Custom vs. Platform Based Mobile App Development

19th Nov 2014

custom-vs-platform-new

A robust mobile strategy is critical for any business to win, retain and grow customers, improve cost-efficiency and productivity. Many companies while building their mobile apps are often uncertain about how to proceed. Whether to build an app through custom design driven approach or use a mobile application development platform (MADP) to quickly launch their product?

In this article, we will examine the key characteristics of both custom ( build from scratch) and platform based app development using platform based app development (using predefined modules/Do It Yourself) approach and their pros and cons to help you take a decision.

Key Characteristics

Custom App Development

Custom application development helps you create out of the box design experiences tailored according to the needs of your product, users, customers, company, or department. The main ideology behind custom development is to build a product as perfect as possible from scratch. After the completion of the project, the company will continue to own the source-code and IP around the product . Any feature or experience based modifications or improvements at later stages will come at additional cost and time investment. The overall time and cost involved for developing a custom app is generally very high. Custom App Development is usually not a one time activity since If there are frequent changes to your product features or usage, you’ll need to continuously block/retain the team working on the product. If there is a strong increase in app usage (eg., from 5000 users to a million users) or if you make a pivot in the features and introduce a new concept, there could be overheads involved in re-architecting or changing the underlying technology of your product.

Platform Based App Development

Mobile application development platforms (MADP) helps you create portable apps quickly and provide ability to scale or modify your product easily at later stages. The main purpose of platform based development is to rapidly build an app from the scratch using predefined modules and ease the development process with reusable code which reduces the time and cost of development and making iterations to your product. Creating a unique experience (from both UI & feature perspective) is the biggest challenge when you take the platform based approach. However the platform will do the heavy-lifting in terms of helping your product achieve scale.

Pros And Cons

Custom App Development

Pros:

  • User-friendly and out of the box design experiences.
  • Custom made product tailored according to your needs.
  • Without limitations as far as features and capabilities go.
  • Own the IP/source code.

Cons:

  • Cost and timeline a major concern.
  • Limitation of frequent iterations to adapt to market trends.
  • Need a dedicated resource to manage the product.
  • Higher risk before validating the user acceptance.

Platform Based App Development

Pros:

  • Ability to create apps rapidly.
  • Cost effective and scalable.
  • Ease of development and deployment with reusable code.
  • Lower risk before validating the user acceptance.

Cons:

  • Difficult to differentiate from other products using the same platform.
  • Difficult to entice and engage users using predefined modules/design elements.
  • Dependency on a third party platform for sustaining business.
  • Slow performance due to cross compilation.

In the end, regardless of custom or platform based approach the most important thing every business should consider is the end- user for whom the application is made. So, choose an approach that suits your requirement and yet is fully focused on the type of end-users that your product caters to.

However what would be really awesome is for companies to use a combination of these approaches which provides the ability to rapidly build the first version of the app, test and validate the use-cases and further make quick iterations to adapt to the market expectations.

At July, we recently launched a solution on the same lines. July Rapid is a hybrid framework that utilizes the best of both custom and platform based mobile app development approach. We take an ideation & design driven approach to building front-end apps and combine it with the scalability and reusability of a platform based backend to launch your product faster at half the cost.