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Exploring the top 8 software development methodologies for 2024

There are many popular software development methodologies that different teams follow. Some approaches to app development are best for large long-term projects, while others are better suited for short-term projects. At Purrweb, we have been in development since 2014, testing different strategies. Some of them we liked and some we ruled out. 

In this article, we’ve collected the top software development methodologies and analyzed each of them in detail. Let’s get started.

Reading time: 15 minutes

Table of contents

Key takeaways

    • Software development methodologies are a set of rules, roles, and best practices that guide the development of software.
    • These methodologies provide a structured approach to software development by defining its stages and the responsibilities of the development team.
    • The most frequently used software development approaches are Waterfall, Agile, Scrum, Lean, and Prototype. Less popular but still useful methodologies include XP, RAD, and FDD.
    • Each approach has its pros and cons. The choice depends on the specifics of the company and the team. It’s worth knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the approach that the development team plans to use to achieve the best results.

What are software development methodologies?

Software development methodologies encompass a defined set of principles, roles, and best practices that govern the process of creating software. These methodologies emphasize careful planning for the software development life cycle, with an important distinction — they do not prescribe specific technical elements.

In essence, these methodologies serve as a structured framework for initiating, executing, and delivering software projects

They prioritize project management, collaboration, and communication, rather than specifying technical details like programming languages or database choices. Software development teams use them to ensure seamless flow and structural integrity, and to avoid misunderstanding between team members that could potentially result in something like this:

The struggle between a developer and a QA specialist while developing a product

Software development process meme

In this article, we’ll touch on 8 methodologies that may be suitable for your project. There are two ways to go through it: you can either read about each approach, or you can pick the one that interests you from the comparison table. On the right you’ll find the table of contents — click on any section and jump straight to it.

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Top 8 software development methodologies

To make it easier for you to navigate through the article and find the right approach for you, we have compiled an overview table comparing the top 8 software development methodologies on various criteria:

Methodology Suitable For Pros Cons
Waterfall All projects Clear project structure and documentation Lack of adaptability, limited product owner involvement
Agile All projects Flexibility, collaboration with a product owner Requires experienced developers, less documentation
Scrum Small to medium Transparency, regular feedback Complexity in large projects, rigid roles
Lean Small to medium Efficient, waste reduction May lack structure, not suitable for large projects
Prototype High uncertainty Rapid validation, early feedback Can be time-consuming, may require redesign
XP (Extreme Programming) Small to medium Emphasizes quality, continuous improvement Resource-intensive, demanding pace
RAD (Rapid Application Development) Small to medium Speedy development, product owner involvement Risky with complex projects, not well-suited for large projects
FDD (Feature-Driven Development) Medium to large Focus on features and scalability Not well-suited for small projects, requires expertise

And now, let’s discuss these software development approaches in more detail.

Waterfall development methodology

The Waterfall method is a linear approach to software development. It is characterized by a well-defined, structured process where each phase of the project must be completed before the next one begins. The model typically consists of the following development stages: requirements, analysis, design, implementation, testing, deployment, and maintenance.

Waterfall is particularly suitable for well-defined software development projects where the requirements are stable and unlikely to change significantly during development. It offers a clear project scope and a structured approach, making it easier to manage and plan for resource allocation.

Here’s a diagram of how the Waterfall software development methodology works:

A flowchart with the workflow of the Waterfall development methodology

Waterfall development methodology

Pros

  • This development methodology works well for projects with stable and well-understood requirements.
  • Can be used for projects of all sizes, from small to large.
  • Includes the practice of thoroughly documenting each phase of software development.
  • Features well-defined phases, making it easier to manage the software development process.

Cons

  • Lacks flexibility. Once a phase is completed, it’s challenging to go back and make changes without affecting subsequent phases.
  • Can be problematic in projects with a need for frequent feedback and iteration.
  • Assumes limited product owner involvement, as they get involved primarily at the beginning and end of the project.
  • The testing phase occurs late in the project, so issues and bugs may not be identified immediately, making them more costly and time-consuming to address.

