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Custom Mobile App Development: An Ultimate Guide for Businesses in 2024

Updated on
March 21, 2024
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Every business is a software business these days. It is hard to find a company that would not have an app or a web app. In pursuit of fast solutions, companies tend to build their apps with the help of ready-to-go platforms. Unfortunately, many such companies are left disappointed, as off-the-shelf platforms do not entirely match the needs of their businesses. There is an effective solution to such problems – custom app development.

Customizing mobile apps can be a powerful instrument for supporting your employees, processes, and business as a whole. However, many companies find it challenging to build a customized app that would specifically meet their needs.

In this article, I will explain:

  • what custom mobile app development is;  
  • when you need to develop a bespoke mobile app;
  • how to build a custom mobile app;
  • and how it helps to meet business needs.

So let’s dive in!

software development

What Are Custom Apps?

Custom apps, also known as bespoke or tailor-made apps, are software systems created to address a particular audience's needs rather than the whole group of people. Fully or partially customized, such apps provide the functionality and features that simple off-the-shelf solutions cannot.

For example, for Cardless, a fintech company, we created a custom app designed specifically to their needs, completing the initial build in just three months. This bespoke app supports Cardless's goal of delivering a unique credit card experience for brand enthusiasts.

custom mobile app development

We worked on this project as a custom app development company: One of our main tasks was to make sure the app worked well on different platforms, redo its architecture for better performance, and refine the code to make it more efficient and easier to update. We got all of this done just right and on schedule.

Are these things beneficial for a business? Yes. Are they available within standard solutions? Not really. So let’s talk about custom app development in more detail.

What is Custom Mobile App Development?

Custom app development – and the name here talks for itself pretty much – is the process of building apps from scratch with a certain set of functionalities for the specific needs of a particular business or team.

Almost all apps you see on the market are custom-based. However, many of them have off-the-shelf features that have been integrated from third parties. Usually, such integrations are made for chats, administrative boards, CRMs, and other functions.

While going for the ready-to-go option is entirely ok, sometimes you need something unique.

The same works for your business. Some off-the-shelf solutions can only cover the core needs of your business, leaving behind some goals that, though not basic, are still crucial for your success.

Benefits of Custom App Development for Businesses

Before we jump into explaining the process of custom app development, it’s important to discuss the pros of such a decision. Here are the benefits that custom development has compared to ready-made solutions:

custom mobile app development benefits

Enhanced security measures

Ready-made business apps sometimes lack specialized security features, which can pose a threat to your data safety. Building a customized app lets you implement specific security measures specifically for your business and eliminate possible threats and dangers via data encryption. Also, a customized approach meets the requirements of various OS and APIs.

High scalability and flexibility

Another issue with off-the-shelf apps is that they are usually built to process a limited number of resources. It is not necessarily bad, but at the point when your business grows, generalized apps can fail to handle bigger loads of data.

Unlike off-the-shelf apps, this problem is easily solvable in custom app development. This is because custom-made apps are usually built with such scalability and flexibility parameters in mind. So as your business grows, custom apps will scale up with it more easily and be ready to process more data without any performance speed trade-offs.

Simpler maintenance

By using a ready-made app, you fall into dependency on an unknown mobile app development team. If they decide to suspend development, you will be left without continuous development. By building a customized app, you get full control over the development and maintenance process and don't have to depend on others for anything.

Competitive edge in the market

For any business, especially for startups, competitive benefits have paramount importance. In this case, off-the-shelf solutions can hardly extend their capabilities to include additional functions. Custom applications can help you highlight the competitive advantages of your business and differentiate your product on the market.

Improved efficiency and productivity

In terms of custom mobile application development, you get software that supports your business's unique processes. This results in a more efficient workflow in which all your specific needs are taken into account. Also, you can automate mundane tasks and optimize operational procedures to reduce a lot of time and effort.

This bespoke optimization leads to higher productivity levels: Employees can focus on strategic tasks rather than getting bogged down by inefficiencies in generic software solutions.

Better integration with existing systems

One of the standout benefits you get with custom app development is the ability to integrate smoothly with a business's existing infrastructure. Custom apps can be upfront designed to work with all your current systems, which contributes to data consistency and accessibility. Integration prevents data silos and operational hiccups and creates a cohesive technology ecosystem that supports all business operations and decision-making processes.

Personalized user experience

Since your target audience may have unique preferences, behaviors, and needs, the app’s UX design should be a perfect fit for them. Custom apps provide this level of personalization that not only enhances user satisfaction but also significantly increases engagement and retention rates. You can analyze user feedback and behavior and further improve the look and feel of your custom app to meet user demands better.

