The number of applications downloaded to Google Play and the Apple Store has reached 5.7 million in 2021. And this is only the number of mobile apps. With so many applications available on the market, it becomes harder to differentiate your product from the competition. Therefore, companies of all industries and sizes must invest in custom app development to draw customers’ attention and stand out from the competitors.
But, how to create custom software that will succeed? In this article, we’ll discuss all the peculiarities of custom application development: from app types to development stages and cost. You’ll also learn why personalized software benefits from ready-made one.
Why Should You Develop a Custom App?
According to the research, the application development software market is expected to reach $1039.89 billion by 2027. If you are running a business and looking to build an app, the below statistics will highlight the appropriateness of an investment in custom mobile app development.
The Leftronic.com researches indicates the following:and
- There are more than 5.13 billion mobile phone users globally.
- The number of app downloads is projected to reach 15.2 billion in 2023.
- The mobile apps are expected to generate $935 billion in revenue by 2023.
- About 90% of mobile time is spent on apps.
- On average, every user has 11-20 apps installed on their smartphones.
- Around 60,000 new mobile apps are released every month through the Google Play Store and 25,000 apps in the Apple App Store.
These statistics encourage brands towards mobile app development. In turn, adopting custom software solutions will help companies of all sizes and domains to address their exclusive needs, solve business-specific problems, and make their workflow faster and efficient by providing a unique customer experience.
Now, let’s look at some dominant trends that impact the creation of a custom mobile app:
- Cross-platform apps. For the last few years, the industry has been shifting towards cross-platform technology. Tech giants like Alibaba, Facebook, Pinterest, etc., have already experienced the benefits of cross-platform solutions like speedy development and high performance.
- On-demand apps. On-demand services apps are widely used across the globe. Be it a taxi service or laundry app, this trend offers an excellent experience to all stakeholders. It’s pushing almost every business to establish a strong position in the market.
- Enterprise mobile apps. These apps are increasing in popularity by providing robust mobile solutions to enterprise-level businesses. They move companies to digital transformation and help them to optimize complex business processes. Apart from streamlining the business operations, they aim to deliver user-oriented software to boost ROI, enhance employees’ productivity, and improve communication across business units.
Global app development market value prediction
Custom Development Vs. Off-the-Shelf Apps
If you run a small business or startup and Google Spreadsheets or a ready-made CRM do a great job for you, there may be little sense in custom app development. But as your business scales, you’ll experience restrictions set by the software creators, slowing down the business growth.
Below, we outline the main characteristics of a custom approach to help you understand why personalized software is better than ready-to-use one.
Many businesses have individual requirements that template solutions can’t address. Even though some service providers enable a certain level of customization, you may find it impossible to implement with your web or mobile app. Making a custom product means creating whatever app you like with your corporate colors, icons, and unique features. Moreover, custom applications can adapt to changing business goals and requirements, while off-the-shelf ones only cover short-term needs.
Unique User Experience
The user interface is a leading factor influencing the user experience (UX) and usability. While out-of-the-box apps submit generic UI, custom-built apps provide flexibility in design and can be entirely tailored to specific user needs. For example, if you plan to build a healthcare app for people with color blindness, the custom, inclusive UI/UX design is a must-have.
Since each IT company is focused on long-term relationships with customers, they pay close attention to app security and data safety. Programmers can implement any security features required (e.g., two-factor authentication, blockchain, ciphered data, etc.). This leads to reducing security risks and increasing customer loyalty. In contrast, not many corporate software providers can brag about highly secure products. So there is always a possibility for hacker attacks.
Bespoke applications are specifically designed to connect to your existing programs and databases, and even with legacy systems. Off-the-shelf solutions are hard to integrate with the existing systems, particularly when programming languages or codes don’t match.
Flexible to upgrade
Can be difficult
Dependence on the server provider
Own by server creator
High initial costs
Custom Application Types
Being an entrepreneur, you consider numerous factors to make a powerful and cost-effective mobile solution. And the development method is among those factors, and many business owners wonder what the best possible one is. So let's figure it out.
Native development means that an application is designed for a specific device platform, either iOS or Android. The choice between both platforms is often affected by your target audience.
