between different types of software. 

Consider this:

The user interface is a platform for human users that allows them to interact with software. Similarly, an API offers a platform for other software to interact with the application at hand. 

API integrations are currently a key part of any software development project. It’s thanks to APIs; you can share posts on social media or move between different applications easily. In the future, APIs are going to become an intrinsic asset in every type of software development.

8. Software tools development

In this area of software development, teams build tools that help other developers to build software. A software development tool is basically a computer program that allows creating, debugging, and maintaining code. 

A good example of software tools development is an integrated development environment (IDE) that allows running, writing, and testing code. Other examples are code editors that operate like text editors but use code instead or version control systems (VCS) like GitHub that allow online collaboration between different developers and teams. 

Developers currently use many different tools to build software faster. Writing code on your own definitely doesn’t reflect the reality of how teams create software today. In the future, developers are likely to use more and more AI-powered tools to perform their tasks faster.

9. Cloud computing development

The cloud is on the rise, and its expansion won’t slow down anytime soon. By 2025, the cloud computing market is going to be worth $832.1 billion. 

Cloud services brings on-demand resources to teams without forcing them to deal with all the problems that come with physical infrastructure, security, and internal system management. It offers access to technology that, for many businesses, would be otherwise way too expensive or complex to set up. The cloud is a large business that shows no signs of stopping. 

The idea behind the cloud is abstracting the backend of a software system so that businesses don’t have to waste time on setting up infrastructure and developing new software faster. And cloud computing development means building solutions for and within the cloud (for example, cloud-native solutions). 

Today, the cloud powers many different types of software solutions – from development tools like GitHub to storage tools like Google Drive.

10. Database development

Data is the most valuable asset a company has, so database developers play an important role in ensuring that the company makes the most of it. 

This type of development focuses on building and analyzing all the requirements and goals related to data. Designing and developing data operations within a system is a complex task as they will be used by many other specialists in the organization – data scientists and even non-technical team members.

Database developers can build different types of databases such as distributed, centralized, commercial, NoSQL, relational, and many others. 

11. Embedded systems development

This type of software development process focuses on computer systems deployed in larger mechanical devices. 

Take a look at a digital camera. You’d never think that it’s an example of software development – but in reality, it is. Digital cameras now have all kinds of functionalities like storing or editing pictures. For that to work, they’re equipped with an embedded system. 

Modern cars, smartphones, and manufacturing machines all use embedded systems. In fact, most technology that people use outside their computers uses embedded systems. 

As you can see, embedded systems development is essential to our modern world. Developing embedded software requires middleware – software tools that can work closely with the mechanical hardware, the physical foundation of all computers and machines out there.

Wrap up

Knowing these software development types is essential before making your first move to hire developers for your project. Every software development methodology has different requirements, but most of the time, it needs people who specialize in areas like backend development, frontend development, and mobile, web, or desktop development. 

Naturally, developers are by no means the only people who contribute to building a new software application. Depending on the context, you might also need business analysts, UX/UI designers, product owners, security software development specialists, DevOps engineers, and many others. 

If you’re not sure which resources are necessary for your app to become a success, get in touch with us. We have helped many teams and businesses build successful digital products with the right choice of skills and talent.

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