Types of Custom Apps

There are three main types of custom apps depending on the platform they are intended for and the specific goals of the apps. These are custom mobile apps natively developed for iOS and Android, custom web apps, and custom hybrid apps.

Let’s have a look at each type closer.

Custom native mobile apps

Native applications are developed specifically for one platform, like Android or iOS, using platform-specific programming languages and tools, e.g., Kotlin for Android and Swift for iOS. Custom native mobile apps can fully access and utilize the device's hardware and software capabilities. As such, they offer the highest performance and best user experience.

When this type of development is the best choice?

Custom mobile software development in the native format is ideal for applications that require intensive graphics, complex animations, or high responsiveness. Think of gaming or photo-editing apps, for example. However, developing native apps can be more time-consuming and costly, as separate versions must be created for each platform. Further in the text, we will be focusing on this type – custom mobile app development.

Examples: WhatsApp, Spotify, Waze

Custom web apps

Web applications are basically websites that are designed to look and feel like native apps but run through a web browser on the user's device. They are developed using standard web technologies (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, React, or Angular) and are accessible on any device with a web browser, ensuring broad compatibility.

When this type of development is the best choice?

While web apps cannot leverage all the hardware capabilities of a device and may not offer the same level of performance as native apps, they are easier and quicker to develop and update, which makes them a good option for businesses that want to deploy an app quickly and cost-effectively. Besides, you may already have a mobile version of the software and want to enhance its capabilities to the web.

Examples: Google Docs, Netflix, Trello

Custom hybrid apps

Hybrid apps, as the name suggests, combine elements of both native mobile and web applications. They are built using web technologies (like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript) and then wrapped in a native container. This allows the app to be installed on a mobile device just like a native app, but at its core, it's essentially a web app.

Hybrid apps can access some of the device's native features through the native container or framework they're wrapped in, such as Apache Cordova (formerly PhoneGap) or Ionic. This way, they can perform more like native apps on the mobile device, while still being developed like web apps.

When this type of development is the best choice?

Custom hybrid apps are particularly appealing for projects that need to reach a wider audience across different platforms without the higher cost and longer development time associated with building separate native apps for each platform.

Examples: Instagram, Twitter (now X), Gmail

IT outsourcing

Step-by-Step Process for Developing Custom Mobile Apps

When it comes to custom app development, the process is pretty much the same as with other software development strategies with just a few touches along the way. We do understand that you are more likely to hire developers for this task either by building an in-house team, outsourcing custom software development, or ordering a turnkey software solution to ensure a comprehensive, ready-to-use product.

Further in this section, we'll be sharing a lot of custom app development information and specific recommendations. Remember, our aim is to give you a clear picture and provide a process guide. Why? Because we believe that it will be helpful for you to grasp how things work, especially if you're gearing up to manage the project on your own.

Should you decide to go with outsourcing, rest assured that the tech heavy-lifting will be done for you by a software development team or freelancers, leaving you with the role of a manager and decision-maker.

So, here’s a 6-step process of building a custom app from scratch.

You will need to:

  1. Do research and planning
  2. Design the custom app
  3. Develop your custom app
  4. Test for quality assurance
  5. Deploy and launch
  6. Refine and maintain the app
custom mobile app development

Step 1. Do research and planning

Okay, you have an app idea and want to start moving in the direction of its realization. The best beginning is a discovery phase that will help you understand the market needs and your app's potential place within it. At this point, you

  • analyze your top competitors to identify gaps your app could fill and opportunities for innovation.
  • engage in brainstorming and idea validation.
  • test your app concept with potential users through surveys or focus groups to ensure it addresses all the needs in a new, unique way.

Business strategy creation

This first stage is the time for you to decide on your business strategy and how the app will generate revenue (we’ll cover different types of monetization approaches further in the text).

Target audience research

Also, the success of your app heavily relies on how well you know your target audience. Decide who your app is for, including factors like age, location, and interests, to name a few. You can also create user personas to help visualize your target audience and inform your design and development strategy. We have great tips on creating user personas in our guide explaining the product design process.

Tech stack selection

As we said before, the app’s type selection influences the technology stack needed for custom app development. For example, if you go with native apps, you will deal with specific technologies and programming languages associated with each platform (e.g., Swift for iOS, Kotlin for Android).

Documentation

Also, document all the functional and non-functional requirements of your app. This includes choosing the right backend technology, database structure, and any third-party integrations needed for analytics, payment processing, etc.

IT support

Finally, if you don’t have an in-house team and building one isn’t an option, you must find a reliable software development partner. This is the case when you can go with the outsourced custom mobile app development services.

