“Mobile is the perfect example of what’s enabling economic growth in the technology sector.” – Max Levchin
So you want to build a custom mobile app?
Data fetched from a report indicates that more than 5.31 billion people own a mobile phone in 2022, showing a 1.8% Y-o-Y growth.
With an ever-increasing number of people using smartphones these days, we’re witnessing more and more businesses investing heavily in custom mobile app development.
According to Statista, the number of mobile app downloads in 2022 stood at a staggering 230 billion, up by around 63% in 2016.
More than 77% of C-level executives are strongly considering a mobile-first approach when it comes to digital transformation.
We’re also witnessing an ever-increasing number of businesses listing “We Need Android App Developers” or “We Need iOS App Developers” in their Careers section.
If you want to engage your consumers and grow your business, having your own mobile application is no longer an option.
Instead, it’s a necessity.
If you’re still unsure about whether starting an app business is a good idea, then check out our app business beginner’s guide written by our CEO Michael MacRae.
But if you are looking forward to investing in and building your company’s mobile app yet don’t know how to get started, then look no further.
To help you navigate the realm of mobile application development and make a strong strategic decision, we’ve put together this blog post where we’ll be covering:
- What is Custom Mobile App Development?
- Custom Development vs Off-the-Shelf Mobile Apps
- The 3 Types of Custom Mobile Application
- 4 Incredible Benefits of Custom App Development for Businesses
- The End-to-End Custom Mobile App Development Process
We’re so excited to share this with you.
Let’s dive in!
What is Custom Mobile App Development?
Different businesses have different needs and requirements. And we’re not just talking about companies across different industries.
Two close competitors can have different needs and requirements as well.
And based on your company’s specific needs and requirements, the way your mobile app looks, feels, and functions will vary.
Custom mobile app development is the process of developing one or multiple applications based on the needs and requirements of the company. Usually, custom mobile apps take more time to develop when compared to off-the-shelf applications – however, when it comes to usability, scalability, security, and other factors, custom app development is the preferred choice.
Whether you want to increase customer loyalty or deliver top-tier customer service, a custom-built mobile application will help you achieve your goals must faster when compared to off-the-shelf apps.
Some of the core benefits of custom mobile app development include:
- Enhanced Security
- High Scalability
- Easier Maintenance
We’ll individually touch down on each of these points later.
That being said, you may be wondering whether you should invest money in a custom-built mobile application or if it’s feasible to settle for the cheaper option – off-the-shelf apps.
Let’s have a look.
Custom Development vs Off-the-Shelf Mobile Apps
Before we dive further into the differences, let’s understand what off-the-shelf mobile applications are.
Off-the-shelf mobile applications are pre-developed or no-code platforms that come with certain standard features and functions. Think of them as templates. By making a few adjustments and customizations, you can soon deploy them and start using them straight away.
Since off-the-shelf mobile applications are offered to numerous businesses (after making the necessary customizations), they are faster to deploy and are also cheaper. This means you won’t have to worry about paying top dollars to get your company’s mobile application up and running. And while using off-the-shelf mobile applications may seem all sunshine and rainbows, it’s not without its drawbacks.
While you can customize these pre-packaged solutions depending on your individual needs, a few problems we’d like to highlight are:
- If you want to build a mobile application that caters to your unique business goals and serves other purposes, you should avoid using off-the-shelf applications.
- Some ready-made off-the-shelf applications may not match your business processes.
- When it comes to third-party app integration, these apps can be highly restrictive.
- There are always security concerns involved. After all, you may not want your company data to fall into the wrong hands. Unfortunately, data breaches are always hazardous.
- Off-the-shelf mobile applications are not scalable.
And these are just a few of the issues we’ve highlighted. Did you also notice that the above two apps are the exact same brand?
One of them is custom and that’s the power of custom design and development.
One of the significant advantages of opting for an off-the-shelf mobile application is that it’s cheap. And, of course, these applications are quicker to deploy. But that’s all.
When it comes to custom mobile applications:
- Custom mobile applications are built to match your vision and not something that you just “settle for”.
- The design is entirely unique and aligned with your brand.
- Scalability is seamless.
- It’s flexible and built to iterate as you grow.
- Security isn’t a major concern.
- Third-party integration is smooth and streamlined.
