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What Is Iterative Development: A Beginners Guide


Wazobia Technologies

July 29, 2022


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The mobile and web development industry is advancing at a fast pace, with new tools and methods being made available to developers to create better applications.

To succeed, businesses and developers must stay current on software development life cycles and technologies. Software development life cycles have helped companies deliver high-quality products efficiently and with fewer errors.

This beginner-friendly article explains iterative development, a typical software development life cycle.

Here's what we covered in this article:

  • What Is Iterative Development?
  • History of Iterative Development
  • Iterative Development Vs Incremental Development
  • Difference Between Agile Vs. Iterative Development
  • Iterative Development: The Process
  • The Iterative Model: An Illustration
  • Applications of the Iterative Model: When To Use
  • Merits of Iterative Process
  • Demerits of Iterative Process


Iterative development is the process of streamlining the software development process by dividing it down into smaller portions.

The code for the feature is developed and tested in multiple iterations or cycles.

The iterative development methodology is based on the systematic repetition of iterations, which are tiny software development cycles.

The procedure begins with the specification and implementation of a software component. With each iteration, a new version of the program is produced. This process is done until the final result is achieved. Therefore, the iterative methodology does not aim to begin with a comprehensive requirements specification.

In simple terms, Iterative development is a technique for partitioning the software development of an extensive application into smaller portions.

Iterative development uses smaller, more manageable project iterations. Agile techniques like Scrum use iterations to produce deliverable products.



Otherwise known as Sprints, which are time-limited and are used to refer to shorter development cycles.

This implies that the developer has a set amount of time to complete a given development cycle. The developer's job isn't done until they have produced usable code.

Iterative development allows developers to incorporate modifications into the final product.

If traditional procedures are applied, unforeseen difficulties may only be discovered in the development stage. As long as the project is broken down into phases and the team can assess the progress or modifications made at each step before moving on to the next, this can be avoided by working iteratively.


Read: "What is Bespoke Software"


In the 1950s, introducing the 'Kanban method' carved ways to create iterative SDLC models. The method's core ideas were from lean production, which focuses on efficiency, fast delivery, and iterative improvements. So it wasn't tough to improve it into the iterative methodology.

It was also applied to some other SDLC methodologies which are not part of this article.

An iterative process was studied adequately in 1999.

Incidentally, the process of human learning was thought to be an iterative trial-and-error process.

Following this hypothesis, it was considered that the same approach could be applied to develop software faster and with fewer mistakes.

The same approach was considered relevant to developing better software.

As a result, Microsoft adopted the iterative strategy for software development in 2004,  and this inspired more developers to come on board.

In the following years, there has been further development in this strategy. For example, agile and Lean methodology in software development uses the iterative model to ensure faster and more efficient product development processes.



Iterative and incremental development is an approach that combines iterative design and incremental development models. It is utilised by software engineers to aid in project management.

The primary distinction between an iterative and incremental life cycle is that an iterative process advances by continual refinement, whereas an incremental process advances in small increments. 

For better understanding of these strategies, let's break them down into its two components:

An incremental strategy divides the software development process into small, manageable chunks known as increments.

Each iteration builds on the preceding one so that incremental gains are made.

Iterative: An iterative paradigm involves the systematic repetition of software development cycles known as iterations. After each iteration, a new program version is created until the optimal product is achieved.

Iterative and incremental development models are complementary, which is why they are frequently employed in tandem to increase their efficacy and provide project deliverables.



Agile development refers to the product lifecycle method in which product value is continuously supplied. Contrary to the project approach in which the product is developed from the beginning to the conclusion, this is not the case. Instead, in Agile development, each Product Increment is viewed as a discrete stage in the ongoing evolution of the product.

It is one of the most prevalent software development methodologies. Agile development is the mix of incremental and iterative work sequences that prioritise customer satisfaction and process adaptability by swiftly providing a working product.

Here are the differences between Iterative and Agile Development:



1. The Iterative Model is a type of model for software development in which implementation begins with minor pieces and progresses iteratively to the final solution through the participation of functional teams.