To make things simpler for you, we have a general IT outsourcing guide and one specifically explaining how to outsource your mobile app development.

Step 2. Design the custom app

Once you've mapped out your custom mobile app development strategy, it's time to shape the look and feel of your app with a fitting UI/UX design.

You can start with low-fidelity wireframes to show off basic layouts and user flows. Then progress to detailed mockups that incorporate your app's visual design elements. As for the tools, Figma can be a good option for collaborative design and prototyping, allowing for interactive user testing.

Speaking of the latter, you can utilize prototypes to conduct user testing sessions and collect usability and design appeal feedback. Platforms like InVision or Marvel can provide valuable insights on what design parts to define before development begins.

If you decide to go the route of turnkey outsourcing, the team developing your custom app will take care of all the design stages for you. Your main responsibilities will be to outline your vision and approve the drafts and the final design.

Additionally, it's possible to outsource only the design phase of your app if that better suits your needs. For further information on app design and associated costs, read our blog post explaining all the things related.

Step 3. Develop your custom app

Now it’s time for the heart and soul of the whole process – turning those designs into a functional mobile application. At these early stages of custom mobile app development, it's always better to focus on building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) first. This MVP will have your app's core functionalities and allow you to test your product's value proposition with real users early on.

Feel free to download and use our MVP development guide and checklist for more information.

It's also beneficial to adopt an agile development framework to organize development work into sprints that focus on delivering incremental value. Regular stand-ups and sprint reviews encourage adaptability and ensure alignment with project goals. Apart from the agile framework, there are a bunch of other useful software development methodologies to get acquainted with and choose the one that fits best.

As for the development timelines, a lot of things depend on what developers you decide to cooperate with, their level of expertise, and the complexity of the custom application you need. Usually, the time frame for developing a custom mobile app can span from 3-4 months up to a year or even longer. If you want to get more information on what factors impact the development process and in which ways, we have a dedicated article on how long it takes to make an app.

Step 4. Test for quality assurance

Now – testing. You can think of this stage of custom mobile application development as your app’s wedding rehearsal. Just like you would throw a rehearsal party before a wedding, you test your software to see the performance before you actually roll it out. For this, your team can implement automated testing early in the development cycle to detect if there are any bugs and fix them. Tech-wise, this can be tools like Appium to automate testing for mobile apps.

With a beta release, it’s important to collect valuable user feedback to help you fine-tune the app before the full launch. Platforms like TestFlight for iOS and Google Play beta feature for Android can serve well for distributing your beta app to a controlled group of users.

Also, it's a good practice to conduct thorough security testing to identify vulnerabilities. Ensure your app complies with relevant data protection regulations and industry best practices. As with any other part of the custom app development process, you can outsource software testing to a team that knows how to do it right.

Step 5. Deploy and launch

Here comes the most exciting part of the whole custom mobile software development process – its deployment and launch. But before you hit the spotlight, there's a checklist to run through.

Among other things, it’s important to:

  • verify all app functionalities,
  • conduct compliance checks for any regulatory requirements,
  • perform a final security audit to safeguard user data,
  • document all APIs,
  • confirm that the app's backend infrastructure is scalable to handle user growth.

When you're ready to launch, you'll need to submit your app to the relevant app stores.

Both platforms will take their time to review your app to ensure it meets their standards before making it available in their stores.

Step 6. Refine and maintain the app

The curtain call doesn't mark the end. Such techniques as feedback loops and continuous deployment will become the pillars of your custom app from now on.

What does it mean?

At this point, you and your team establish mechanisms for collecting user feedback within the app and closely monitor app store reviews and ratings. By using analytics tools, you will be able to track user behavior and engagement metrics and pinpoint areas for further improvement.

You will also have to set up Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) pipelines to automate the build, test, and deployment processes. Tools like Jenkins or GitHub Actions can be useful here to simplify regular updates, ensuring your app remains relevant and functional over time.

Monetization Strategies for Custom Apps

It goes without saying that a custom mobile app can be a significant revenue driver for your business.

custom mobile app development

There are several monetization approaches for you to consider:

  • In-app advertising: This is when you display ads within your app and earn revenue from advertisers based on user clicks, views, or impressions.
  • Subscription models: Users pay a recurring fee, usually monthly or yearly, to access your app or its premium features.
  • In-app purchases: Users can buy virtual goods, additional content, or enhanced functionalities directly within the app.
  • Paid app downloads: Users pay a one-time fee to download your app to get full access to its content and features.
  • Sponsorship and partnerships: Your app earns revenue by partnering with brands and businesses, offering them a platform for targeted exposure to your user base.
More on this, read our blog post detailing how free apps make money.