Most importantly, good custom app developers will still have their own IP they can bring to the table. The trustworthy ones will give you full access to that, so you still get full intellectual property rights.
The only cons are – since the application developers will be building your company’s mobile application from the ground up, the development process will be time-consuming.
Most custom apps may take 12 months to develop. But some partners like Appetiser can help you go from ideation to launch in just 4 months.
Got a custom app idea? Let’s talk about making an impact.
At the same time, you’ll have to spend a higher amount when compared to what you’d have paid for off-the-shelf apps. It is true that you get what you pay for, but there are many ways you can keep your costs down by keeping your app lean.
At the end of the day, if you are confused about whether you should opt for custom or off-the-shelf mobile application development, we’d advise you to base your decision on the following factors:
- Your vision.
- Business needs and requirements.
- The infrastructure and resources needed to both develop and maintain the mobile application.
- Business priority.
Upon laser-focusing on these points, you’ll be able to make a much better decision.
And if you are looking forward to building your own custom mobile application from the ground up yet don’t know much about the types, benefits, process, and more, don’t worry.
In the following few sections, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about mobile app development.
Let’s start with the different types of custom mobile apps.
The Different Types of Custom Mobile Apps You Should Know About
Following are the different types of custom mobile apps you should know about:
- Native Mobile Applications
- Web Applications
- Hybrid Mobile Applications
Native Mobile Applications
Native mobile applications are applications designed for specific platforms. This means – you’ll be building mobile applications specifically for either Android or iOS. Or maybe a Windows phone. And since these applications are built keeping the specific platforms in mind, they are fast, offer a streamlined user experience, and are easy to navigate.
If you’re building an application for iOS, the app developers will be using either Swift or Objective-C. On the other hand, if you are building an Android application, the preferred programming language is Kotlin or Java.
Some of the benefits of native mobile applications include:
- Offer the Best Performance
- Are More Secure
- Are More Interactive & Intuitive
- Allow Application Developers to Unlock the Complete Potential of an Operating System
- Fewer Bugs Encountered During Development
While you’d have to develop separately for different platforms if you are looking forward to sticking to SDKs provided by Google and Apple, there are several alternatives you can use for cross-platform development, including React, Titanium, Xamarin, etc.
Web-based applications are apps that don’t really need to be downloaded and can be accessed via web browsers on mobile phones. So you don’t need to head over to Play Store or App Store to download a web application.
Instead, you can access it via a browser. One of the major benefits of web applications is that they don’t consume hardware resources, including storage and RAM – which is why people prefer them over mobile applications.
Some of the benefits of web applications include:
- You don’t need approval from app stores.
- Offer multi-platform support.
- Ease of distribution and deployment.
- Budget-friendly when compared with mobile applications.
Hybrid mobile applications are applications with a single code base. To make these applications work across different platforms, it’s essential to use an interpreter.
So unless you’ve got millions of dollars to spare for hybrid apps – you’re better off starting off with Android or iOS. That’s because hybrid can often feel intuitive and if we’re absolutely honest, rather frustrating at best.
Nonetheless, they are an option to consider if you want to build an app that works on both iOS and Android, without having to build two separate native apps.
Now that we already know the different types of custom mobile apps, let’s look at their benefits.
4 Incredible Benefits of Custom Mobile App Development for Businesses
Following are the four benefits of custom app development for your business:
- Enhanced Security
- High Scalability
- 100% Ownership of Intellectual Property
- Flexible and Limitless Possibilities
1. Enhanced Security
Data is the life and blood of every business in today’s digital world. And with data breaches turning out to be a topic of concern among companies, it’s important to make sure that you are implementing the right tactics to ensure security.
When it comes to choosing between custom mobile applications and off-the-shelf apps, it’s important to note that custom mobile apps provide enhanced security as you’ll have to power to choose the data-security technology and protocol.
However, that’s not the case when it comes to off-the-shelf mobile applications.
2 High Scalability
Not all off-the-shelf mobile applications are scalable.
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Your business’s needs may be ever-changing. Let’s say you’re looking forward to scaling your operations in the next quarter and would like to add a new feature to your mobile application.
Now, it’s important to note that while off-the-shelf apps are customizable, most don’t offer the same level of scalability and support that custom mobile applications can.
