When you hear the term
custom software, what first comes to mind?
I’m willing to bet that word would be
expensive. You might even think— complex.
But the truth is that custom software is built and developed like commercial software you can buy and download.
The only difference is that custom software is tailor-fit to a client’s specific requirements.
In this article, we’ll explore custom software development and demystify its development process.
Doing product discovery
You already have your idea for your custom software, and you’re pumped to bring it to life. Is it time to start with development?
You might think your software is the best thing since sliced bread, but do your
end users think so, too?
That’s why it’s prudent to validate the idea first through product discovery.
This is the process of verifying whether your solution is a good fit with your market—that is, it satisfies their needs, goals, and pain points.
If not, you can try to refine your idea further for better alignment or abandon it altogether.
Product discovery is one of the most critical processes in software development. That’s why we are especially thorough with our product discovery service whenever we begin any project.
DECODE co-founder Mario Zderic
highlights the importance of this phase:
We create value through a detailed process of discovery, definition and iteration to create the best possible foundation critical for the success of the software product.
Apart from validating your idea, one big benefit of product discovery is that it allows you to
understand your users so you can communicate with them better.
Through interviews, questionnaires, and other market research methods, you can gather demographic and psychographic data from your users.
This gives you great insight into implementing your app, especially in terms of UX.
For instance, if you find out that your ideal market dislikes bold designs, you can utilize a more minimalistic UI to fit their preferences.
Product discovery also helps make the development process more efficient.
If you know the exact features your users need, you can focus your energies on implementing those first.
That means you can shorten your development time and lower costs while still delivering a more polished product.
And speaking of costs, product discovery can help you
avoid costly mistakes.
You can refine or abandon an idea if it doesn’t work, letting you save countless dollars, hours, and effort creating the wrong app.
The bottom line is that product discovery helps set a strong foundation that gives a better chance at success.
Designing the custom solution
A winning software idea alone won’t make a successful app. You need to package it in a way that’s easy and enjoyable to use.
In other words, you need to consider the design of your custom software to achieve a good user experience (UX).
UX is one of the best investments you can ever make in
software development, capable of giving you a 9.900% ROI. In other words, you can profit $100 for every $1 you put into UX.
There are plenty of statistics to support this.
Here’s an example:
But while designing the user interface (UI) is a major task, it goes beyond just the visual elements.
Good UX involves every aspect of interaction, including the navigation, layout, and even how often app notifications pop up.
This is where understanding your users well plays a critical role.
For instance, notice that different people hold their phones in various ways. This directly impacts the parts of the UI they can comfortably reach and, therefore, influences the app layout.
One of the best software design tools you have is the wireframe.
A wireframe is nothing more than a rough sketch of your software.
But instead of a fully fleshed-out design, it uses simple shapes like squares and circles to represent UI elements.
Color is never used unless it plays an important role in the design beyond aesthetics.
The best thing about a wireframe is that you can put it together rather quickly. You don’t need fancy tools—a pen and paper is enough.
This allows you to present your designs to others, get their feedback, and incorporate that into your next iteration. Thus, you can refine and optimize your design rapidly.
But it’s not just the visual part of your software that needs designing. The same goes for its internal components are organized—also known as the software architecture.
The right architecture is critical because it can make the app more stable and easier to develop.
It also leads to
modularity, allowing your development team to work and fix components simultaneously.
During this stage, it’s critical to pick the right architecture that fits your software’s requirements. To learn more on how to do this,
you can read our article here.
Proceeding with development
Once you have finalized your app idea and design, it’s time to turn it into a reality.
This is the most critical development phase because this is where the actual software will be built.
And it’s important that the developers can translate the original idea into code as accurately as possible.
To help achieve this, software developers rely on a
software requirements specification (SRS).
This document serves as your software’s blueprint, outlining all its features, objectives, constraints, and other requirements.
It ensures that every developer works on a single vision, which is especially vital if you have in-house and outsourced teams.
The SRS will also help managers and team leads assign tasks more effectively.
For instance, they can delegate mission-critical features to senior developers with ample experience to implement them properly.
Most modern software is developed in two parts—the front end and the back end.
front end, or client side, is the part of the software that the user sees. This includes the UI and navigation elements.
Depending on the software, most algorithms and core features are moved to the back end. In this case, the front end only includes basic code to call these features on the back end.