Suitable for

✅ The Waterfall development method is best suited for projects with a clear end goal and well-defined requirements that are unlikely to change over time. It works well in environments where the technology, tools, and processes are well-established and not subject to frequent changes. Waterfall can be effective for large-scale projects with extensive planning and documentation needs.

❌ However, Waterfall is not well-suited for projects with changing objectives or timelines. It can be inflexible, with little room for changes once a phase is completed. Projects that involve research, experimentation, or innovation may not fit the Waterfall model, as they often require frequent adjustments.

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Agile methodology

What is Agile based on?

The core principles of Agile

The Agile methodology is a popular approach that focuses on flexibility, collaboration, and efficiency to deliver a quality software development project. It is an iterative approach that also prioritizes user feedback and the ability to adapt to changing requirements. The Agile software development cycle can be broken down into the following six steps: concept, inception, iteration, release, maintenance, and retirement.

Agile divides the project into small, manageable iterations or increments, typically lasting 2–4 weeks. This software development approach is widely adopted in the software industry and has also found application in other fields, such as project management, product development, and even non-software-related initiatives. Organizations often tailor the Agile principles to fit their specific needs.

Here’s a scheme of how the Agile development methodology works:

A chart with the workflow of the Agile development methodology

Agile development methodology

Pros

  • The product owner is involved throughout the entire software development process, providing feedback to guide the project’s direction.
  • Agile methodology recognizes that requirements and priorities may change during the project. It allows adjustments to be made at the end of each iteration.
  • This development methodology promotes collaboration among cross-functional teams. They work closely together and communicate to make decisions collectively.
  • Incorporates testing and quality assurance throughout the development process, not just at the end. It helps fix bugs early and create quality software.
  • Documentation is valued, but the priority is on creating working software and delivering value to the end users rather than generating extensive documentation.

Cons

  • The flexible nature of the model makes it challenging to provide precise timelines and cost estimates.
  • Agile projects may require dedicated and experienced team members who can work collaboratively throughout the project.
  • Some projects require extensive documentation for compliance or regulatory purposes. A minimal documentation approach may not align with these needs.
  • Transitioning to Agile can face resistance from software development team members and management who are used to more traditional methodologies.

Suitable for

✅ Agile software development is suitable for projects that require flexibility and continuous improvement. It is best for projects with changing requirements, where the ability to adapt quickly is essential. It’s also ideal for projects that involve innovation and experimentation. In terms of team size, Agile is effective for small to medium-sized teams that can collaborate closely and make decisions quickly.

❌ However, Agile may not be the best fit for projects with a lack of collaboration and communication. It may not work for large projects that demand a rigid structure and a lot of documentation. This method is also not suitable for projects with insufficient participation of the product owner where it’s impossible to reach them to get feedback, or they simply don’t have time for it.

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Scrum development methodology

Scrum is an Agile-based project management framework. It is designed for teams of ten or fewer members who break their work into goals to be completed within specific time-bound intervals, called ‘sprints.’ Scrum promotes the self-organization of team members in solving complex tasks and constant reflection on their wins and losses for further improvement.

This project management framework is built to help teams naturally adapt to changing environments and user requirements. At the same time, short release cycles allow them to improve their performance. Scrum provides structure, optimizes development to achieve efficiency, and remains flexible and accommodating of particular needs.

Here’s how the Scrum development methodology works:

The workflow of the Scrum project management framework

A chart with the workflow of the Agile development methodology

Pros

  • Adapts easily to unstable project requirements, making it suitable for dynamic environments.
  • Places a strong focus on feedback and involvement of the product owner to ensure that the product meets their needs.
  • Promotes transparency through regular meetings and visible project progress, which enhances communication and accountability.
  • Frequent testing and analysis help identify and fix bugs early in development.
See also  Project management and SCRUM: why and how?