Native mobile platforms are fast, easy to navigate, and tend to streamline a user experience. Clear design assists users in making the most of their experience, while sustainable architecture enables them to benefit from app’s features fully. The complete set of native built-in features, which contains GPS and access to the device’s camera and movement detector, is a substantial advantage of native development.
The main challenges in creating such custom mobile applications are the need to adjust app design for multiple devices. Besides, building and maintaining apps for two platforms requires more time and effort.
Tech stack for native app development:
- Programming language: Java, Kotlin
- Toolkit: Android Studio, Android SDK
- Programming language: Swift, Objective-C
- Toolkit: IntelliJ AppCode, Apple Xcode, iOS SDK
Tech stack for hybrid application:
- Programming language: HTML, CSS, Java
- Frameworks: Apache Cordova, Ionic
Cross-platform apps are developed to operate on multiple platforms. It’s a good approach for businesses making custom apps that don’t heavily depend on native functionality. It not only speeds launch to market and cuts the development time, but also makes the application easier to maintain and upgrade.
Cross-platform solutions accelerate custom mobile app development and reduce cost by up to 30 percent. The thing is, native mobile app development time is estimated for both platforms, while the Flutter framework enables software developers to come with a single codebase for iOS and Android.
Cross-platform application development tech stack:
- Programming language: React, Dart
Flutter app development services will allow you to shorten time to market and get high-performance, scalable mobile solutions within your budget.
Progressive Web App
You can also create a Progressive Web App (PWA) that delivers a website browsing experience closer to native mobile applications, thus, more user-friendly.
PWAs apply modern web APIs enabling them to provide a native-like experience. They run such features as push notifications, offline access, hardware access, custom splash screens, and home screen icons. Progressive web apps are also a great choice to target users with older devices and unstable internet connections, as they load fast and require no installation.
Tech stack to build a PWA:
- Programming languages: Angular, React, Polymer
Commonly, progressive web app development requires 4x less time than creating a native mobile app.
Check our guide to learn what is PWA and why it's good for business
As for the area of use, there are a number of industries that can benefit from custom mobile app development. Here are the top industries which are hugely benefited by the use of digital solutions:
HealthTech. Telemedicine software development aims to deliver seamless healthcare service to users worldwide. For example, they allow people to track their physical conditions, schedule appointments, or get drug prescriptions online.
Social networks. Businesses should have a social presence to increase brand recognition and reach more customers. With the growing number of active social media users, the idea of building a social network is profitable.
Education. E-learning website development exceeds the traditional learning methods. They allow students to take courses independently, according to their preferences and topics they are interested in.
Travel. Travel planning apps assist travelers in planning trips. They are able to book tickets, reserve hotel rooms, plan routes, check for famous places, restaurants, and much more.
Retail. Most people prefer purchasing online. E-commerce platforms enable retailers to promote their brands and products globally. There is no reason to organize manufacturing or be concerned about delivery.
Logistics. There are a lot of use cases of mobile solutions in logistics. For instance, with the help of freight management solution for freight and transportation companies can improve cargo planning, simplify RFP process with carriers, automate document workflow, and much more.
FinTech. Customers migrate to payment apps from cash and cards due to their usability. Modern financial software enables the automation of invoicing, cash-flow management, the processing of online payments, generating reports, visualization of financial data, and so on.
What to Think About in Advance
So, you've decided to build your own software. But before diving into custom app development, here are some points that should be considered beforehand.
Explore the Market
Firstly, you need to determine what type of app you’d like to develop and start studying the market and your main competitors. Without thorough research, you may end up delivering a solution clients don’t care about. Secondly, check existing solutions to determine how unique your idea is and which way to keep going. For example, let's say you want to make a hotel booking app. Thus, you’ll need to study the most famous hotel platforms, what they offer, and what they lack. By analyzing your market leaders, you can see their strengths and weaknesses and receive more ideas about what features can be improved.
Select Monetization Model
You'll also need to figure out how to make money with your app. Here are the most popular monetization strategies.
You offer advanced functionality for users on a monthly or yearly subscription basis. Instead of providing one-time purchases, companies offer the customers monthly payments.
Another way to monetize your application is to include paid content that users can buy. The purchases inside the app are divided into two groups: virtual goods and physical goods.
Ads are the most popular way of app monetization. You provide advertising space for sellers and get paid for it. But in this case, you have to concrete on eye-catching design to ensure your application has enough room for banners.
