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Developing software for the future

software tools
(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/niroworld)

Now more than ever, tools that enable greater productivity and collaboration throughout the software development process for user interfaces (UI) are crucial, especially as the number of IoT connected devices is expected to increase to 43 billion in 2023, and the software that powers them becomes more complex.

User interfaces play a crucial role in bringing devices to life and providing the user with out-of-this-world experiences, but as this demand increases, so will the pressure on developers to keep up. This can become a real problem if developers are overloaded and caught up in inefficient workflows – unfortunately, a common issue.

What’s the solution, you may ask? We must bridge the gap between users, devices and developers. To do this, we need to dissect the challenges and roadblocks that could get in the way of achieving unification, including the rapid digital transformation we’ve experienced as a collective following the Covid-19 pandemic.

The impact of rapid digital transformation

The pace at which society has transformed digitally over the last year is astonishing. In the business world, we saw two years’ worth of transformation within a matter of months, according to the chief executive of Microsoft, Satya Nadella. This means that organizations and their workforces have been able to work more productively, collaborate more easily and connect with colleagues at a click of a button or the tap of a keyboard.

And at home, we have interacted with more technologies than ever to connect with our friends and family, wherever they are in the world. None of this would be possible though without the software that powers these technologies and user interfaces embedded into these devices.

However, this digital shift means that there is even greater pressure to create the very best user experience – one that is frictionless and user-friendly ensuring technologies fit seamlessly into everyday life.

The advancements of software

Over the last few years in the software development world, we have seen a clear shift and desire to move from 2D to 3D, as well as demand for virtual and augmented reality environments.

These technologies bring countless benefits to the user – whether it be giving them an idea of what their house might look like painted in a different color, or experiencing what it’s like to fly a plane, or even just have some good old plain fun waving a sabre about to the beat of a song.

The caveat here though is that the demand for technologies that offer these new, immersive experiences brings greater complexity to the software development process. And when this process isn’t beginning from a unified and optimized start point, it can be hard for developers to keep up and create software that offers the best user experience.

Keeping up with the pace of transformation as well as the rise of new technologies will be a difficult feat for organizations that develop or integrate user interface software into their products – particularly as software becomes more complex. It is possible to achieve though, creating software that is not only great for the user, but also easier and fun for the developer.

So, how can you unify and make the development process more enjoyable for developers? Below are a few things you can do to achieve this.

Efficient workflows

While the creation of software should never be rushed, it’s crucial to have efficient workflows and tools that enable greater productivity.

When you have siloed workflows, your developers will not be able to work at their best and this can result in prolonged development time frames. Inefficient processes where developers aren’t getting the most out of their tools can also have an impact on the quality of the end product, and result in unhappy users and developers when they are forced to go back to square one.

Unifying the developer and designer

Traditionally, the process for developing user interface software involves designers and developers – often, this process can become muddled and lack cohesion. There are tools though that can help unify these two functions, reducing the time it takes to develop the software, allowing more time to refine and ensure the best user experience.

Taking a software-centric approach to product creation

Many products today are still being created in a model where software comes as an afterthought. Hardware design choices are being taken without considering the software or user experience the software is supposed to enable. Those choices then often severely limit your options on the software side and lead to sub-par user experiences. Taking software requirements into account at the very start of the product lifecycle can significantly reduce those problems.

Make your software re-usable

Re-using software in different products or product versions can lead to significant savings in both research and development efforts, as well as time-to-market. Using standard tools and frameworks that support the whole range of your products as well as building your own software in a way that is re-usable across product lines will make a huge difference in how easy it is for your organization to create new products.

A world of opportunity for developers and users

The software world will never stand still, nor will the demand for connected devices that provide users the seamless, efficient and impressive experiences they have come to expect. Therefore, developers need to be able to keep up and bridge the gap between the demand and software needed to fulfil our technological needs. Insight and collaboration plays a big part in this, and ultimately creates a better product that is easier and more fun to develop.

Lars Knoll, CTO, The Qt Company

Lars Knoll is The Qt Company CTO and Qt Project Chief Maintainer. He has been working on Qt for more than 13 years starting as a software engineer to later leading the global Qt engineering team in Nokia before the Digia acquisition in October 2012.