Cons

  • Requires a high level of collaboration and communication among team members. The need for product owner involvement can also be a bottleneck for the team.
  • May not be suitable for projects with fixed deadlines or budgets because of the focus on flexibility and adaptability.
  • Can be challenging to implement and may require teams to complete training, especially when transitioning from traditional methodologies.
  • Managers working in Scrum may face difficulties in handling extremely large and complex projects.

Suitable for

✅ Scrum is suitable for projects that require flexibility and collaboration. It works well when requirements and timelines change or when the market is highly competitive. Endeavors that require active involvement of the product owner, feedback, and rapid response to user needs align well with Scrum’s customer-centric approach. At Purrweb, we use Scrum for our projects.

❌ However, Scrum may not be suitable for projects that require strict regulatory compliance and projects where it is not possible to set even short, one-week sprint goals. It also won’t work out for projects with no product vision, lack of good technical practices, skill shortage, conflicts in the team, and other fundamental issues.

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Lean software development methodology

Lean development is another one of the Agile-based software development methodologies. It strives to improve efficiency by eliminating waste. Lean development methodology emphasizes delivering only what is necessary, reducing unnecessary work, and increasing user satisfaction.

By reducing tasks and activities that don’t add real value, team members reach optimal efficiency. Waste in this case can include unnecessary features, redundant code, inefficient processes, and overproduction of documentation. Work is divided into small, manageable batches that can be completed quickly. This reduces lead times and simplifies feedback.

The Lean development methodology looks like this:

The workflow of the Lean development framework

Lean development methodology

Pros

  • Lean development focuses on eliminating waste and streamlining processes, which results in increased efficiency and reduced resource consumption.
  • Ensures that the final product aligns closely with needs and preferences of the product owner. Active feedback of the first users also leads to higher-quality products.
  • Lean development is adaptable to changing requirements and market conditions.
  • The emphasis on small batches and just-in-time delivery enables faster product releases, reducing time-to-market.

Cons

  • Like other Agile methodologies, Lean development may face challenges with scope management if changes are not managed effectively.
  • Maintaining continuous engagement and regularly providing feedback may be demanding for the product owner.
  • Extremely complex projects may face difficulties when fully implementing Lean principles.
  • The minimal documentation approach may not be appropriate for industries or projects that require extensive documentation for compliance or regulatory reasons.

Suitable for

✅ Lean software development methodology is suitable for small and medium-sized projects that require a focus on delivering value to the users and flexibility. It works well for projects that require a high level of collaboration, continuous improvement, optimization of the development process, and a focus on efficiency and waste reduction.

❌ However, Lean development may not be suitable for highly regulated industries or large projects with stringent requirements that require extensive documentation. This app development method may also be a poor choice for projects that require a more structured approach to project management or a focus on long-term planning and strategy.

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Prototype model

The Prototype model is an iterative approach used in software development. It involves creating a working model or prototype of the software before developing the final product. This model is useful for testing and validating the business ideas.

Prototyping allows the product owner to see and interact with the user interface and software functions. The early visualization helps clarify ideas that may otherwise remain abstract. Although prototyping initially adds an additional step to a project, it can speed up development in the long run. With clear requirements and design, the development team works more efficiently.

Workflow with a Prototype method is as follows:

The workflow of the Prototype development model

The Prototype development model

Pros

  • Prototypes allow the product owner to visualize the design and functionality of the application in the early stages of development, which helps refine requirements.
  • Early prototypes help identify and address usability issues before the team invests a significant development effort. This reduces the risk of making costly changes later.
  • Prototypes facilitate quick feedback from users, and team members. Visual representation also reduces the risk of miscommunication.

Cons

  • Creating prototypes can be time-consuming, especially for complex apps or when multiple iterations are required.
  • Prototypes may not fully reflect the functionality of the final application, which can lead to a discrepancy between expectations and reality.
  • Developing software and maintaining prototypes may require additional resources, including paying experienced team members.

Suitable for

✅ The Prototype app development methodology is suitable for projects with many unknowns, where the development team needs to work on the prototype version of the final product. It is ideal when detailed documentation is not needed, and the focus is on user feedback and validation.

