13 Types of Software Development

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Although you’ve likely come across a simple “Hello World” program in one way or another, the actual range of software development is far more versatile. There are various types of software development and each requires a different skillset and mindset.

Today, you will learn about several types of software development. Many, if not all, of these development environments overlap.

However, it is still important to learn the details of each type of software development. This will help you recognize where they converge and how they differ.

More importantly, understanding each type of software development in-depth will better prepare you to hire software developers for your next project.

Here’s a preview of the 13 types of software development that you will be introduced to in this piece:

  1. Front-end development
  2. Back-end development
  3. Full stack development
  4. Application development
  5. API development
  6. Data science
  7. Mobile development
  8. Desktop development
  9. Software tools development
  10. Security software development
  11. Cloud computing development
  12. Video game development
  13. Embedded systems development

Keep reading to learn more about the different types of software development. 

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1. Front-End Development

Front-end development is the part of software development that is most available to the user. That is, this type of software development is immediately visible to the users as it consists of the graphical elements of any system, application, or website.

Generally, front-end development involves building user interfaces (UIs) and managing client-side behavior. UIs are a crucial part of making software appealing to end-users.

A UI is where users click, scroll, and input information as they so desire. With the help of an aesthetically pleasing interface and a corresponding functional back-end, users will navigate through your software with ease.

Illustration of a web interface with a highlighted button and a cursor clicking on it, denoting a user interaction on a webpage.
A user interface is where users click, scroll, and input information as they so desire.

When it comes to front-end web development, JavaScript, CSS, and HTML are critical technologies.

But the technologies for mobile app development often differ, especially where native app development is concerned.

And of course, operating systems, web browsers, and pretty much every software structure also rely on graphic components.

Though certain software have different compositions overall, front-end development plays a big part in almost every type of software development.

2. Back-End Development

Back-end development refers to the type of development that happens backstage. Or in other words, you can’t see it.

This is because back-end development comprises server-side behavior, which correlates to servers, databases, application programming interfaces (APIs), and other internal structures powering the software application itself.

All of this happens behind the screen. The front-end is an abstraction of sorts that simplifies the part of software development that users necessarily access.

To that effect, end-users do not need to see what happens on the back-end to take advantage of its functionality.

Servers handle requests. Databases store user data and other relevant info. APIs integrate associated software.

As a rule, back-end development drives software development as a whole, though every type of development has its due importance.

There are a number of languages and tools for back-end development, within and outside of the context of web development. The noticeably popular back-end programming languages at the moment are Ruby, Python, and Java.

3. Full Stack Development

At the end of the day, it’s the user navigating the front-end who determines how the software application measures up. And yet the back-end makes sure that nothing falls apart in the process.

Essentially, back-end and front-end development work together to deliver the best of both worlds.

In that sense, full stack development defines the combination of client-side and server-side development.

Graphic of a person in a meditative pose between two digital screens, possibly representing balance between technology and well-being.
Full stack developers know the ins and outs of front-end and back-end development.

Most types of software development need to approach their project keeping in mind that full stack development is the goal.

Usually, this means looking for specialized developers for front-end and back-end development. Developers on either end tend to know several technologies that are practical for their area of expertise.

There are also full stack developers who know the ins and outs of front-end and back-end development.

Hiring full stack developers can make for more comprehensive software development overall. It can also reduce hiring costs.

4. Application Development

Application development is another general type of software development. Along with front-end development, back-end development, and full stack development, you’ll soon realize that application development is at the crux of every software project.

Fundamentally, application development characterizes the creation of any computer program or set of programs to perform a task towards business objectives.

By definition, application development follows the same steps each and every time:

  1. Gather requirements.
  2. Design prototypes or a minimum viable product (MVP).
  3. Program and test the application.
  4. Launch the application.

These basic guidelines are in every form of application development, including:

  • rapid application development
  • low-code application development
  • mobile application development
  • web application development
  • or any general type of software development

5. API Development

API development allows developers to extend software beyond traditional boundaries.

An API or application programming interface serves as a liaison between software. 

You know how a UI provides a platform for human users to interact with software? Well, APIs provide a platform for software to interact with other software.

API integrations are a critical piece of the software development puzzle. They’re the reason you can share the latest clickbait on Facebook or why Google Maps opens up as soon as you search up an address.

You can look forward to APIs being an intrinsic asset in every type of software development from here on.

6. Data Science

Data science is a field of study at the intersection of programming and data analysis. Any sizable amount of data should and can be analyzed to determine trends and patterns of behavior.

Typically, data scientists do not write software that is released to the market. Instead, they write small to large-scale programs with the specific purpose of analyzing data.

Though data in itself may not seem like the most enticing subject matter, data science has many useful applications.

You can use data science to detect fraud in banking companies, conduct medical image analysis, or even in advertising.

Everywhere from your local retail store to NASA relies on data science.

7. Mobile Development

Mobile development, or mobile app development, is probably the type of software development you come across most often.

And that’s thanks to Candy Crush Saga, Angry Birds, Subway Surfers, or whatever hot smartphone app that’s sweeping the market these days.

