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A software developer is a person concerned with facets of the software development process. Their work includes researching, designing, implementing, and testing software. A software developer may take part in design, computer programming, or software project management. They may contribute to the overview of the project on the application level rather than component-level or individual programming tasks. Software developers are often still guided by lead programmers but the description also encompasses freelance software developers.
In the US, a software developer is classified into one of 3 titles (all under the 15-0000 Computer and Mathematical Occupations Major Group):
- 15-1131 Computer Programmers
- 15-1132 Software Developers, Applications
- 15-1133 Software Developers, Systems Software
A person who develops stand-alone software (that is more than just a simple program) and gets involved with all phases of the development (design and code) is a software developer. Some of the notable software people include Peter Norton (developer of Norton Utilities), Richard Garriott (Ultima-series creator), and Philippe Kahn (Borland key founder), all of whom started as entrepreneurial individual or small-team software developers.
Other names which are often used in the same close context are programmer, software analyst, and software engineer. According to developer Eric Sink, the differences between system design, software development and programming are more apparent. Already in the current market place there can be found a segregation between programmers and developers,[dubious ] being that one who implements is not the same as the one who designs the class structure or hierarchy. Even more so that developers become systems architects, those who design the multi-leveled architecture or component interactions of a large software system. (see also Debate over who is a software engineer)
Aspects of developer's job may include:
- Software design
- Actual core implementation (programming which is often the most important portion of software development)
- Other required implementations (e.g. installation, configuration, customization, integration, data migration)
- Participation in software product definition, including business case or gap analysis
- Requirements analysis
- Development and refinement of throw-away simulations or prototypes to confirm requirements
- Feasibility and cost–benefit analysis, including the choice of application architecture and framework, leading to the budget and schedule for the project
- Authoring of documentation needed by users and implementation partners etc.
- Testing, including defining/supporting acceptance testing and gathering feedback from pre-release testers
- Participation in software release and post-release activities, including support for product launch evangelism (e.g. developing demonstrations and/or samples) and competitive analysis for subsequent product build/release cycles
In a large company, there may be employees whose sole responsibility may consist of only one of the phases above. In smaller development environments, a few, or even a single individual might handle the complete process.
Separation of concerns
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In non-software engineering disciplines such as mechanical, civil and electrical engineering, the designers and implementers function separately. That is, the engineers who generate design documents are not the same individuals who physically build the constructs they design (such as mechanical parts, circuits, or roads, for instance). In software engineering, it is more common to have the architecture, design, implementation, and test functions performed by a single individual. This is because working with software is inherently virtual, as there are no moving parts, and all that is required to engineer a software application is contained on an engineer's computer. This means that the software engineer may perform multiple tasks that the non-software engineer cannot afford due to the physical nature of other types of engineering.
- "O*NET Code Connector - Software Developers, Systems Software - 15-1133.00". Onetcodeconnector.org. Retrieved 2013-01-13.
- "15-0000 Computer and Mathematical Occupations (Major Group)". US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- "15-1131 Computer Programmers". US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- "15-1132 Software Developers, Applications". US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- "15-1133 Software Developers, Systems Software". US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Eric Sink. "Small ISVs: You need Developers, not Programmers". sourcegear. Retrieved 2008-06-06. "A programmer is someone who does nothing but code new features and (if you're lucky) fix bugs. They don't write specs. They don't write automated test cases. They don't help keep the automated build system up to date. They don't help customers work out tough problems. They don't help write documentation. They don't help with testing. They don't even read code. All they do is write new code."