What Is the Software Development Life Cycle?

software development life cycle represented by infinity symbol

Let’s say a new skyscraper needs to be erected. Workers can’t just show up and start building without rhyme or reason. A process needs to be followed even before work begins. The same applies to the software development process. If a website or mobile application is needed, the process of building it needs to follow a systematic process. This process, known as the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC), was essentially designed to ensure the final product meets expectations. Let’s learn more about what makes this process click.

Why Is It Important?

The Software Development Life Cycle pinpoints three distinct factors: the application’s design, development, and testing phases. Sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? But why is the SDLC so important?

  • It facilitates the groundwork for projected activities and outcomes.
  • It provides understandable methodologies for quality control.
  • It provides clients and stakeholders a visual representation of their product’s development path, enhancing client relationships.
  • It helps expedite the development process.
  • It minimizes risks.
  • It’s an integral part of the hiring process — hiring managers routinely ask candidates how familiar they are with the SDLC.

Phases of the SDLC

Software Development Life Cycle graphic

As the idea of a new project begins to take shape, the phases of the SDLC help give structure to all teams involved. These phases include:


The first phase of the SDLC is the planning stage. This is where factors such as goals, costs, and assignments are determined. As the planning phase progresses in new projects, teams get a bigger picture of the project’s value and purpose and are better prepared to move on to the next phase. If the project revolves around an existing product, the planning phase allows teams an opportunity to assess how the product’s strengths can be enhanced and its weaknesses can be addressed. It’s also important to note that, while feedback is expected and accepted in later phases, the planning phase is where the tone is set between the developers, designers, stakeholders, and other industry experts.

Analyzing Requirements

Once the planning phase has been completed, companies begin the process of determining what requirements an application needs to address. At this point, developers create a software requirements specification (SRS) document that designates each team’s responsibilities and expectations. The SRS is comprehensive and includes roles for every team involved, including developers, product managers, and even marketing. This Software Development Life Cycle phase also helps finalize the cost and timeline factors addressed in the planning phase.


During the design phase of the Software Development Life Cycle, teams focus on the product’s architecture, which includes defining the product’s programming language, problem-solving methods, and the product’s intended platforms. To help catalog this phase, developers use a Design Document Specification or DDS. The DDS is generally reviewed by stakeholders who can then provide feedback. Once feedback is received, developers can input this information in the DDS for easier access and as a point of reference.

Development (Coding)

The development stage is where the product is actually built. The features created in the design phase are translated into programming code and implemented to the application. This often tends to be the phase that runs the longest. Additionally, the development phase is also the team’s first campaign against any possible bugs. The earlier these errors are identified and fixed, the better the team’s chances are of developing a high-quality product.


The goal of the testing phase in the Software Development Life Cycle is to take the software created in the development phase and ensure it works as intended by the standards created in the SRS. If the quality assurance (QA) team detects bugs, they provide their findings to the development team, which then fixes them and sends them back to QA for further testing. This cycle then continues until the software is free of bugs. One example of a type of testing is Rubber Duck Debugging.

Deployment (Launch)

After the design, development, and testing phases, the product is all set for launch. In many cases, products are released to a small number of users for beta testing that can provide additional feedback based on a real-world scenario. Teams can then use this feedback to improve their product before it’s deployed at a full scale.


Work on a product continues well past deployment with the maintenance phase. Once the application sees more use in real-world conditions, it lets developers discover bugs that may have otherwise gone unnoticed and need to be addressed. Similarly, as the environment around the product changes, there’s a big chance it will need to be updated to meet the market’s new demands.

The Most Popular SDLC Variations

The phases of the Software Development Life Cycle are similar in almost all projects. However, there is some variation. These models are some of the most popular SDLC variations used in development:

  • Waterfall: A veteran SDLC variation in the development world, the Waterfall model does not deviate from its linear approach. This is also one of its disadvantages. Because each phase must be completed before progress is made on the next, the Waterfall model is prone to delays.
  • V-model: This model prioritizes verification and validation. The V model is essentially the Waterfall model with a testing phase placed at the end of each normal stage. This helps prevent major bugs but is also time-consuming.
  • Spiral: The Spiral model is intended for more complex projects where flexibility is encouraged. This model is composed of planning, risk analysis, engine, and evaluation phases only.
  • Big Bang: The Big Bang model essentially skips the planning phase, allowing requirements to be identified and implemented when the team has only been given a broad idea to develop. This model is generally reserved for smaller development teams, which collaborate frequently and embrace a more flexible approach.
  • Iterative: The Iterative model was created to address the Waterfall model’s drawbacks. It begins by creating a rudimentary version of the product early in the project, which is tested after every phase. This method allows faster identification of bugs and a quicker path to market.

Make It Happen at Kenzie Academy

The Software Development Life Cycle is imperative in the development process and crucial when preparing for a career in tech. It’s also one of the many concepts Kenzie Academy helps learners understand and utilize. In fact, Kenzie’s Full-Stack Web Developer Certificate (MERN) Program teaches learners the fundamentals of the SDLC. Then, the program’s open-ended capstone project puts their skills to the test in a practical, real-world environment. Apply today if you’re ready to pivot your career.

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