Think of Security
Security is crucial for any type of application. Whether you're planning to build a telemedicine app or social media platform like Instagram, privacy laws must be met. You have to protect your platform from any unwanted intrusions from 3rd parties, so you should think about network security, payments security, token security, domain restriction, SSL encryption, and much more.
Here are some ideas on how to make your app secure:
- Apply multi-factor authentication to make it harder to break down the accounts.
- Encrypt communications and employ an SSL certificate, Network Security Configuration (Android), or App Transport Security (iOS).
- Don't store sensitive information on user devices; or encrypt it with special algorithms (e.g., AES-256).
- Comply with different laws and regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, PIPEDA, etc.
It requires some time and promotion efforts to monetize your mobile or web app and transform typical users into leads. That’s why it's vital to perform some actions with users long before you build a full-fledged application. Make sure that on “launch” day, your platform won’t be a white piece of paper with no users. It will lead to challenges connected with user engagement and lower trust in your product.
Find a Vendor
Finally, you need to find a reliable vendor who will help you create a custom software solution. When selecting a tech partner, look for the best quality-price ratio and pay attention to the company’s experience. You can assemble an in-house team or outsource the custom application development to other countries.
An in-house team is a perfect option if you want to be highly involved in the process. However, this approach requires additional expenses (rent, software, equipment, sufficient salary, etc.) and a time-consuming hiring process.
The best way is to outsource software development to popular outsourcing destinations like Central Europe. This region becomes more and more demanded due to affordable prices, a vast talent pool, low taxes, high quality, and government support of the IT sphere. Moreover, hiring globally allows you to find specialists with the required skillset and expertise in your niche.
Read how to write a request for proposal for software development and choose the technical partner properly in our newest guide!
Custom Apps Development Stages
Сustom mobile app development can be carried out in many directions depending on the client’s needs and requirements. Some companies go custom with a ready-made MVP; others have just a general concept. We’ve listed the stages that can be applied in different situations.
Consider Marketing First
It’s better to start a marketing campaign far beyond your custom app is ready. A well-prepared pre-launch stage will help your product get an initial boost and continue working on building demand. Here are the three questions you should ask yourself:
- How do I reach clients?
- What’s the average CAC (customer acquisition cost) for my application?
- What marketing budget do I need to start generating users?
Answering those questions will allow you to outline the promotion strategy. After all, your application is at risk of going down to the bottom of the App Stores without users.
Focus on Your Audience
After defining your ideal user profile, the next question is, where can you find your target audience? Here are some popular ways to do it fast:
- Social media. You can share the information about your service on popular social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok to promote your brand and attract the right audience.
- YouTube. This video-sharing platform is a great engine to promote your video streaming services, so consider YouTube to create a loyal community before realizing your subscription video-on-demand (VOD) website.
- Newsletters. Send your potential clients an email detailing all information about your product, but bear in mind, the letter should be presentable and catchy.
Build an MVP
One of the first steps towards custom app development is a minimum viable product (MVP). It allows you to test the idea and enter the market fast with minimum investment. The core idea behind the MVP development service is to deliver the app with just enough functionality to get first users and gather initial feedback. Further, when your product starts making a profit, you can reinvest it into creating a full-fledged application.
But how to build a Minimum Viable Product and succeed? Here are some hints:
Set up continuous delivery
Continuous delivery encompasses tools and methods that enable your team to make improvements without affecting the overall process. As a result, users can test new functionality as soon as they have been updated.
For instance, at Cleveroad, we apply Agile methodologies and work with the Scrum framework on our projects. Scrum helps our clients remain flexible and easily make changes to their projects.
Use modern technologies
To keep your app evolving, ensure it’s powered by the latest technologies that give you a competitive edge. For example, Android apps used to be programmed in Java, but Kotlin allows programmers to build Android applications faster. Here are some tips to make sure your technology stack is a clear winner:
- Learn from your competitors by using tools like Appfigures
- Apply SDKs that speed up the development of boilerplate functionality, like authentication
- Consult with your team on the custom app types (native vs. cross-platform vs. PWA)
The best way to design the interface is to make it user-friendly and intuitive. Don’t distract customers' attention with a bunch of elements and bright colors. They need to focus on performing key actions, not striving to understand how to navigate and use your application.