The Agile Methodology of software development is a model in which specifications and solutions improve through functional teams' ongoing cooperation.

2. In this paradigm, the development process is referred to as Sprint.

In this paradigm, the development process is referred to as an Iteration.

3. During a Sprint, collaborating teams can review products.

Collaborating teams can review iteration baseline products.

4. There are two primary roles in this paradigm: Scrum Master and Team Member.

In this paradigm, there are two roles: project manager and team member.

5. The Scrum Master is accountable for the facilities while team members perform estimating.

The Project Manager is accountable for each iteration's estimation and completion.

6. Team members are responsible for preparing, identifying, and executing test cases.

Testers are responsible for creating, identifying, and executing test cases.




In contrast to the waterfall method, the iterative development process does not follow a predetermined path. Instead, to achieve the overall deployment stage, you must complete your initial planning, which does not need to be very well-defined, and then repeat the remainder of the stages for each iteration with rigorous testing in between.

 Software and system integration are tested at the beginning of each iterative cycle. At each stage, a decision is made irrespective of the result being saved or thrown away for the following cycle.

In addition, smaller portions of the software are worked on throughout each iteration, referred to as incremental prototyping.

With this model of SDLC, the iterative concept allows developers to review and modify prior cycles until all the requirements have been completed and they have delivered a finished product.

To help you better, let's go through the stages more elaborately:

Stage 1: Planning and Analysis

In the planning phase, developers and customers determine software requirements in accordance with the needs of the business and stakeholders. As this process will be repeated in the subsequent iteration, it is unnecessary to determine risks and quality at this point.

However, this phase will be repeated in the subsequent iteration, guaranteeing that risks are mitigated, and quality is maintained.

After establishing all needs, analysis is performed to expedite the development process, such as identifying database models.

For Instance, say you need to build a time-sensitive e-commerce application.

You must initially incorporate the home page, the shopping cart, and the checkout/payment infrastructure.

Once you've completed the initial planning for each requirement, in which you'll define the overall project requirements, your target audience, the client's needs, etc., you'll proceed to the next step.

You will begin with your first iteration, which will focus on the homepage, shopping cart, and payment system templates.

You will only proceed to move on to the next level once you have completed this one. As a result of the iterative process, this is what happens.


Stage 2: Design

In iterative development, the design is comparatively less significant than other processes. Nevertheless, it makes sense to proceed with this phase to establish the software's architecture. In this section, the design team develops technical needs such as services, languages, data layers, etc.

Concerning the e-commerce marketplace instance previously stated, in this stage of iterative development, the designers describe the business rules, database, data layers, languages, etc., needed to build a basic version of the three functionalities.

When you're done, go on to execution.


Stage 3: Execution

 In this stage, the development team begins writing the code for the first version of the software. The developers design the technical architecture, database, and programmes for the first iteration module under the coding principles.

To write the code, you will adhere to the coding principles and utilise a set of back-end and front-end technologies, such as compilers, interpreters, and debuggers.

During this phase, you will construct your first iteration module's technical architecture, database, and programmes.

Remember that implementation and testing are sometimes repeated concurrently to guarantee no defects re-occurs.

Consequently, if you suspect you mistakenly wrote a portion of the code, you can modify it and continue to the next iteration.


Stage 4: Testing and Examination

 In the phase of testing, potential defects in the code are examined. Individual code units are examined during unit testing. Integration testing confirms that the units of code function correctly when combined, whereas user acceptance testing verifies that the system meets the user requirements for that iteration.

The testing team additionally evaluates the security of the iteration module against potential attacks utilising various approaches, including black box (no access to source code), grey box (partial access to source code), and white box (full access to source code).


Stage 5: Evaluation

 After each iteration, you'll evaluate the project. The client will examine the project's efficiency and authenticity.

After testing, your audience or even you as a developer may have encountered issues with functionality, UI design, UX design, etc.

At this stage, you'll collect feedback and start your next iteration with planning.