Most front ends are just shells with zero functionality on their own.
back end, or server side, is where most of the magic happens. It’s responsible for processing data that are retrieved from a database, user input, or an outside source.
APIs (application programming interfaces) bridge these together by facilitating communication between them.
The thing is that front and back-end development requires slightly different skills and expertise.
For instance, the programming language used in a front-end iOS app is either Swift or Objective-C.
In contrast, the back end involves many languages, including Java, C++, Python, and SQL.
Thus, hiring a
team (like DECODE) with a balanced skill set covering both front and back-end development is critical.
Performing quality assurance
No software is 100% bug-free right out of the gate. Even giants like
Microsoft and Google have buggy releases from time to time.
To avoid this, you must be thorough with testing and quality assurance. This increases the chance that your software performs as expected and has as few bugs as possible.
The thing is, there are so many aspects of your software that no single test can cover all of them reliably. Thus, you’ll need to rely on a battery of tests throughout development.
The most basic is
unit testing, which verifies the individual components of your software. This is often done by the developers themselves as they’re writing code.
The idea is that every component should be stable and reliable before combining it with others.
The next is
integration testing, which checks whether two or more interconnected components work properly.
This is critical because it’s hard to predict their behavior once joined, no matter how well they work individually.
The third critical test is
performance testing, which measures your software against several metrics such as loading speed, latency, reliability, max load capacity, and responsiveness.
This type of testing is important because it allows you to see if the software can put up with real-world conditions.
One final vital test is
usability testing, which analyzes your software’s UX from the perspective of your end users. With this, you’ll learn whether the software is intuitive and easy to use.
Nielsen Norman Group
Of course, these are just the fundamental tests. There are also other methods like smoke testing, regression testing, and scalability testing that are useful in specific conditions.
click here to learn more.
Deploying the custom software
Now that the software is ready and as bug-free as possible, it’s time to deploy it to end users.
In most cases, deployment requires added tasks to make it as smooth as possible. Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as copying files to the client’s server as most people think.
You often need a
software deployment procedure outlining the steps required to hand off the software to the client. Situations differ, which is why procedures also do.
For example, you might need to prepare configuration files on the client’s server so the software will work as intended. Or perform database migration on the client’s existing data.
Sometimes, you might even need to train the client’s IT team on how to manage the software.
If you’re developing a mobile app, you’ll be responsible for publishing it on the respective app store. And note that each platform has different procedures and requirements.
For instance, here are the steps for publishing an iOS app.
But it doesn’t stop at step 5. Apple might reject your app because it found errors or violations of its App Store guidelines.
You’ll need to revise and re-test your app to fix these errors and resubmit again for review.
The point is that software deployment is an intricate process that requires careful planning and execution.
Continuing with maintenance
The development team’s work doesn’t end once the software is deployed. Maintenance is just as critical for ensuring your software’s success.
Changes happen rapidly in the market. For example, a competitor might develop an innovative app feature, forcing you to adapt.
Also, bugs might have slipped through your QA process and made their way to your final software release.
Maintenance involves constantly reviewing app metrics, user feedback, and market changes. The team then releases patches or new versions to tackle them.
Maintenance can be classified into four types—
corrective, preventive, adaptive, and perfective.
Here’s how to determine which of these to use in each situation.
Corrective maintenance is fixing software features that users complain aren’t working at all. These are major bugs that need your immediate attention.
Preventive maintenance is when your team discovers a problem that your users haven’t yet. Thus, you proactively fix them and release a patch before end users experience them.
Adaptive maintenance introduces changes not originally planned when the software was developed.
For instance, market changes might force you to integrate your app with another system. Revising your software to make that happen is adaptive maintenance.
perfective maintenance. This is where you fix your software to improve its performance, not its functionality.
Reducing load times by 50% is an example of this type of maintenance.
Need help implementing these stages?
We hope this article has given you a good overview of the custom software development process.
While straightforward, these steps are rarely easy. You’ll most likely encounter complications, obstacles, and issues throughout.
That’s why you need an experienced and reliable team like DECODE to help you get through them!
With tons of successful custom software and apps under our belt, we think we’re the best choice for your next project!
Interested? Schedule a free consultation with us today (covered by an NDA, of course), and let’s talk!