❌ However, the Prototype model may not be suitable for projects with fixed deadlines and a compliance focus. This approach may also be redundant for apps with very well-defined and simple requirements.

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Extreme programming (XP)

Extreme programming (XP) is an Agile-based software development model that emphasizes teamwork, communication, and rapid feedback. XP is considered the most radical form of Agile software development, differing markedly from other approaches.

XP is customer-driven, encouraging software development companies to be creative in meeting user needs. This methodology emphasizes testing and code quality, resulting in fewer bugs and higher software quality.

Here’s the XP development methodology workflow:

The workflow of the Extreme programming development methodology

The workflow of the Prototype development model

Pros

  • XP projects are relatively short, lasting only a few months, due to the fast-paced work environment that XP implements.
  • This software development methodology provides a predictable and transparent development process.
  • Software developers work together to accomplish goals within tight deadlines. This allows collaboration and makes XP highly adaptive to changes in requirements.
  • Places a strong focus on testing, peer reviews, and code quality, which leads to fewer bugs.

Cons

  • Focuses too much on the programming aspect of the system, and its importance may outweigh the design.
  • Requires lots of persistence, creativity, and lean thinking to adjust the system to the user’s needs.
  • It’s assumed that the product owner does not have a clear picture of the finished product at the beginning of the project.

Suitable for

✅ XP is suitable for small and medium-sized projects that require a focus on the needs of end users and rapid feedback, as well as a high level of collaboration and communication among team members. It is best suited for projects oriented towards creating high quality software products. XP may be a good choice for those who want to reduce administrative overhead.

❌ However, XP may not be the best fit for projects in highly regulated industries or those with rigid, non-negotiable requirements. It may not be suitable for projects with fixed timelines that require a lot of documentation and planning. Teams accustomed to traditional methodologies may resist the changes associated with XP, such as pair programming and frequent interaction with the product owner.

Rapid application development (RAD)

Rapid application development is an iterative software development methodology that prioritizes speedy development and frequent prototyping. It is used to quickly produce functional software apps. RAD is a progressive development model that focuses on user feedback and collaboration, to speed up project delivery and avoid expensive changes.

RAD uses rapid development tools and frameworks, often relying on visual development environments to accelerate the creation of software. Under this methodology, regular user testing and collaboration together ensure that software meets user expectations.

In addition to RAD, there is the Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM). This methodology is mainly based on the concept of rapid application development. Dynamic systems development focuses on creating products quickly and efficiently. In many ways it is similar to SCRUM and XP, so we have not described it in detail.

Let’s get back to RAD. Here’s a flowchart that shows how rapid application development happens:

The workflow of the rapid application development methodology

The RAD methodology

Pros

  • Allows for rapid development cycles, which result in faster time-to-market for apps.
  • Regular engagement of the product owner ensures that the application meets their needs. This reduces the risk of subsequent costly changes.
  • Adapts well to changing requirements and can accommodate evolving project needs.
  • Allows you to identify and fix problems early, reducing development time and costs.

Cons

  • RAD may not be suitable for large and highly complex projects with strict regulatory compliance requirements.
  • Without careful management, the iterative nature of RAD can cause the project to lose sight of the scope and run into harmful business decisions.
  • The effectiveness of the model is highly dependent on the availability of rapid development tools and frameworks, as well as experienced developers.
  • This development methodology may not be cost-effective or feasible in resource-constrained environments.

Suitable for

✅ RAD is useful for developing small to medium-sized projects within tight deadlines. It is well-suited for projects that require rapid prototyping and proof of concept to test ideas quickly. RAD works well for projects with unclear requirements that require user feedback and adaptation.

❌ However, RAD may not be suitable for projects with limited resources or when team members participate in other projects. Very large and complex projects may struggle to handle rapid iterations and may require more structured project management approaches. Projects in highly regulated industries with stringent compliance requirements may also find it difficult to adopt RAD.