You will also supply weekly or monthly maintenance to the client if they want to take advantage of the maintenance option.




Draw or Model Your Idea

Make a prototype and market research before moving on to the next stage. Again, stakeholder and end-user feedback should be sought after for this phase.

Build a working prototype of the concept

Create a foam or 3D-printed prototype of your idea and test it with stakeholders and end-users to see if it meets their needs.



Prototyping Expansion

Making more complicated product versions is possible with prototype technologies like CNC machines and 3D printers. In addition, prototypes can now be made from the materials used in the final product.


Testing for Quality Assurance

Quality control tests are performed on the final prototype that was created. At this point, engineers begin making decisions on the larger-scale manufacturing process.



Introduce the Product to Customers/Client

A limited number of individuals will be able to test out the product. Request user input and note any areas that could use work.


Retrace Your Steps Backward

Based on the pilot study's findings, you can move on to manufacturing or take a few steps back to prototyping.



The first run of production is completed.

In the first year of manufacture, any design flaws that have not yet been discovered will become apparent.


Make alterations

Even after your product is released, you can preserve a record of all of its earlier revisions in a database. This is a valuable tool to keep improving your product over time.


It is appealing to utilise an iterative method to develop anything and everything due to its flexibility, but it is not perfect for every type of project. Now that we understand the science underlying the iterative process model, the crucial question is when to employ it.  

The following can help you decide if your project requires an iterative development strategy after assessing the pros and cons.  

  • The software application is large.
  • Although requirements are not well-defined, they are understandable.
  • There is a need to modify future requirements.
  • Few iterations' resources are unavailable at the usage time but can be utilised in a subsequent iteration.



During iterative development, scrum teams repeatedly design, build, and test their code or product. The group collects user and stakeholder feedback after each iteration and uses those insights to design the subsequent iteration of the product.

Iterative development permits teams to examine and modify their methods, resulting in ongoing improvement (Kaizen).

Coding occurs after the software application's design is complete, and testing begins after coding passes phase gate reviews.

Iterative work increases changeability. Iterative development has pros and cons.


 Now that we have understood the meaning, uses, and model of iterative development in software development, it is important that we look into the advantages of using this SLDC:

  • Increases consumer satisfaction to the maximum level.
  • Enhances the worth of the product or service.
  • Allows for expedited delivery of software, services, or products.
  • Contributes to ongoing progress (Kaizen)
  • Potential issues and flaws are detected early on.
  • Functional prototypes are developed early on in the project life cycle.
  • Progress is simple to quantify.
  • Spend less time recording and more time designing.
  • Changes to the project are more straightforward and less expensive to implement.
  • During iteration, most risks may be identified, and the handling of more significant risks can be prioritised.
  • The duration of the operation is drastically decreased.
  • Each iteration culminates in the delivery of a tangible product.
  • Customer feedback is based on the functionality of actual items, not simply technical specifications.



In the just concluded section of this article, we highlighted the merits of using the iterative development process. Moving on, we would also learn about the disadvantages of this SDLC:

Additional resources may be necessary.

  • Sequential phases that do not overlap.
  • Additional resources may be necessary, as iterative development processes could be peculiar to projects.
  • Intensive project management might be necessary.
  • Due to the lack of comprehensive requirement definitions for the entire system, system architecture concerns may become a limitation.
  • Due to the project's repeated iterations, it may be impossible to determine a conclusion date.
  • Finding highly competent individuals for risk assessments could be difficult and time-consuming.



In conclusion, iterative development is a software development life cycle paradigm that operates in tiny phases and iterations. This strategy is implemented to assure the effectiveness of the team and processes, as well as the quality of the software. Therefore, this strategy is suitable for huge software that requires changes based on feedback and reviews periodically instead of at the end.

Following every step of the iterative development strategy correctly with the required technical skills will result in a high-quality product with the intended functionality.

Iterative software development doesn't cling to one design or idea throughout the process. In waterfall development, each step is "gated."

Once you grab this development concept, you can decide if your business should adopt iterative development.



Wazobia Technologies

Content Writer


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