The quality pyramid in software development

Have you ever wondered about how quality is achieved in software development? About the pillars of quality? Uncover the recipe to software excellence with this in-depth analysis of the Quality Pyramid.

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by Martin Aliverti


In the realm of software development, reliability and durability are crucial. The solution needs to withstand the test of time and adapt to changing needs while keeping the budget in check. 

These outcomes depend on the quality of the software. But what does it mean? How is quality defined in software development? Are we referring to the greatness of the infrastructure, the clearness of the codebase, or the usability of the UX/UI? Well, all of these are correct. 

Dive into this article to grasp a better understanding of what defines quality in software development. We’ll break down the concepts shaping the quality pyramid, uncovering ways to elevate your software quality for greater results.  

Table of contents

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Defining Quality in Software Development

In software development, quality relies on several key aspects such as reliability, efficiency, maintainability, and scalability as well as meeting user requirements. 

The Software Quality Attributes Approach 

This proactive approach aims to shape the software's key characteristics throughout the development process. These critical attributes involve: 

  • Performance

  • Usability 

  • Reliability 

  • Scalability 

  • Security 

  • Maintainability 

Adopting such an approach is a way to ensure that the software meets the predefined requirements. 

The Software Quality Defect Approach 

The Defect Approach is reactive. It aims to manage defects by identifying, tracking, and fixing issues before they impact users or the system’s performance. Overall, it contributes to maintaining a product’s reliability and quality. 

Quality can also be defined by the value it brings. To assess the quality of a software product we can measure the value it provides. The higher the quality, the more value is delivered. That’s how we envision software quality at NaNLABS to provide our clients with top-notch software that adapts and adjusts to changing needs. 

The Quality Pyramid in Software Development 

Now that we’ve defined overall quality in software development, let’s dive deeper into the components of quality. 

From a technical perspective, quality is shaped by the processes that lead to it. These fall into three main categories, forming a pyramid where each layer builds upon the other, contributing to the overall quality of the product. The foundation of the pyramid is the process quality, followed by the structural quality in the middle, and the functional quality sitting on top of the pyramid.

Process Quality 

The process is the foundation of the pyramid, hence the most important as it supports the two other components. 

The process refers to daily activities, no matter how big or small they are. It includes:

  • The way we communicate 

  • The way we code

  • The way we share knowledge

  • The way we collaborate and ask for help 

These activities have a direct impact on both end-users and the team working behind the scenes. 

At NaNLABS, our Agile team follows best practices such as: 

  • The Scrum framework with sprint planning, daily meetings, and retrospectives. 

  • Structuring repository setup to set the scene.  

  • Integrating Code reviews to deliver optimal results together. 

  • Coding best practices to keep the code clean and limit technical debt

  • Constant communication and collaboration to keep the project on track and move faster. 

5 Characteristics of an Efficient Development Process

  • Repeatability: Reproducing the same steps consistently should produce reliable results.  

  • Reliability: The process should generate the desired outcomes. 

  • Planning: Timely delivery is a fundamental factor of an effective development process. 

  • Adaptability: An efficient process quickly evolves to adjust to changes and innovation. 

  • Collaboration: Constant communication and collaboration are key to efficient processes.

Structural Quality 

Structural quality refers to the software's inner structure, which means its codebase and architecture. It’s fundamental to consider structural quality as it influences the long-term success of a software product. Several factors impact the structural quality of software such as readability, understandability, and maintainability as well as scalability, efficiency, and security. 

Readability and Understandability  

Throughout the product journey, having a clear and well-organized codebase will facilitate and accelerate the hand-off between teams.

"Code is always written with a purpose, but sometimes it’s not clear in the code itself. We need to write code that expresses intent, not just what it does but also what for.” - Martin Aliverti, Senior Full Stack Engineer at NaNLABS.


Structuring the codebase from the beginning will make it easier to maintain and update. In the long run, it will enable the structure to adapt more quickly and efficiently to evolving requirements.  


Scalability refers to the architecture’s ability to evolve and support increasing workloads as the user base grows while maintaining an optimal level of performance and integrating innovative solutions. For a product to stay competitive, it must be able to adjust fast and keep evolving.   


A well-crafted structure uses resources efficiently, improving the overall performance. It also contributes to reducing time and costs by streamlining maintenance tasks and accelerating development cycles. 


Adopting secure coding practices and complying with security standards contribute to improving the structural quality of the architecture. 

To reach a great structural quality, it’s necessary to consider all of these aspects. Otherwise, several issues ranging from duplication, code smells, and churn to cognitive & cyclomatic complexity might occur. 

Functional Quality  

We talk about Functional Quality to assess the extent to which a product meets the predefined requirements and responds how it’s expected to. Not only the product has to do what it’s intended to but it has to do it well.

The goal here is to have few to no errors and incidents perceived by the user. Some of the criteria to assess functional quality include: 

  • Correctness: The software produces what it’s expected to. 

  • Reliability: The software operates without failing. 

  • Efficiency: The software performs well, in a timely manner. 

In addition to the three criteria mentioned above, providing a great UX/UI is paramount to fulfilling the functional quality requirements. 

"Everybody’s been in a project that delivers functional quality while still having a less-than-perfect codebase, but at what cost? Most likely stress, working overtime, and an overall bad feeling floating in the air. It is much easier to deliver functional quality when taking care of the lower levels of the pyramid.” - Martin Aliverti, Senior Full Stack Engineer at NaNLABS. 

Key Takeaways about the Quality Pyramid in Software Development

In software development, quality results from the blending of three major aspects. Together, they shape the Quality Pyramid. The foundation of the pyramid is the process quality which refers to all the daily activities, impacting both end-users and the team. In the middle, the structural quality evaluates the codebase and infrastructure health. At the top of the pyramid, the functional quality is determined by the product’s ability to operate the way it’s expected to. 

Assessing the quality of a software product means ensuring that every layer of the quality pyramid is optimized, as it influences the overall quality. 

Are structural challenges preventing you from scaling your platform? Discover how we helped our Cybersecurity client scale their platform while increasing quality and performance. 

Ready to embark on your custom software development journey with a team that cares? Reach out to discuss how we can propel your business forward together! 

Frequently Asked Questions About the Quality Pyramid in Software Development

  • What is quality in Software Development?

    In software development, quality is determined by three key components: the process, the structural health of the product, and its functional abilities to meet expectations.

  • How can we improve the quality of software?

    Software quality can be enhanced by optimizing each of the three key components, starting from process quality to have a positive impact on both structural and functional quality. 

  • What are the most important aspects of quality software?

    The most important aspects of quality software are process quality (daily activities), structural quality (codebase & infrastructure health), and functional quality (the software acts as expected). 

  • What is the role of software quality?

    Software quality contributes to ensuring the overall success of the project by addressing errors and bugs early on and ensures a greater user experience, enhancing trust.  

  • How is quality measured in software development?

    Quality can be measured by analyzing technical indicators, user insights and metrics, and security performance.

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