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Feature driven development (FDD)

Feature driven development is an Agile software development methodology that focuses on delivering small features or function blocks. FDD is iterative and incremental, with the goal of delivering tangible results frequently and efficiently.

There are five major FDD activities: developing the overall model, generating a feature list, planning by feature, designing by feature, and building by feature. FDD encourages status reporting at all levels to help track progress and results. It is typically used in large-scale development projects.

Here’s a scheme of how FDD works:

The workflow of the Feature driven development methodology

The FDD methodology

Pros

  • FDD is customer-focused and emphasizes the delivery of small, incremental features.
  • This software development methodology is designed to be flexible and responsive to changing priorities.
  • Includes effective project management techniques such as the use of short, time-limited development cycles. This helps to ensure that the goals are achieved.

Cons

  • Not ideal for smaller projects and does not work for projects where there is only one developer.
  • This methodology focuses less on direct involvement of the product owner than other Agile approaches.
  • It relies heavily on a chief programmer who needs to be able to act as a coordinator, lead designer, and mentor to new team members.

Suitable for

✅ FDD is suitable for development teams looking for a simple but structured Agile method that is scalable and produces predictable results. FDD is user-friendly and encourages the use of documentation. It is best suited for large projects that still require flexibility.

❌ However, this method may not be suitable for projects that require a more structured linear approach. FDD may introduce unnecessary complexity for small-scale projects with straightforward requirements. Projects focused on research and exploration of new technologies may not benefit from the feature-driven approach.

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How we develop apps at Purrweb

Our team knows how important it is to choose the right software development methodology for project management in startups. At Purrweb, we use Scrum for project management and Kanban for task visualization, time limitation, and continuous work process. We have chosen a project management approach that helps managers maintain control over the development process at all stages of product creation.

For us, the optimal duration of a sprint in the development process is two weeks. One week may not be enough to develop complex functions, and the team will not be able to provide the product owner with the final result.

In addition, we adhere to the full development cycle and use cross-platform application development, which are characteristic features of the Agile methodology.

An app for pet owners from Germany

We developed a mobile app called Petbuddy for a veterinarian who owns a small clinic in Germany. The app is designed to help pet owners take good care of their pets by tracking their health indicators. Purrweb’s team used the Scrum project management methodology to develop this app, as we worked closely with the product owner to ensure the development was kept under control.

Screenshots of an application Petbuddy by Purrweb

Petbuddy screens

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An app for power bank rental in China

When developing EnerGO, an app for power bank rent, we were to make it compatible with the Chinese charging stations. It was our first IoT project that we managed to complete successfully. Even though there were some challenges, close communication between the product owner, our designers, developers, and the PM has helped us significantly. Despite the effect of the pandemic and a lockdown in China that caused delays, the client was satisfied with the end result.

Screenshots of an application EnerGo by Purrweb

EnerGO app screens

Summary

In this article, we discussed eight different software development methodologies, each with its own unique approach to guiding the software development process. Each methodology is project-specific and has its own set of pros and cons. The choice of methodology depends on the project’s requirements and constraints.

No matter which methodology your team chooses, the software development life cycle will remain approximately the same and will look like this:

The software development life cycle explained

What does a software development life cycle look like?

Our managers know how to develop a successful project, so if you need a team of specialists, contact us. At Purrweb, we will take care of planning, design, development and post-release maintenance. Fill out the form to receive an individual quote.

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FAQ s

  • What are the methodologies of software development?

    Software development methodologies are approaches that define the software development process. They provide a structure for creating software, define the stages of its creation, as well as the roles of the development team. There are different software development methodologies, each with its advantages and disadvantages.

  • What are the top 8 software development methodologies?

    The top methodologies of software development include Agile, Waterfall, Lean, Prototype model, Rapid application development (RAD), Extreme programming (XP), Scrum, and Feature driven development (FDD).

  • Which methodology is most commonly used in software development?

    Agile development methodology is the most frequently used approach in software development.