Challenges in Custom App Development

Custom mobile app development is a complex process with a certain number of challenges you must be aware of. Here are the most common ones.

Tech talent shortage

Whether you are planning to build an app in-house or opt for outsourced custom mobile app development services, the challenge of finding the right developers is present these days. Let’s talk about the first option and why it’s complicated.

A 2023 survey by Infragistics revealed that over 37.5% of participants faced challenges in hiring suitable talent for their software initiatives. And the talent shortage is a global issue. Finding tech experts who would be able to build a custom app from scratch is a long process. You need to search for the fitting candidates, interview them, and then give them a few months for onboarding. You invest a lot of time, effort, and money. And there’s no guarantee that this specialist will be a good hire.

Things are better with outsourcing custom app development to a third-party company as, in this way, you can see right away if the company has relevant expertise. Besides, you sign a contract that safeguards you against potential risks and failures. The outsourcing company is responsible for providing the right talent and ensuring the project's success, which significantly reduces your burden.

We have a detailed guide on IT outsourcing. Check it out and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us by filling in our contact form.

Development costs management

Calculating how much it will cost to build a custom mobile application is probably the most challenging thing. Why? Because there are multiple factors that impact the development costs, and most of them are hard or even impossible to predict.

For example, you might need to add a few features further in the development cycle. Or, there might a bug occur during testing, which will postpone the development process for a few days or even weeks.

Additionally, labor costs can vary significantly depending on your development team's geographic location and expertise level (read our blog post about the best countries to outsource your development). High-demand areas or specialized skill sets can drive up costs. The use of specialized technologies or the need for third-party services, such as cloud hosting or advanced security measures, can also add unforeseen expenses to your project.

Furthermore, you should take into account the ongoing costs associated with maintaining and updating your app post-launch, as these can impact the total cost of ownership and should be there in your initial budget planning.

To give you a clearer picture of potential custom mobile app development costs, below is an approximate pricing guide for different types of mobile applications:

App type based on the industry Average price range
Real estate app $25K to $45K
Healthcare app $35K to $100K
Marketplace app $40K to $90K
Fitness app $30K to $70K
Social media app $35K to $75K
Fintech app $50K to $300K
E-commerce app $80K to $150K
On-demand delivery app $53,400 to $930K

These figures are approximate estimates based on a variety of factors, including the complexity of the custom mobile app, the geographic location of the development team, and specific feature sets. A more comprehensive breakdown of how much it costs to build a mobile app will be explored in a dedicated article.

Technical complexity

Custom app development often faces the hurdle of technical complexity. You don’t want a trade-off between the features you want to see in your app and ensuring scalability to handle more users or data. Of course, this adds to the complexity.

Сustom mobile app developers must keep their finger on the pulse of new technologies, security measures, and compliance requirements. The emergence of new technologies complicates the development process.

Timely delivery

Another common challenge in terms of developing custom software is its timely delivery. As we said, software development is super unpredictable, with scope changes, technical issues, and unforeseen bugs often leading to delays.

One possible solution to help you mitigate these risks is the incorporation of effective project management and agile development practices. Clear communication between all stakeholders, including developers, project managers, and clients, will do good and keep the project on track.

Emerging Technologies in Custom App Development

Apart from the technologies mentioned above and those everyone is used to, there are tech innovations that have a decent share of impact on custom mobile application development. In this section, we’ll talk about the key technologies of such kind.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning

While not emerging technologies in general, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are paving their way to custom apps. Powered with AI and ML, mobile apps have the ability to analyze data, learn from user behaviors, and act autonomously based on that.

In app development, AI can

  • drive personalized content recommendations, e.g., Netflix suggesting shows similar to what you've watched;
  • enhance search functionalities, e.g., Google Photos, which can organize images using object and image recognition; and
  • automate customer service through ChatGPT-like chatbots, e.g., a banking app providing instant responses to common queries about account balances or transaction histories.

ML algorithms adapt over time and improve user experience based on interaction patterns, making apps more intuitive and efficient.

Blockchain technology

Blockchain technology isn't just another buzzword in the tech sector. It makes security and transparency in custom mobile applications better, particularly for those dealing with sensitive transactions and data management. So if you build your custom app in industries like finance and supply chain management, blockchain should be on your consideration list.

By creating an immutable ledger of transactions that is distributed across a network, blockchain gets rid of single points of failure and makes data breaches much harder. In simpler terms, it acts as a secure and transparent digital record-keeping system for your mobile app.

Internet of Things (IoT)

In many cases, mobile applications need to exchange data with external wearables and sensors, e.g., think of a fitness app that collects data from a smartwatch. The technology that connects mobile apps with various sensors and smart devices is called the Internet of Things (IoT): It extends the app's functionality to control and monitor these devices.

