Iterative software development is the process of software creation carried out in small steps. Iterative design is the best solution for crafting applications and similar goods for small businesses and start-ups. After all, it provides the product with bigger chances to succeed by constantly asking for user feedback and adopting the product for user needs iteration by iteration.
What is the design iterative meaning? The project undergoes a cycle in each development phase: Planning (Outlining) – Implementation – Testing – Evaluation (plan-do-check-act cycle). During the iterative testing, the analysis of intermediate results is carried out, new requirements are put forward, and the previous stages of work are corrected.
The budget and time required for the final version launch and maintenance are usually not initially set since the total amount of work is not defined, and the requirements are formed during implementation.
Iterative, incremental, and evolutionary development are actually synonyms (with some nuances). Iteration (iteration for “repetition”), in this case, means the approach based on the execution of tasks within “mini-projects.” Incrementality (increment for “increase”) means the sequential addition of functionality to the developed product.
A good iterative model example could be Wikis. They stick to the user-generated content principle. It means anyone can create entries or edit existing texts and visuals. Those who review new or updated content then have to decide whether it meets the platform’s requirements. Users expect this iteration system to present the best available data on a given topic over time as things may change.
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Why Should Product Managers Conduct Iterative Testing?
Each software module undergoes separate testing stages (unit testing), but in spite of this, defects may remain for some reasons:
- Since, as a rule, modules are developed by different specialists, their understanding and programming logic may differ. This is where integration testing becomes necessary to verify that modules interact with each other.
- During module development, customers often change requirements. If you have a tight deadline, requirements may simply lack time to pass unit testing, and consequently, the system integration can go wrong.
- The interfaces of software modules with the database may be faulty.
- External hardware interfaces, if any, may be faulty.
- Incorrect exception handling can cause problems.
Wow, plenty of good reasons, huh?
On the Adobe XD Ideas blog, Justin Morales writes:
How should one guarantee user satisfaction after using an app? Gradual iterative product testing allows you to identify usability strengths and weaknesses early on and make adjustments accordingly, potentially saving you resources in the long run. This helps pave the way for optimized interactions.”
Best Practices for Iterative Testing
The Pros of the Iterative Development Model
Knowing the benefits of iterative design will make it easier for you to understand whether it suits you. First of all, that is risk mitigation. Second, it is about early detecting conflicts between requirements, models, and project implementation. The iterative design also means a greater focus on the main tasks. Then, it stands for dynamic requirements generation and management. Another critical advantage is the organization of effective feedback from the project team to the customer, creating a product that would offer effective solutions to the existing user problems. Finally, it is about the fast release of the minimum value product (MVP) and the ability to bring the product to market and start operating much earlier.
To sum up, here are the advantages of the iterative approach
- Reducing the impact of serious risks prior to the product’s release and promotion, which leads to minimizing the cost of eliminating them.
- Organizing effective feedback from the project team to the customer (as well as stakeholders).
- Crafting a solution to the relevant user pain points.
- Focusing efforts on the most critical areas of the project.
- Evaluating the success of the project as a whole.
- Early detection of conflicts between requirements, models, and project implementation.
- A more even a load of project participants.
- Effective use of accumulated experience.
- A real assessment of the current state of the project.
- Greater confidence of customers.
The Cons of the Iterative Development Model
First, we should recall problems with architecture and overheads. When dealing with chaotic requirements without a coherent global plan, the software architecture can suffer, and additional resources may be required to bring it to an adequate form. In fact, the ability to change requirements during product creation comes at a price, one way or another.
There is no fixed budget and deadlines, and strong involvement of the customer in the process is required. For some customers, these are unacceptable terms of cooperation with the developer, and they are better suited to the waterfall model.
What Phases Iterative Design Includes
The process starts with defining customer expectations via an in-depth study. After that, a prototype is needed. At each stage, it is necessary to collect and check relevant information. Here are the steps to consider when implementing an iterative design process.
Start with preparing software requirements. A template is what comes first. A good template should include a detailed description of possible modifications.
Next, you need to decide on the writer. This person is responsible for crafting software requirements. Just one individual should take care of this process. The writer should clearly, in detail, describe the necessary changes to improve the project. Before any modifications, it’s essential to detect and fix bugs.
Lastly, check everything once again and validate the data. A tech writer must not carry out the documentation without the planning phase and negotiations.
Analyzing & Designing
Conduct a study to identify the required business logic, which controls communication between the database and the end user. An analysis assists with defining workflow and business rules. Examples of the latter include:
- A user should get notifications about posts published by their fellows.
- A user has to sign in to submit a friend request.
- A user should have an opportunity to edit images in the application.
- A user must be given a chance to pick the audience who can view their pictures.
It all makes sense.
The coding procedures start after the documentation and analysis are done. When each new iteration starts, the developers must get in touch with you to discuss what can be done in this iteration and set priorities regarding the tasks. After the product iteration, all modifications are uploaded to the staging server.
Examining the product is a must! It’s better to leave the testing process to the partner. They can assess the result critically and more objectively. Here are some tips for this stage:
- Flawless communication between the company, development team, and testing experts is required. All communication channels should be involved, including text messages, calls, and video meetings. Also, pay attention to user feedback.
- Free instruments for examination are not always sufficient. However, some extra measures may be required if they do not provide enough speed. Be ready to invest in professional paid tools.
- The next stage would be quality assurance (QA). Prior to it, check the user documentation as well.
The final phase is when the developers, along with the client, should test the prototype. Does it meet the expectations? If experts notice that the prototype is missing something, pass the iterative design cycle again until it all improves.
Do not forget about prototype testing, which offers a cost-effective method for ensuring products meet user requirements and regulations. These are the types of such examination to consider:
- Breadboard Testing.
- Computer Simulation.
- Force Testing.
- Decibel Testing.
- Airflow Testing.
- Dielectric Testing.
- Biocompatibility Testing.
- Sterilization Testing.
- Packaging Testing.
Pitfalls of the Iterative Design Approach
- Scope creep can decrease a project’s efficiency. If every cycle is concentrated on measurable improvements, iterative design is the most suitable option. In case the scope is poorly identified, controlling progress might be rather challenging. Another problem may arise if shareholders request more functions in an active cycle.
- The fail-quick model is intimidating. The objective of iterations is to detect things that do not function rapidly. Feedback loops help understand whether it is worth trying another way. This frequently means entirely tossing a design and inputting resources in another field. For markets with fast prototyping, getting shareholders on board with iterative methodology might be way more expensive.
- Perfect time management is essential. The thing is, timelines can turn somewhat flexible when a team is too concentrated on polishing a design alone. PMs have to highlight every objective and move to the testing stage as soon as goals are met.
Iterative design is a powerful instrument to have in your design toolkit. By approaching your site or software as an evolving project instead of a static one, you can keep improving it over time. Some of the primary advantages of this approach are:
- It assists with detecting issues before they spiral out of control.
- It is more efficient compared to the waterfall approach.
- It allows for user feedback and continuous changes based on expert and customer impressions.
- It improves usability across key metrics.
Perhaps, you find it difficult to implement an iterative approach for the first time, or your project is too complex. Maybe, you will hesitate if you need this design at all. No worries – you can always consult IntelliSoft or use other company’s services to speed up your development and boost productivity. IntelliSoft is a software development company that helps start-ups build successful product prototypes and MVPs leveraging iterative design principles. Before you ever decide to have us as a partner, you may be interested in getting familiar with our previous projects and cases.
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- Our Guide on How to Write Proper Software Requirements Specification (SRS)
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