If you start writing as soon as you have an idea, the project will take longer because the only way to forge ahead is by trial and error. People who have tried to develop software both ways will tell you that unplanned projects end up taking longer, cost more and, most damning of all, they have a significantly greater incidence of failure. On the other hand, if you spend too much time planning in endless detail and not enough doing, you may miss your window of opportunity altogether. So planning is a trade off; you just have to keep a sense of proportion.
Planning enables you to think in a focussed way about your project, discuss aspects of it with people whose opinions you value, and to consider alternatives before you dive in.
Generally speaking, the answers tend to come out of the problem. Snags that may otherwise never come to light until you are up to your armpits in development have a way of surfacing when the water is only up to your ankles. Issues that sometimes drown projects once programmers get stuck can often be side stepped altogether with a well-planned route.
Some people make a big deal about planning inhibiting their freedom and prefer a Russian roulette method of creativity. The truth is, nothing inhibits freedom more than failure. What planning does impose is a certain self-discipline, not just for you, but for everyone you are going to involve in your project and invite to back you with money. The success of all good software designs hinges not on what everyone knows can be done, but on how well the designer handles things within their limitations; in other words, by making better use of the rules, as opposed to breaking them.
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