IoT is inevitable in home automation apps, healthcare monitoring software, and industrial applications, where real-time data from sensors can trigger alerts, automate tasks, or provide valuable insights. This technology enables mobile apps to serve as centralized hubs for managing a wide array of connected devices, bringing convenience and efficiency to a whole new level.

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)

Both AR and VR have already gone beyond the scope of gaming apps. These technologies offer immersive experiences that can significantly enhance user engagement in various custom applications.

Augmented reality

AR overlays digital information onto the real world through the device's camera, which is useful in retail apps for virtual product try-ons or in educational apps for interactive learning experiences. For example, if your app sells makeup, you won’t do without the AR tech as most customers are used to trying on foundation or lipstick shades digitally before buying a product.

Virtual reality

VR creates a completely virtual environment and offers deep immersion, which is beneficial in virtual tours or training simulations. For example, if you are in a short-rental business, offering virtual tours within your properties can greatly enhance customer experience and save you time on showing it all yourself.

outsourcing

How Uptech Can Help You Build Custom Apps

At Uptech, we have a background in building custom-based apps, like Aspiration, Dollar Shave Club, Sprent, and Nomad. We base all our development activities on user needs and feedback during user interviews and tests. Product mindset is one of our values. That is why product discovery is an essential part of our development activities.

Before plunging into custom app development, we always:

  • Interview our client to understand the initial request;
  • Do a Discovery stage to validate the idea/request/product hypotheses;
  • Do a profound users research to understand real user needs;
  • Conduct tech research and define the best tech solution possible.

Let’s take a closer look at custom apps that we have built for clients operating in different industries.

Financial apps

Aspiration is a financial institution that prioritizes ethical principles, offering services with $0 monthly and ATM fees and committing to donate a portion of its profits to charity.

custom mobile app development

From the very beginning of our collaboration, we have supported Aspiration in developing secure, fast, and reliable iOS & Android apps, achieving a remarkable 99% crash-free rate. Our work showcases our dedication to creating robust financial solutions that align with Aspiration's mission of fostering trust and giving back to the community.

Retail app

For Dollar Shave Club, known for its viral marketing and comprehensive grooming products, we took over and enhanced their Android shopping application.

custom mobile app development

Within our collaboration, we created a custom product that delivers a flawless user experience, encouraging engagement beyond subscription. We built features like Original Content, Gift Cards, and a Handsome Discount. Our efforts were recognized with a 4.8 rating on Google Play, and the app won the Best Shopping App 2017 Webby Award.

Real-estate app

Nomad presented us with the challenge of untangling the complex UAE real estate market through a personalized house-hunting platform.

custom mobile app development

Our solution was a web app that simplifies the buying and renting process, offering features like detailed listings search, an interactive map experience, and a dashboard for organizing potential homes. This platform has become a cornerstone for users navigating the Dubai real estate market, making the process enjoyable and efficient.

Healthcare app

One of the projects we are really proud of is a mental health app that marries emotional support with an educational platform. Addressing the client's vision of empowering happiness, health, and success, we crafted a custom mobile application that offers quick, affordable, and effective mental and psychological support through 5-minute in-app calls.

custom mobile app development

Our comprehensive user and market research led to a strong value proposition, setting this app apart in the competitive healthcare landscape. Key features include in-app user calls, chat functionality, an integrated calendar for scheduling, and a rich learning platform, all underpinned by a scalable architecture to accommodate growth and expansion into corporate wellness tools.

All in all, custom app development can be an intensive boost for your business if it is built with your business needs in mind. Custom-developed apps help businesses thrive by providing enhanced security, ease of maintenance, and high scalability.

Contact us to discuss if custom app development is the right choice for your project.

FAQs

What are the key benefits of custom mobile apps over generic solutions?

Custom mobile apps commonly offer tailored solutions that precisely meet specific business needs and customer expectations. In this way, they provide businesses with a competitive edge as there are unique features and enhanced user experiences not found in off-the-shelf solutions.

How long does it take to develop a custom mobile app?

The development time for a custom mobile app ranges from 3-4 months to 1 year and more. The timeline depends on the app's complexity, features, and the development process's efficiency, among other factors.

What is the average cost of developing a custom mobile app?

The average cost of developing a custom mobile app typically falls between $50,000 and $200,000. This range accounts for various factors such as app complexity, design requirements, and the development team's location and expertise.

How to ensure the security of a custom mobile app?

To ensure the security of a custom mobile app, you must implement robust data encryption, conduct regular security audits, adhere to best practices in data protection, and stay updated with the latest security protocols and technologies.