You’ve surely used social media on your smartphone too, likely via a mobile app as well.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, mobile app development specifies the building of applications that are run on mobile devices, such as smartphones or tablets.

As a matter of fact, mobile development wields a different set of tools entirely compared to most types of software development.

For instance, for native app development, an Android application requires Java or Kotlin programming. While an iOS application requires Objective C or Swift programming.

In order to resolve the resource complications of mobile development, others opt for hybrid development or cross-platform development which count on one toolset for multi-platform compatibility.

Naturally, this convenience does not come without a catch. Most software experts maintain that native development is more performant than hybrid or cross-platform development.

8. Desktop Development

Desktop development is the creation of applications that run exclusively on desktop operating systems, like Windows, Mac, or a Linux distribution. 

Ever opened up GarageBand or type up on a word document on Microsoft Office Word? Then, you’ve used a desktop application before.

In the past, desktop development was the primary type of software development for the industry. But since the emergence of smartphones and mobile apps as a consequence, desktop development is much less common.

Cloud technology is another barrier to the popularity of desktop development. Installing a heavy-duty Microsoft Office suite sounds like a lot more work than making use of the Google Workspace conveniently implemented into every Google account.

Still, people use desktop applications every day. For those of you accessing this web page from a computer, your web browser is a desktop application!

9. Software Tools Development

Software tools development is exactly what it sounds like. In software tools development, developers make tools for other developers to build software.

A software development tool is a computer program for creating, debugging, and maintaining code. 

Integrated development environments (IDEs) for writing, running, and testing code likely make up the mainframe of software tools.

Code editors are similar to IDEs but much more simple. They basically operate like text editors, but with code.

There are also version control systems (VCSs) like GitHub for online collaboration between developers.

But you get the idea. Developers use many tools to build software and merely writing code is not the whole picture.

10. Security Software Development

Security specialists develop software to ensure the safety of private information. A big part of security software development is actually testing the security of a software system. 

Via this methodology, penetration testers — glorified hackers who have the professional duty of attempting to break a system’s security protocols — can pinpoint vulnerabilities.

Once a security team identifies those vulnerabilities, they can work on finding ways to circumvent them.

Because the new digital era makes for increasingly clever technology, neglecting the importance of cybersecurity can be more costly than ever.

11. Cloud Computing Development

Cloud technology includes many types of software, from storage solutions like Google Drive to software tools like GitHub.

Cloud computing, in general, encompasses delivering on-demand resources without dealing with physical infrastructure or complicated internal systems.  

The mechanics of cloud technology tends to involve abstracting the back-end of a software system, so users only have to manage front-end interactions.

For businesses of all sizes, cloud computing can offer technology that would otherwise be too expensive or too complex to set up themselves.

As a result, businesses can scale easier and faster. By 2025, the global cloud computing market is expected to grow to $832.1 billion.

12. Video Game Development

Video game development is one type of software development that will remain integral to society in years to come.

The software development process for video games can include one person or several hundred people all around the world.

Similarly, video games can take months to several years to build, depending on the complexity of the game.

Video games are interactive software for computers, consoles, and more recently, mobile devices, where visual feedback is critical to the user experience.

A game controller next to a monitor displaying a colorful interface, suggesting gaming software or app development.
In video games, visual feedback is critical to the user experience. 

The infamous Madden football video games and Call of Duty game series are prime examples of popular video games. Pokémon GO and Among Us still fall under the category of video games, except they’re on mobile.

Whatever the device, video games have been a booming industry since their inception, with the likes of the Nintendo Switch only strengthening the industry.

To create a video game, developers use tools like Unity and programming languages like C#.

13. Embedded Systems Development

Embedded systems refer to computer systems that exist within a larger mechanical device. 

A digital camera, for one, isn’t exactly what you’d consider to be an example of software development. But it is.

For digital cameras to extend dedicated functionalities like storing photos, developers must build an embedded system into the device.

Contemporary vehicles, smartphones, and even manufacturing machinery use embedded systems too.

In fact, most technology you use outside of your computer is probably an embedded system in some fashion. You’ve only just learned the vocab word to identify these systems in everyday use.

The development of embedded systems generally calls for middleware, which describes software tools that are able to work closely with hardware.

To be clear, hardware is the physical foundation of computers and machines, and software is the interior programming within.

Given that embedded systems are by definition inside of mechanical hardware, middleware expertise is vital for embedded systems development.

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Knowing these 13 types of software development can close the gap between your business growth and your understanding of software development altogether.

Before starting any business venture, it’s important to do your research and gather intel about business procedures before proceeding. Reading this article is step one.

Now that you have a better idea of what software development is, and some of the avenues you can take within the industry, step two is hiring developers.

Contact Trio today to hire qualified software developers who are ready and eager to help!

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With over 10 years of experience in software outsourcing, Alex has assisted in building high-performance teams before co-founding Trio with his partner Daniel. Today he enjoys helping people hire the best software developers from Latin America and writing great content on how to do that!
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