Software is what many of the most impressive feats of modern technology are powered by. It is what makes your computer, smartphone and tablet useful devices instead of lumps of plastic and metal.
But creating software – or at least creating good software – is more complicated than some people realise. It isn’t just a case of a few reclusive tech geniuses retreating into a room for a few days, writing out some code which is incomprehensible to the layperson but second nature to them and then sticking it on to shop shelves or an app store. Neither is it, as some people assume, a matter of opening up some specialist software for making other software and having an exercise in drag-and-drop. It is a multi-stage process requiring multi-skilled individuals and, most often, a team of people with various specialisms.
While it’s true that there are software packages for making other software packages, this doesn’t mean that the role of programmers is dead. At the very least, it is normally necessary to tidy up the code produced automatically by other software packages, and most often hand-coding is necessary. For some programming languages, purists will even go so far as to say that the best development package is Notepad.
While coding is not the arcane techno-wizardry that many people believe, it is still a specialist technical skill – especially if you want to do it in a smooth, functional way. Indeed, coding can be so complex that software is often passed over to extra pairs of expert eyes before release. Often these are specialist external software testing services like Bug Finders who offer software testing for a range of different kinds of package.
Developing software is more than just a technical exercise. It also requires a strong element of creativity, and most particularly it requires expertise in graphics and design. The vast majority of software packages today use a graphical user interface (GUI) to make them user-friendly and allow them to be used quickly, conveniently and without the need for in-depth command line knowledge. Unless the software is both fairly straightforward and aimed exclusively at technical audiences who can deal with text-only command line functionality, a GUI is an absolute necessity.
This interface has to be designed, and ideally it must be designed in an attractive, polished way that will appeal to users and enhance their experience. This is a matter of graphic design: creating the graphical assets that will be used and arranging them in an aesthetically pleasing way. Even this side of the process, however, also has a technical element. In order to make the interface user-friendly, intuitive and as easy to use as possible, it has to be laid out in a clear, practical way. Working out the best way to arrange and design the user interface for a piece of software can make a huge difference to the experience of the end user and is both an art form and technical exercise.