Yes – custom mobile applications are highly scalable and easily adapt to your changing business needs. So whether you want to add a new feature or onboard thousands of users, you can easily do that by reaching out to your developers and sharing your requirements.
3. 100% Ownership of Intellectual Property
When it comes to off-the-shelf mobile apps, you won’t own the source code. In fact, there are chances that dozens of other businesses out there are using the same source code.
And imagine spending thousands of dollars on an application whose source code you don’t even own.
However, in the case of custom-built mobile applications, you will have 100% ownership of the intellectual property. Therefore, you won’t have to worry about your competitors or other businesses using your source code. At the same time, you may want to own the source code to make seamless integration with other applications possible.
4. Flexible and Limitless Possibilities
These days, we’re witnessing an ever-increasing number of businesses rolling out too many innovative solutions. And if you want to make sure that your business’s specific needs and requirements are being met, you should opt for custom-built mobile apps.
As we already know, off-the-shelf applications are cookie-cutter, pre-packaged solutions. And there are chances that these applications don’t help you meet your needs and requirements.
Whether you need an application for your customer relationship management or logistics or whatever the purpose is- if you want to achieve your goals in the long term, opting for custom mobile app development is a great strategic and cost-effective decision in the long run.
That said, if you want to get started on building a successful customised mobile app yet don’t really know how to take the first step, here’s what that process would look like.
The 7 Step End-to-End Custom Mobile App Development Process
To help you get an idea of how you should proceed forward, allow us to put our end-to-end custom mobile application development process in front of you:
- Identify Your Applications’ Audience
- Develop a Business Strategy
- Appoint a Dedicated Team of Experts
- Design a Prototype
- Develop a Go-to-Market Strategy
- Proceed Forward with Mobile Application Development
Let’s touch down on each of these custom mobile application development steps one by one.
Step 1 – Identify Your Needs & Wants
Abraham Lincoln once said, “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first six sharpening the axe.” And that’s what Steps 1, 2 and 3 are all about.
Let’s say you run a meal delivery application and are looking forward to building a mobile app. So, you decide to hire a freelance/part-time/full-time mobile application developer to help you build a custom mobile app. Or maybe you reach out to a reliable app development agency like Appetiser, which has helped food delivery services like Youfoodz revolutionize their industry AND get acquired by HelloFresh for hundreds of millions.
Even if you partner with us and aim to mimic the Youfoodz app success story, you have to first lay solid foundations for your custom mobile app.
It’s essential to identify and document your requirements before anything else. You may already know what the purpose of the application is. But at the same time, it’s important to dive a bit deeper and gain insights into the need for the application.
For instance, which ones of your customers’ challenges would you like the mobile app to resolve.
Do you want the mobile app to act as a delivery tracking app? Or do you want it to be a platform where your customers can directly view, order and track all the meal services?
Honestly, it depends on your needs and requirements. Therefore, it’s advisable to list the purpose of the application along with the list of desired features and functionalities.
While it may seem overwhelming the amount of details you need to go through, you shouldn’t let that stop you from reaching out to app developers for industry advice.
As an example, by partnering with certain app development companies like Appetiser – you’ll get expert consulting and help on the app ideation process all the way through to your go-to-market strategy.
Step 2 – Identify Your Application’s Audience
Steps 1 and 2 go side-by-side. While it’s important to identify your needs and wants, those will be based on who your target audience is.
Is it your customers? Or maybe your employees?
Identifying your target audience will help you dive a bit deeper into their pain points and problems. It’ll also help you understand how your audience will benefit from your mobile app.
Alongside identifying your target audience, it’s equally important to categorize them based on different factors. First, divide your target audience into customer personas. Then, list down their pain points and problems next to each persona.
Doing so will help you keep track of the different problems different people are facing. This will help you prepare a game plan for your mobile application and make important strategic decisions like:
- Whether you want to build a single application that serves multiple purposes.
- The different functionalities and features of the application.
Now combining Steps 1 & 2, it’s essential to build a business strategy to determine how the application would be feasible and beneficial from a business perspective. For example, try to understand whether you’re looking to generate income or want the application to improve one or multiple areas of your business processes.
A few questions you should ask yourself and your team:
- How will the target audience benefit?
