What is Waterfall Development



Waterfall development is a popular software development methodology that follows a linear approach. It consists of several phases that are completed sequentially, with each phase depending on the results of the previous one. This method has been used successfully by many organizations and has advantages over more iterative development methods.

In this article, we will discuss the basics of waterfall development as well as its pros and cons:

Definition of Waterfall Development

Waterfall development is a software development methodology which follows a sequential linear process in which progress flows in one direction, and understanding of the requirements would therefore be one of the earliest steps. It consists of a sequence of steps which involve analysis, design, coding and maintenance.

The core philosophy of waterfall development is based on the following principles:

  • Working on processes sequentially
  • Defining each process step clearly with measurable outputs and clear deliverables
  • Gaining approval at each stage before progressing to the next stage
  • Each stage has finished products that can be used in further processes or evaluation.

Waterfall development is best applied when working on projects with fixed timelines and clear specifications from stakeholders. This method works best when there is an established pattern for successful production and output, where changes are not required at different stages, allowing for clarity throughout all stages of development.

Advantages of Waterfall Development

Waterfall development is a sequential software development model which consists of seven sequential steps. This model is popular among software developers because it allows for efficient planning, clearly identifying deadlines and deliverables and having a clear understanding of a project’s scope.

In this section, let’s discuss the advantages of using Waterfall Development:

Clarity and Simplicity

One of the primary advantages of waterfall development is the clarity and simplicity of a linear process. It is easy to grasp the concept of each step in the process, progress can be easily monitored, and expectations can be set clearly. Because each phase must be completed before moving on to the next, it reinforces a milestone-driven approach that helps to ensure that all areas of a project are addressed.

Waterfall development allows changes to be made at any point during the development cycle without significant disruption. This type of flexibility enables iterative improvements or corrections in case mistakes have been made or modifications are necessary due to changing customer requirements.

This method also provides an opportunity for thorough testing at every step, which provides assurance that expected results will actually be achieved when released. Finally, waterfall development allows for an organized and systematic approach that gives stakeholders visibility into code builds and test results throughout the entire project lifecycle.

Easier Testing

One of the biggest advantages that the Waterfall Development framework offers is the ease in which software applications can be tested. The very nature of the process and linear approach lends itself to ease of testing. This is because developers have a distinct and explicitly determined cycle, allowing them to build comprehensive test plans alongside each stage.

Furthermore, as development moves downstream, it gets more concrete thus facilitating more sophisticated testing at successive stages. Additionally, since each phase of Waterfall is distinct from others developers can seek and apply feedback from any phase at any point during the project’s timeline. This allows for appropriate consecutive adjustments that can ideally improve the end product before its deployment in production environment.

Easy to Manage and Document

One of the primary benefits of the Waterfall method is that it is well-defined and organized, making it easy to document. At each stage, documentation of the process and specifications can be easily shared with clients, making it simple to track progress and provide feedback. This makes Waterfall popular with clients who want a high level of oversight and control over their project. In addition, any noted problems can be easily spotted up front during the design phase, instead of having them become more complex problems later in development.

Organization is also emphasized in Waterfall development since each stage requires a sign off from stakeholders before moving on to the next phase. At each point there are very detailed requirements which must be met before advancing onto another step. Each phase has clearly defined activities that take place during its duration, which makes planning easier for the engineering team. The granularity of tasks makes tracking progress easier and helps teams meet deadlines in an orderly manner without impacting final product quality. As such, Waterfall remains popular for projects with strict deadlines because it keeps teams focused on accomplishing specific outcomes at fixed times within a project’s life-cycle.

Disadvantages of Waterfall Development

The waterfall development process is a system of software development which involves stages of design, coding, testing, and maintenance. The process is strictly followed, similar to a “waterfall” structure. Although this system is widely used, it has its own set of disadvantages. Let’s take a closer look and discuss the cons of waterfall development:

Rigid Structure

Waterfall development is built on a highly structured and rigid approach. Each phase needs to be completed in its entirety before the next phase can begin. During each phase, there is very little flexibility or room to make changes down the line.

This type of structure can be beneficial when it comes to staying on track and meeting deadlines, but it can also impede creativity or innovation. More often than not, the design process tends to be top-down and fixed in place, leaving little room for changing user requirements or the addition of creative solutions that could improve the product or software solution.

As such, waterfall development tends to be better suited towards

  • smaller projects
  • predetermined goals and objectives
  • unlikely to change significantly over time

Not Adaptable to Change

Waterfall development is linear and inflexible, limiting the ability to adjust requirements or make changes during the project lifecycle. Since a specific direction is chosen at the beginning of a project, it implies that any changes to the overall design must be done through extra phases. This static form of development makes it difficult and slow to adjust to changing customer requirements due to the linear progression setup by this methodology.

Instead of making small adjustments along each step, these would require additional planning and execution after a particular phase has been completed. This adds extra cost and prolongs feedback forms, slowing down the entire process further. Because waterfalls are not meant for high-change environments, they tend to struggle with staying ahead of competition as each minor modification requires additional effort without much gain in resulting product features as there are now fewer sprints available for functionality improvements before launch day.

Limited Feedback

One of the biggest disadvantages of the Waterfall development approach is its limited feedback. Unlike Agile, where each iteration allows stakeholders to provide feedback to further improve the proposed solution, in Waterfall development, obtaining stakeholder input and feedback can occur too late in the process.

By nature, the Waterfall approach seeks to complete a large task before moving onto the next one. Therefore, if a mistake is made early on and your requirements were not detailed enough earlier in stages like design & planning or initial coding and testing then stakeholders will not be provided with much choices for improving the resulting software decision at a later stage. This could result in:

  • Budget overruns
  • Project delays

as stakeholders struggle to rectify mistakes from previous stages that might have been avoided with a different development method.


Waterfall Development is a software development model that efficiency and dependability. It works well for projects with clear goals and a limited number of features. This model is also typically used when the budget for development is fixed, and any changes may cause the budget to exceed.

Ultimately, Waterfall Development is a great model for certain types of projects, and it’s important to understand the pros and cons of using it before deciding if it’s the right solution for you.

Summary of Waterfall Development

Waterfall Development is a model used in software development which involves breaking down a project into separate, distinct stages that are completed sequentially. Rather than move to the next stage until the current stage is complete, all of the stages in Waterfall Development must be approved before any subsequent ones can begin.

This model provides benefits such as clear objectives and milestones, an easily identifiable process map, and a way to manage costs and quality due to its linear approach. It is often used when stability and predictability are required for success, such as when developing applications that need to meet specific requirements or be released quickly. On the other hand, it can also become problematic if unexpected issues arise or customer requirements change during development, resulting in costly delays. With careful planning however, Waterfall Development can provide effective results when utilized correctly.