Top 4 Software Development Methodologies: Comparison, Differences, Pros and Cons

There are several software development methodologies available to the developers. You can use anyone to create a digital project. A digital project might include different kinds of developments. It can be developing a whole new software or making significant changes to the existing ones. 

What are Development methodologies?

We know that different types of software development methodology in use today. Along with this, there are variants of each too. The fundamental IT methodologies are Waterfall, Agile, Design Thinking, and Lean Startup. 

Top 4 Development Methodologies for Software Development: Waterfall, Agile, Design Thinking, and Lean Startup
6 Stages of Software Development

Software Development Methodologies

We can’t neglect that there are several different types of software development methodology in use today. Along with this, there are variants of each too. But, naming the fundamental IT methodologies we have: Waterfall, agile, design thinking, and lean startup. 


So, of all the software development approaches, we are going to start with the waterfall. The waterfall is highly linear and sequential. In a software development methodology that uses waterfall, each process occurs in steps. Furthermore, one cannot start the next step before the completion of the foremost. 

The waterfall has needs in software development where the scope is precisely straightforward. Along with this, the project is unchanging. Therefore, once the developers complete the initials of the project, it is costly to go back.

Different Phases of Waterfall

The fundamental steps for developing a project using waterfall methodology are as follows:

  1. Conception: It is essential to have a clear concept of the product that is needed. If you are working for a client, gather complete information, and thoroughly understand the client’s vision.
  2. Initiation: One of the significant steps in the waterfall method is to provide complete documentation.
  3. Analysis: Make a complete analysis of the project. This should include budget, risks dependencies, and completion date and success metrics.
  4. Design: Complete your documentation on the programming language that you are going to use. The developer has to decide the design and design elements to be used in the project.
  5. Implementation: The next step is to bring everything you vision to life and build your software.
  6. Testing: Check for bugs in the software and thoroughly test your product.
  7. Deploy: Deploy your working for the general public, a company, or a client for whom you are working.
  8. Maintenance: Once completed, you would regularly need to maintain your project and check and fix a bug if they occurred.
6 Stages of Waterfall Model: Requirements, Design, Implementation, Verification, Maintenance
Main Stages of Waterfall Model


  • In a software development methodology, using waterfall, you have to worry less about changes. You or the client would have a clear vision of what to expect.
  • The time constraints and working requirements are also easy to manage.
  • The cost of the project can also be precisely calculated.


  • The methodology is highly non-dynamic and would cost both money and time if changes are necessarily required.
  •  Since any actual product is not in existence until late in the project, it is difficult for stakeholders or clients to analyze the project and provide feedback. This method may cause a loss of trust from the client-side. 
  •  If there is some mistake in the project’s initial requirement, it would positively affect the result of the product. 

Best use of Waterfall Methodology

  • It is best for projects that are simple and short.
  • If the requirements are precise and clear
  • If the project is related to critical managing systems such as software for banks


The next out of many software development methodologies is agile. This software development methodology came into existence in 2001. It was developed in response to the drawbacks of the waterfall. Waterfall and agile development methodologies are different from each other. Agile provides a flexible working mechanism as compared to waterfall.

The agile methodology requires the developer to start with the simple design of projects. Developers start with the development of small modules. Each module has a completion target of either weekly or monthly. After completion of each module, the client evaluates the work. The developers receive vital feedback. Furthermore, the bugs present in the code are also analyzed and fixed.

Agile Metodology Principle
Principle of Agile Methodology


  • The bugs found are fixed in time without letting anything lure till the end.
  • It is highly dynamic and works best to provide the best user requirements.
  • This approach can easily manage feedbacks in time.


  • Since it is highly flexible, the result may look too different from what one initially intended.  

Best use of Agile methodology

  • For industry applications and software with the highly adaptive environment to change
  • When speed is an essential factor in the development

Agile vs Waterfall

Given below is a comparison of waterfall vs agile:

It is best when definition not speed is a requirement It is best when the project needs a fast completion
It is not dynamic, and changes are not easy to makeIt is dynamic with high openness to changes
The project starts once all the initial requirements are precise and completeThe project is divided into chunks and modules to ease the process of development
The main difference between Waterfall and Agile methodologies

Design Thinking

In IT methodologies, design thinking uses more of a realistic and human-based approach. It tends to look at real-world problems. Design thinking help in better understanding the needs and issues of people around them. Therefore, developers need to analyze the needs of humanity around them and develop the product accordingly.

The objectives of using the design thinking methodology are to analyze and understand the user. Furthermore, challenging your understanding and developing an innovative approach to solving those problems. Moreover, design thinking can combine itself as an initiative of any other methodology. 

5 stages of the design thinking process
Phases of the Design Thinking


  • It helps to solve real-world problems.
  • It can combine easily with any other software development methodology.
  • The end product is meaningful and useful.


  • The cost and time of development are moderately increased.
  • The complexity of the project is dependent on the complexity of the problem.

Best use of Design Thinking

  • Developers use this approach when the primary plan is to solve a real-world problem

Design Thinking vs Agile

If we talk about design thinking vs agile software development approaches, then they are in many respects different from each other. However, one can combine some of the processes of these software methodologies for a better outcome. 

  • Design thinking forces more on the initial requirements and analysis of the user requirements. At the same time, agile completes the needs of projects that require a somewhat fast approach.
  • However, one can easily use design thinking for the project’s initial analysis and then shift to agile methodology.

Lean Startup

The lean startup is more of a data-based approach in solving software development problems. It is best used by developers to speed up project works and to decrease both cost and time. In software methodologies, Lean startup has the upper hand. The advantage is that the project gets into the marketplace often quite early. 

It focuses on creating a smaller subset of features and then releasing the product into the market. Then via the user’s feedback loop, the product is improved, and the process continues until one obtains the desired results. This fast delivery of the product helps the developer identify the vital needs of the market. Along with this, it helps in identifying the right kind of work to be developed.

Furthermore, one can easily use a lean design thinking approach to initially get feedback from users regarding their problems and requirements. Afterwards, using the processes of lean startup, one can get the best kind of product.

Lean Startup metodology
Lean Startup Principle


  • It saves both time and cost by using fewer resources to create a basic structure of the product to be released in the market.
  • Lean Startup helps to adapt changes and build a better product.
  • It allows companies and developers to work in more of a smart and strategic way.


  • The project would only work if everyone in the development team completely follows the process and flows.

Best Use of Lean Startup

  • In software development methodologies, Lean Startup is vitally used when the project deadline is relatively short. Along with this, the project is highly dependent on end-user requirements and feedback.
  • Lean Startup is best for small projects with a shorter time frame. Complex and lengthy projects require work from multiple teams. Therefore, this software development methodology becomes relatively hard in those cases.
waterfall vs agile vs lean
Differences between Waterfall, Agile (Scrum) and Lean Startup


Today, many software development methodologies are present, with each targeting a specific need. Design thinking is more of an initial approach and mostly requires other development methodologies to get the job done. A summary of Waterfall vs Agile vs Lean methods are described below: 

WaterfallAgileLean Startup
Slow approachFast approachFast approach
More time and costLess time and costLess time and cost
The release of the final product occurs at the end of the project.The developer releases the final product at the end. However, the client or manager evaluates the small chunks.The product release early to get feedback from the users. 
Comparisson of Agile, Waterfall and Lean Startup

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