Make Your App Stand Out
Despite the similarity of multiple apps features, there is always room for personalization. And there are different ways to ensure your product has unique functionality.
Make the most out of the mobile OS
Successful apps always take advantage of the latest iOS and Android features. Supporting new features allows you to smooth the user experience when switching between system apps and your app.
Another way to enrich your platform is to integrate it with third-party APIs. This way, customers will be able to access your app content from other applications or go straight into your platform to carry out some actions.
Pick a Distribution Model
Whether you’re planning to build an app for general users or enterprise, the distribution model will differ. For example, you can upload your application to Google Play and/or Apple Store or make it accessible as download from your server.
When making your app available via app stores, pay attention to App Store Optimization (ASO). There are many factors affecting the app visibility in the app stores like screenshots and videos, description and keywords, etc. If your application is built only for internal needs and doesn’t have a demo account, you can still make it available to the employees via a link. However, you’ll need to obtain special licensing for enterprise applications and ensure your app has access to the Internet.
Plan Your Budget
It’s crucial to properly plan the app development budget to deliver successful digital products. However, many entrepreneurs fail to include some expenses in their budget. Let’s see what business owners often miss when budgeting software development.
For modern custom mobile apps, it’s essential to stay tuned, providing updated content. If you want to keep control over users and content, a web interface is necessary, allowing for app management.
In our practice, yearly maintenance takes 15 to 25% of the software development cost. That includes fixing bugs, modifying the codebase, adding new features, and much more.
Sometimes business owners cut the QA hours necessary to deliver a high-quality mobile application. However, the QA services help you ensure that the software is bug-free and meets the requirements.
Merge smartphones, tablets, TVs, and other devices to allow your users to access your content on multiple devices. Thus, it’s better to create separate versions of the application compatible with different gadgets. But make sure to implement only those features that make use of a particular platform. For example, there is no sense in a calendar app on Apple Watch if you expect people to add events on a small interface. But calendar notifications are meaningful for smartphones.
How to create your own app if you only have an idea? Read our full guide 'How to create an app: from idea to product launch'
Cost to Build a Custom Mobile Application
The final price will vary depending on platforms, features, design, 3rd party integrations, and developers’ rates. The average cost for custom mobile app development can go as low as $30,000 for a simple app and as high as $500,000 for a complex project with a follow-up modification plan.
Cleveroad provides custom software development services in multiple domains, and one of the demanded ones is travel app development services. That’s why we propose to discuss the cost based on the example of a cross-platform hotel booking app development.
The cost and time estimation is based on MVP features. To get a more accurate project quote, please contact our specialists for free.
|Module||Core MVP features||Approx time, Flutter (hours)||Approx time, Backend (hours)"|
Complete profile screen
Total development time
Moreover, all the hotel booking apps require a thoughtful admin panel to manage the application. So the timing for developing it is the following:
|Module||Core MVP features||Approx time, Backend (hours)||Approx time, Frontend (hours)"|
Send push / email notifications to the user
Total development time
So, we listed the approximate MVP features timing necessary to build an MVP for the hotel booking platform. In general, the programmers will need 770 hours to implement those functionalities in Flutter.
Dividing that time into smaller parts (called sprints), we'll get about 6 development iterations. Keep in mind that software developers aren't the only specialists you need on a team to make a custom product.
Here's the full team composition required:
- Front-end developer (2X) - all sprints
- Back-end developer (2X) - all sprints
- UI/UX designer - sprint 1-8
- Business Analyst - sprint 1-8
- Project Manager - all sprints
- QA engineer - all sprints
- DevOps engineer - all sprints
- Team lead - all sprints
Given that team composition and the amount of work, it'll cost you approximately $80,300 to create a cross-platform hotel booking app.
It is also worth noting that the final development price is affected by the location of your technical vendor since the hourly rates can differ from county to country. To give you a hint, we’ve analyzed the hourly rates in different regions, including popular outsourcing destinations like Western and Central Europe. Prices are taken from UpWork, Clutch, and GoodFirms platforms.
