Software design description

Last updated

A software design description (a.k.a. software design document or SDD; just design document; also Software Design Specification) is a written description of a software product, that a software designer writes in order to give a software development team overall guidance to the architecture of the software project. An SDD usually accompanies an architecture diagram with pointers to detailed feature specifications of smaller pieces of the design. Practically, the description is required to coordinate a large team under a single vision, needs to be a stable reference, and outline all parts of the software and how they will work.

Software Non-tangible executable component of a computer

Computer software, or simply software, is a collection of data or computer instructions that tell the computer how to work. This is in contrast to physical hardware, from which the system is built and actually performs the work. In computer science and software engineering, computer software is all information processed by computer systems, programs and data. Computer software includes computer programs, libraries and related non-executable data, such as online documentation or digital media. Computer hardware and software require each other and neither can be realistically used on its own.

Software development is the process of conceiving, specifying, designing, programming, documenting, testing, and bug fixing involved in creating and maintaining applications, frameworks, or other software components. Software development is a process of writing and maintaining the source code, but in a broader sense, it includes all that is involved between the conception of the desired software through to the final manifestation of the software, sometimes in a planned and structured process. Therefore, software development may include research, new development, prototyping, modification, reuse, re-engineering, maintenance, or any other activities that result in software products.



The SDD usually contains the following information:

  1. The data design describes structures that reside within the software. Attributes and relationships between data objects dictate the choice of data structures.
  2. The architecture design uses information flowing characteristics, and maps them into the program structure. The transformation mapping method is applied to exhibit distinct boundaries between incoming and outgoing data. The data flow diagrams allocate control input, processing and output along three separate modules.
  3. The interface design describes internal and external program interfaces, as well as the design of the human interface. Internal and external interface designs are based on the information obtained from the analysis model.
  4. The procedural design describes structured programming concepts using graphical, tabular and textual notations.

These design mediums enable the designer to represent procedural detail, that facilitates translation to code. This blueprint for implementation forms the basis for all subsequent software engineering work.

IEEE 1016

IEEE 1016-2009, titled IEEE Standard for Information Technology—Systems Design—Software Design Descriptions, [1] is an IEEE standard that specifies "the required information content and organization" for an SDD. [2] IEEE 1016 does not specify the medium of an SDD; it is "applicable to automated databases and design description languages but can be used for paper documents and other means of descriptions." [3]

The 2009 edition was a major revision to IEEE 1016-1998, elevating it from recommended practice to full standard. This revision was modeled after IEEE Std 1471-2000, Recommended Practice for Architectural Description of Software-intensive Systems, extending the concepts of view, viewpoint, stakeholder, and concern from architecture description to support documentation of high-level and detailed design and construction of software. [IEEE 1016, Introduction]

IEEE 1471 is a superseded IEEE Standard for describing the architecture of a "software-intensive system", also known as software architecture.

Following the IEEE 1016 conceptual model, an SDD is organized into one or more design views. Each design view follows the conventions of its design viewpoint. IEEE 1016 defines the following design viewpoints for use: [4]

In addition, users of the standard are not limited to these viewpoints but may define their own. [5]

See also

A game design document is a highly descriptive living software design document of the design for a video game. A GDD is created and edited by the development team and it is primarily used in the video game industry to organize efforts within a development team. The document is created by the development team as result of collaboration between their designers, artists and programmers as a guiding vision which is used throughout the game development process. When a game is commissioned by a game publisher to the development team, the document must be created by the development team and it is often attached to the agreement between publisher and developer; the developer has to adhere to the GDD during game development process.

High-level design (HLD) explains the architecture that would be used for developing a software product. The architecture diagram provides an overview of an entire system, identifying the main components that would be developed for the product and their interfaces. The HLD uses possibly nontechnical to mildly technical terms that should be understandable to the administrators of the system. In contrast, low-level design further exposes the logical detailed design of each of these elements for programmers.

Low-level design (LLD) is a component-level design process that follows a step-by-step refinement process. This process can be used for designing data structures, required software architecture, source code and ultimately, performance algorithms. Overall, the data organization may be defined during requirement analysis and then refined during data design work. Post-build, each component is specified in detail.

Related Research Articles

Systems design is the process of defining the architecture, modules, interfaces, and data for a system to satisfy specified requirements. Systems design could be seen as the application of systems theory to product development. There is some overlap with the disciplines of systems analysis, systems architecture and systems engineering.

