Five myths of building and creating a custom app

Off-the-shelf or custom made? Here's what you need to know when considering an app for your business

Off-the-shelf or custom made? Here’s what you need to know when considering an app for your business

In today’s marketplace, businesses are becoming more dependent on technology to power its operations. With so many companies offering the latest in solutions which promise to improve efficiencies, streamline and automate processes and ultimately drive revenue for businesses, selecting the right solution for particular business needs can be very daunting if businesses are uninformed with the right information.

This issue has left many start-ups and small businesses heading straight to ready built, off-the-shelf apps to work from. While these apps may get the job done, they are typically more general in their features and application to appeal to a larger customer base.

This often means there are many features included which businesses will never use, but still end up paying for, as well as some features which are simply missing. Custom apps on the other hand, are built to the exact specifications of businesses, and as the business grows and changes, organisations can update the app to fit the developing needs and processes of the company.

So what is stopping businesses from creating their own custom apps? Below are some of the most common misconceptions about custom app development and why businesses should dismiss them.

Off-the-shelf apps which can help run a business

Overall, off-the-shelf apps are available for any business and any business process. However the downfall is, they generally provide standardised processes which more likely than not, competitors and the wider marketplace will also be using.

Off-the-shelf apps are also not as flexible and adaptable to business changes and growth. Businesses will be most successful when products and services can be differentiated. Having a custom app means companies can customise their processes, which adds a competitive advantage.

Small businesses can’t afford to develop custom apps

Creating a custom app can be surprisingly affordable. From the outset it may seem to be more cost effective to buy an existing app, but businesses need to be aware of packaged software as it often comes with a raft of hidden costs and unused features.

The hardware required to deploy an app, paying for features not being used or additional features not included as part of the app, and the deployment costs of testing, training and maintenance, are examples of hidden costs which businesses may be unaware of with off-the-shelf apps. Ironically, the cost of customisations needed for off-the-shelf products to fit businesses can be more expensive than a custom app.

As well as this, while developing custom apps, businesses have the flexibility to start small with exact specifications which fit existing processes, a definite budget and specified timeframe.

Businesses also have greater control over costs by breaking the integration into phases which suit budgets. In addition, businesses can update and install new features when it suits the company, not the software provider.

Creating a custom app is time-consuming

In many cases, buying and trying to customise off-the-shelf software can be slower and more expensive than building a custom app from scratch. If businesses are changing operational processes to fit the app, this can result in significant time to re-engineer processes and to retrain users in both the new processes and the app.

Starting small with custom app development means it can be delivered faster and businesses can realise the return on investment (ROI) earlier. The advantage is that businesses are only waiting for and paying for development of the features it really needs.

You need to know a programming language to build a custom app

Gone are the days where businesses need to know technical programming or coding skills to develop an app. It is surprising to see the number of platforms that allow businesses to use existing templates, making it very easy for anyone with simple spreadsheet skills to manage. It’s often as simple as dragging and dropping different modules and data into predefined regions to start creating an app.

You need technical knowledge of databases and user interface design

Progressing from the previous point, new software platforms have opened up the ability for anyone to create custom apps. Templates provide businesses with a range of user interfaces to choose from, to create an app which looks just as professional as an off-the-shelf product.

Custom app development is now an affordable choice for start-ups and small businesses, which not only ensures businesses have an app which fits the businesses unique needs, but also gives organisations a competitive edge.

The availability of platforms which allow anyone to get started creating their own app without any coding or programming skills means it’s easier and more cost effective than ever to build a custom app centred on the business. Having the right software and the right provider for creating a custom app is the very start for businesses. Organisations such as FileMaker provide all the tools needed to connect the custom apps together seamlessly, creating a united platform for businesses to work on.

David Head is a consulting engineer for APAC at FileMaker.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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