Cost to make a custom app across the regions
You may also be interested in how long it takes from the planning process until the launch of the application. Here is how much time each stage might need:
- Discovery phase: 2-4 weeks
- UI-UX design: 2 weeks
- Development: 3-8 months
- Implementation: 2-4 weeks
- Tests and maintenance: 3-6 weeks
- Production: 3+ weeks
However, the actual timeframe in custom app development relies on the project scope. Small projects can be fulfilled in three months while building an online marketplace, for example, would need 9-12 months of product development.
How cost estimation is done for your project:
We make two types of estimates for our clients: rough and detailed.
A rough estimate is calculated into the Discovery phase to orient the customer to the project's price. Its accuracy may vary from 75 to 25%. This type of estimate includes:
- The general section describes the preparatory works that don’t change much throughout the project. It contains project specification, database setup, and REST architecture.
- The development section consists of the 'business logic' and 'UI/UX' columns, where we indicate the appropriate number of hours needed to fulfill a specific part of work.
- Third-parties integration aims to save the developers' time and the clients' money. Here we list the external sources to apply and determine the time for setting up.
- The non-development section addresses technical writing. It comprises all the materials related to the project at the first stage.
- The suggestions section includes different recommendations relating to the project improvements.
Note: The cost estimation described above is a rough estimate.
A detailed estimate is prepared with the obligatory participation of the developers and has almost 100% accuracy. It’s based on wireframes, project specifications, and other documentation. If a client already has a ready-made documentation package, our team will provide a detailed estimate within two business days.
We have a guide breaking down the cost to make an app. Check it out!
Custom App Development at Cleveroad
Cleveroad is a skillful software development company located in one of the most popular outsourcing destinations — Central Europe, Estonia. Since 2011, our team has been helping startups, SMBs, and enterprises to get custom software solutions that boost their overall performance and customer experience. And if you already have a brilliant idea, we will gladly help you infuse life into it.
Cleveroad offers a variety of advantages for every client to start your own custom mobile application:
- Expertise in various domains, such as media, retail, education, e-commerce, etc.
- All required specialists available — mobile and web developers, DevOps, designers, PMs, QA engineers, analysts.
- Full-cycle software development and guaranteed product quality.
- Flexible cooperation model: dedicated team, fixed price, time & materials.
We follow an established software development life cycle (SDLC) to deliver a cost-effective product that fits your needs and budget requirements. So here are all the stages your product will pass by – from collecting requirements to the product release:
Discovery phase. Business analysts make a project specification that details each feature and tech aspect. Designers create wireframes for each app screen. Both processes go simultaneously.
UI/UX design. UI/UX designers create an app’s prototype (screen by screen) based on the wireframes approved on the previous stage.
Development process. Software engineers convert mockups into a working product using the appropriate tech stack.
Quality assurance. QA engineers conduct thorough testing of all functionality implemented to ensure the product is bug-free and works as expected.
Release. Developers transfer the product to the client with all the project materials.
Our portfolio covers a lot of custom software development projects in different domains, including tech solutions for logistics. One of our latest cases is a transportation management system for a logistics company. Our team of 13 members was challenged to build an interconnected business ecosystem to cover all logistics operations and scale profits through modules’ synergies. As a result, we've delivered a full-fledged software and integrated it with the existing business platform.
The keystone of implementing custom software solutions in cooperation with reliable and professional technical companies with the relevant experience in your niche. This decision will bring only positive results since experts perfectly know how to guarantee meeting each of your requirements and architect a top-notch custom mobile application.
Custom application development is an iterative process of building digital solutions that meet customers’ unique needs and continually improving the product.
No developer can’t tell you the exact price until they know the project requirements. The price can vary from $60,000 and $250,000+.
The custom mobile app development goes through several stages. You’ll need to conduct market research, define your target audience, build an appealing MVP solution to start attracting users and initial investment, choose a distribution model and plan your app development budget. Further, when you get initial investment, you can create full-fledged solutions with advanced functionality.
There are a bunch of reasons showing the advantage of custom mobile solutions over ready-made ones. The main one is the ability of bespoke apps to meet the unique business needs due to complete product customization.
Evgeniy Altynpara is a CTO and member of the Forbes Councils’ community of tech professionals. He is an expert in software development and technological entrepreneurship and has 10+years of experience in digital transformation consulting in Healthcare, FinTech, Supply Chain and Logistics
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