- How will our business partners and employees benefit?
- Does the application make sense from a business perspective?
- Do we want the mobile app to help us generate income, or do we want it to streamline/smoothen one or multiple of our business processes?
Gather your needs, wants, and target audience research, and prepare goals and objectives based on that.
And with all the information in front of you, develop a business strategy that you can discuss with your in-house or app development team.
Step 4 – Appoint a Dedicated Team of Experts
Now, it’s time to appoint a dedicated team of experts to help you develop the application. If you already have full-time or part-time mobile app developers in your team who you rely on for your app development projects, then you may discuss your strategy with them.
However, suppose you don’t know who to reach out to and think that hiring a full-time application developer isn’t a feasible option (which, to make a good custom app, you’ll need more than just a developer).
In that case, it’s advisable to outsource your custom mobile application development to a reliable and top-tier mobile application development partner.
Depending on your team infrastructure and your budget, you can appoint a dedicated team of experts and discuss your requirements with them.
You should also consider that a big part of the product is the process of delivering. You’d want to find a team of product strategists who not only look at your needs and business strategy but also teach and challenge you on your app idea.
That’s what we do at Appetiser – we’re a company built by entrepreneurs and we won’t just give you what you want. We help you make it even better.
Don’t take our word for it, check out how our collaborative but honest partnerships launched app businesses to great heights.
Step 5 – Design a Prototype
Next comes the design part.
For custom app development, you should always start with a design and prototype. And that’s applicable in all scenarios – whether you’re an entrepreneur with an idea or an enterprise business.
In the design stage, you are going to get the polished look and feel of what your app will be without the programming elements. Think of it as a house that you have yet to build. You have your plans and designs all done – what’s pending is the construction part.
There are many reasons for this, but the main reasons include:
- It’s more cost-effective. You’ll be able to get designs that are a fraction of the cost of development.
- You’re empowered to take action. Never taking action is one of the biggest killers for entrepreneurs. So with a custom app design, you can take that first step without the heavy investment.
- It allows for a more accurate development estimate. How you think your app will look may be very different to what it would actually be. A visual scope of your design will ensure a more accurate investment estimate for development.
But most importantly, you get value-heavy tangible results. While this varies with how and who you choose to develop your app with – at Appetiser you can get world-class designs in just 6-8 weeks along with weeks of product consulting.
We’re ranked #4 for the best app design agency in the world for a reason, and our mobile app design process is divided into numerous sub-parts, which include:
- Initiate a Design Kick-Off Meeting
- Prepare Early Sketches
- Create Wireframes
- Create Initial Art Boards
- Create High Fidelity Screens
- Create a High-Fidelity Prototype
Upon the conclusion of the design phase, the next step is to proceed toward building a clear-cut roadmap for application development.
Step 6 – Prepare a Roadmap
In this step, you’d be building a roadmap to application development. From outlining the major features to calculating the costs of MVP design, building a roadmap will help you determine:
- Development Timeline
- Development Costs for MVP
At the same time, it’ll help you enable your application development team to align their vision around the application features.
Upon preparing a roadmap, share it with the decision-makers – who will review it and provide their approval on the budget, timeline, and costs for MVP.
Now, it’s time for the app development team to work their magic.
Allow them to proceed with the custom mobile application development part – any good development team should schedule at least a weekly internal meeting with your team to ensure that everyone’s on the right track.
Depending on the complexity of the application, some companies will take 12 months for development, others may be able to take 4.5 months. So, we’d advise you to allow your team to work their magic and let the MVP do the talking.
Mobile apps are not the future anymore – it’s already here
An average American checks their phone about 344 times per day. That’s once every four minutes.
Imagine leveling up customer experience and delivering genuinely great customer service with your custom mobile app. Or making it easier for your employees or staff members to manage and schedule internal processes.
At Appetiser, we build custom apps that help our clients achieve their goals and results. We believe that innovation and innovative people solve everyday problems. And that’s the reason we’re so passionate about helping businesses like yours grow.
And if you are looking forward to getting a custom mobile app developed for your business – let’s chat.
Jessica La is a Content and SEO Consultant at Appetiser with 6+ years in the industry. If she's not writing and optimizing content, you can find her with a cup of coffee delighting in literature or sci-fi books.
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