Custom-built or Ready-made Apps: Which Approach is for You?
If you’re weighing up your app development options, you may have noticed developers offering customisable, out-of-the-box apps targeted to businesses in specific industries.
How do these customisable apps stack up against an app built from the ground-up for your specific business?
Customisable apps: a simple solution?
If you’re looking to build your first app, an out-of-the-box option that you can customise with your branding, and perhaps some functionality too, can seem like a good option.
A customisable, ready-made app will likely set you back less than an app developed for you from scratch. The developer will already have created a suite of functionality to suit businesses in your field, so there shouldn’t be any scoping or development costs.
You might pay for some degree of customisation, but the up-front charges to get your branded app to market will probably compare well with those of building an entirely new, unique app.
Get up and running fast
The customisable app is already built, so you probably won’t have to wait long to launch your branded version of it.
Even if you decide to bolt on some extra functionality from the developer’s set offering, those additions will probably happen pretty quickly.
You’ll know what you’re getting
The developer of a customised app may well already have a string of clients to show you.
You may be able to see how the app looks when it takes on different branding, and experience how the app itself performs for other businesses like yours. Customer testimonials might even give you an idea of the kind of return you can expect from your investment in the solution.
For some businesses, this peace of mind is helpful. However, customisable apps do have their drawbacks.
Licensing and other ongoing fees
While you probably won’t face a huge build cost to launch your customised version of an out-of-the-box app, you may be up for ongoing licensing and other fees.
This could have a big impact on your ROI over time, depending on how well the app performs for your business and with your particular customer base.
By their nature, customisable apps tend to meet generic needs, rather than issues that are specific to your customers or clients, and your business. Even the customisations themselves, which the developers offer to help better align the basic app with your business’s needs, can be very basic.
At the same time, these cookie-cutter apps are usually targeted towards specific sectors: you’ll be buying a version of the same app as your competitors and peers. And that, of course, makes it hard for you to gain a competitive advantage from your investment in mobile technology.
Purpose-built apps: worth the investment?
So what about purpose-built, bespoke apps? At first glance, these can seem to have a number of drawbacks.
They cost more to build
A purpose-built app will usually cost more up-front to build than a customisable, ready-made app. The business needs to pay for requirements gathering, scoping, design, development, testing and so on—all off its own bat.
Where a customisable app will eventually share those costs between licensed customers, when you’re developing from scratch, you’ll need to wear those costs yourself.
On the other hand, you usually won’t pay ongoing licensing fees for a custom-built app. Once the work is done, it’s done.
They can take more time to plan and develop
A developer of a ready-made app will commonly be able to deploy your version of the technology soon—within weeks, perhaps.
But developing an app to meet your business’s specific needs, and those of your particular customers or prospects, will almost always take time.
For example, before we could build the award-winning VicRoads apps, we needed to understand how the organisation collected and stored the data that was to be used in the apps—and how we could harness it reliably, in real time, to greatest effect for users.
Risk associated with choosing the right developer
If 100 other businesses in your industry have already licensed a ready-made app solution from a specific developer, you might feel pretty comfortable about doing the same thing.
On the other hand, finding a development partner who’s got proven skills and know-how—and can guide you through the process of creating an app that has the potential to deliver a real competitive advantage—entails risk. Since the cost of a tailor-made app will likely be higher, too, that risk can seem to escalate.
Due diligence is, of course, key to finding the right development partner. And if you do it well, you’ll enjoy advantages you’d never have gained with a cookie-cutter app solution.
A unique client- and business-centric app
Your custom-developed app will be one-of-a-kind. Not only will it be tailored to address your business requirements, it’s also developed to suit the particular users you have in mind—be they your staff, your customers or your prospects.
Bespoke solutions are also much more likely to gain solid traction than out-of-the-box apps. Australia Post, for example, has more than doubled mobile visits to its site since it launched a custom-built mobile presence.
Take advantage of your existing data and processes through integration
To get the greatest value out of the investments you’ve already made in data assets and business processes, a custom-built app is essential.
Both the VicRoads and Australia Post projects hooked the business’ existing infrastructure and data into their mobile presences to create far richer experiences for a lower cost than would have been possible without that integration.
Developing a real, lasting competitive advantage
By tapping into your business’s existing systems and data, a custom-built app can also help you develop a deep, lasting competitive advantage.
How? By letting you deliver a uniquely useful mobile experience that no one else can match, or by creating internal process efficiencies that give you a new insights into your business.
The bottom line
Customisable out-of-the-box app solutions have their advantages, but they also have significant limitations, particularly in large-scale and enterprise applications.
While it may take longer to find a dependable, proven development partner and create a bespoke app, the rewards are likely to last longer—and have bigger positive implications—for your business.