Why Is Software Development So Difficult

4 min readApr 26, 2022

Something that is often said but seldom understood by those who don’t have programming experience is that coding is an art form.

To outsiders, this probably seems like something tech nerds tell themselves to puff up their self-importance. Laypersons tend to think of programming (if they think of it at all) as a solved science of rigorous rulesets. But the reality is that software development is anything but set in stone.

Software Development

Programming is still a relatively young industry and one that is constantly changing.

Software Development is Constantly Evolving

Other jobs like construction work have established materials, prefabricated components, and best practices that are tried and true techniques that carry over from one job to the next. Software development is nearly the complete opposite in terms of approach.

New software projects come about due to needs that aren’t being fulfilled by current software applications on the market. So each project requires a novel approach to create novel solutions. Further complicating the whole affair is that the end product is often incredibly different from the original application concept.

With construction, the entire blueprint is laid out in painstaking detail before the first shovel hits the dirt. For software development, projects are in a constant state of flux up to and frequently even after the application has been launched.

And, even the software development tools and languages are changing as new advancements are made. The hammer and nail, on the other hand, have hardly changed in millions of years.

Users Don’t Know What They Want

Software applications are often designed and created by developers who have little to no experience with the industry their program is meant to serve. They are tasked with creating a tool for tasks with which they typically have little to no personal experience. This means they have to rely on user input to guide their entire development process.

But most users really don’t know what they want. They just know what they don’t want and only after they get their hands on the product. And, even then, they often do a pretty poor job of effectively communicating what they want to be changed and how they want it to look or function in its final state.

On top of all that, programming is infamous for how much time is needed to deal with bugs.

Inevitably, Bugs Will Break Everything

It’s impossible to overstate how much time and effort is spent solely on the act of finding bugs, let alone fixing them.

Bug squashing might as well be considered the primary task of software development because it’s the task that will almost always eat up the most development resources. The more complex a piece of software gets, the more vulnerable it becomes to bugs. And those bugs get harder and harder to track down with all the increased complexity.

Due to this reality, software developers have loads of tools and techniques they leverage to help identify and stamp out bugs. But applications are constantly changing. So new bugs appear regularly as well.

Ultimately, only so much testing can be done before there will be diminishing returns on its impact. And the product needs to be put into the client’s hands sooner rather than later as they’ll likely want changes made to it within moments of looking at it.

Software Developers Vary Wildly in Competency

Because software development is an art form that requires novel thinking, keen attention to detail, and the wherewithal to spend most of your days hunting down bugs, a good programmer is hard to find.

Making matters worse is the fact that learning the basics of coding is fairly straightforward and can be done at little to no cost. Unfortunately, this means there are a lot of “programmers” out there that really have no clue what they’re doing. Because of this, the quality and speed of output vary drastically from one programmer to the next.

In fact, several studies into the relative performance of individual programmers support the commonly used claim that a good programmer is worth 10X more than a poor one. A 10-fold or more difference in individual programmers’ outputs is proof enough that programming is much more complicated than it may seem at first blush.

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Originally published at Upstack.co on Feb 14, 2022, by Charlie Harper.