Software architecture refers to the fundamental structures of a software system and the discipline of creating such structures and systems. Each structure comprises software elements, relations among them, and properties of both elements and relations. The architecture of a software system is a metaphor, analogous to the architecture of a building. It functions as a blueprint for the system and the developing project, laying out the tasks necessary to be executed by the design teams.

In computer engineering, a hardware description language (HDL) is a specialized computer language used to describe the structure and behavior of electronic circuits, and most commonly, digital logic circuits.

Data model abstract model for organizing data; abstract model that organizes elements of data and standardizes how they relate to one another and to properties of the real world entities

A data model is an abstract model that organizes elements of data and standardizes how they relate to one another and to properties of the real world entities. For instance, a data model may specify that the data element representing a car be composed of a number of other elements which, in turn, represent the color and size of the car and define its owner.

Software design is the process by which an agent creates a specification of a software artifact, intended to accomplish goals, using a set of primitive components and subject to constraints. Software design may refer to either "all the activity involved in conceptualizing, framing, implementing, commissioning, and ultimately modifying complex systems" or "the activity following requirements specification and before programming, as ... [in] a stylized software engineering process."

Structured Systems Analysis and Design Method (SSADM), originally released as methodology, is a systems approach to the analysis and design of information systems. SSADM was produced for the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency, a UK government office concerned with the use of technology in government, from 1980 onwards.

A software requirements specification (SRS) is a description of a software system to be developed. It is modeled after business requirements specification(CONOPS), also known as a stakeholder requirements specification (StRS). The software requirements specification lays out functional and non-functional requirements, and it may include a set of use cases that describe user interactions that the software must provide to the user for perfect interaction.

Department of Defense Architecture Framework

The Department of Defense Architecture Framework (DoDAF) is an architecture framework for the United States Department of Defense (DoD) that provides visualization infrastructure for specific stakeholders concerns through viewpoints organized by various views. These views are artifacts for visualizing, understanding, and assimilating the broad scope and complexities of an architecture description through tabular, structural, behavioral, ontological, pictorial, temporal, graphical, probabilistic, or alternative conceptual means.

MIL-STD-498 (Military-Standard-498) was a United States military standard whose purpose was to "establish uniform requirements for software development and documentation." It was released Nov. 8, 1994, and replaced DOD-STD-2167A, DOD-STD-7935A, and DOD-STD-1703. It was meant as an interim standard, to be in effect for about two years until a commercial standard was developed.

This is an alphabetical list of articles pertaining specifically to software engineering.

Systems Modeling Language general-purpose modeling language for systems engineering applications

The Systems Modeling Language (SysML) is a general-purpose modeling language for systems engineering applications. It supports the specification, analysis, design, verification and validation of a broad range of systems and systems-of-systems.

An interface control document (ICD) in systems engineering and software engineering, provides a record of all interface information generated for a project. The underlying interface documents provide the details and describe the interface or interfaces between subsystems or to a system or subsystem.


Reference Model of Open Distributed Processing (RM-ODP) is a reference model in computer science, which provides a co-ordinating framework for the standardization of open distributed processing (ODP). It supports distribution, interworking, platform and technology independence, and portability, together with an enterprise architecture framework for the specification of ODP systems.

Structured analysis method for analyzing and converting business requirements into specifications

In software engineering, structured analysis (SA) and structured design (SD) are methods for analyzing business requirements and developing specifications for converting practices into computer programs, hardware configurations, and related manual procedures.

ISO/IEC/IEEE 42010Systems and software engineering — Architecture description is an international standard for architecture descriptions of systems and software.

A specification often refers to a set of documented requirements to be satisfied by a material, design, product, or service. A specification is often a type of technical standard.

View model

A view model or viewpoints framework in systems engineering, software engineering, and enterprise engineering is a framework which defines a coherent set of views to be used in the construction of a system architecture, software architecture, or enterprise architecture. A view is a representation of a whole system from the perspective of a related set of concerns.

Software architecture description is the set of practices for expressing, communicating and analysing software architectures, and the result of applying such practices through a work product expressing a software architecture.


  1. "IEEE Standard for Information Technology — Systems Design — Software Design Descriptions". IEEE. 2009-07-20. Retrieved 2014-07-06.
  2. IEEE 1016, Abstract.
  3. IEEE 1016, Abstract.
  4. IEEE 1016, Clause 5.
  5. IEEE 1016, sub-clause 4.5.