Over a million developers have joined DZone.
{{announcement.body}}
{{announcement.title}}

How Much And How Long Does It Take To Build Custom Software

DZone's Guide to

How Much And How Long Does It Take To Build Custom Software

Like a good suit, sometimes off-the-shelf software packages will suffice, but businesses needing a competitive edge may want to consider a more...fitting solution.

· Agile Zone ·
Free Resource

You've been hearing a lot about agile software development, get started with the eBook: Agile Product Development from 321 Gang

Today more and more businesses are opting for custom software solutions as opposed to its off-the-shelf counterparts, with the intent of creating bespoke services both internally and externally.

But despite its popularity, there are still large knowledge gaps when it comes to understanding the costs and timescales of implementing custom software. This may be understandable, as the nature of the technology developed changes from client-to-client, but this article aims to shed some light on the mysteries of building your own software for your business.

How Much Does Custom Software Cost?

No two pieces of custom software are created equally (well, unless you hire a very lazy developer), and as such, none are priced equally either. 

Soltech speculates that the average cost of custom software packages tends to amount to somewhere between $40,000 and $250,000 in total, but this needn't be the case as long as you know the type of features you're looking for, and what types you aren't. 

The costs that come into play generally revolve around the size of the software being developed, which probably comes as no surprise; the larger the software, the higher the price. 

But the price is also affected by the number of pages & functions that are created in the software. So when you load up the package and you're greeted with a homepage — this is classed as one screen, and every unique page that you can click to from then on is classed as another screen respectively. 

It's estimated that smaller applications require around ten screens, with larger installations weighing in at over 40. It's also worth noting that pages to edit information are regarded as different screens than that display said information, which is worth taking into account when considering the size of the software you're looking for.

Formatting also plays a big role in costing up your custom software. Simpler designs are notably cheaper to implement while more creative and intricate efforts are priced higher. So when considering your budgets, bear in mind that a fancy format will not only improve your software's usability and engagement, but will bump up your costs a little bit more. 

Other notable impacts on software costs involve compatibility and integration with different technologies like PayPal, Stripe, or credit checkers like Experian. The migration of any existing data also needs to be considered when assessing what to budget for a custom project. 

The biggest tip to bring into consideration when cutting costs with your custom software is to simply know what you want to get out of it. Avoid the temptation of adding superfluous features when they're not necessary, and while some custom software developers may look to prop up an invoice, there’re companies and freelancers who do it right, for the best interest of the client. 

How Long Does Custom Software Take to Build?

Implementing custom software can be a time-consuming process, and the best way to avoid having to wait longer than you need to is to only spring into action when you have a clear idea of what you want to see in your product and what you don't. Hence, before choosing a software development agency, make sure your goals & requirements are set clearly. 

Of course, the production timing of projects tends to vary wildly depending on the size and features of the software that is being developed. Soltech believes that a typical custom project takes between four to nine months to complete from conception to completion. 

The process of producing custom software begins with planning and analysis, followed by design, which can take anywhere from 1 to 6 months to get right.

Image titleThis part is crucially important because any oversights here will carry big ramifications for the latter stages of production.

Bear in mind your system requirements, and what you want to achieve from the custom software. Also consider the usability of the end product, and how easy it will be to navigate for all of its users.

The development stage of the process is an exciting one, where you get to see your ideas come together. Developing custom software takes time — up to a year in some cases with larger projects, and you'll need to brace yourself for curveballs and setbacks during this time. However, if you've chosen a competent team to work on your software, the potential for problems is limited.

Once a build has been completed, your custom software enters its testing stages. Much like with planning and designing of a service, this is a quicker process and typically takes from three to six weeks. The focus on testing is to make sure the software performs as intended and is free of bugs or glitches. 

When developers are happy with their product, they will open their software up for a User Acceptance Test. This gives you the chance to investigate the final build and check for any issues or errors that might hurt the usability of the service. Once you're happy with the service, you'll be able to sign it off and receive the completed package.

Overall, the lifecycle of custom software development is as long as your requirements are. Things that affect this range from the aforementioned pages that are needed to be built, the platforms that it caters for (i.e. if the service is produced with mobile compatibility for Android or iOS), what kind of features are to be included — whether it's a paywall, external security systems, CRM services, or if it requires complex business content.  

Why Does It Appeal More Than Off-The-Shelf Software?

There is plenty off-the-shelf, ready-made software available without the need for development, so why is custom software so popular? 

The key appeal of custom software is that it's a bespoke system designed to fit your business outlook in a way that saves time and money, in the long run. 

There's also no need to develop your software further if it's custom as opposed to pre-existing. As it's tailor-fitted to your requirements, there is no need to buy multiple different products that run separately just to fill your requirements. 

Another huge appeal is the exclusivity factor. You steal a march on your competitors because you know that they aren't using the same technology as you — a luxury that doesn't exist when you purchase existing software. 

The cheapest off-the-shelf software is priced low for a reason, and could be dated, which is another key appeal when it comes to taking the custom approach. Your bespoke software is guaranteed to be up to date from the moment you begin using it, eliminating the need for immediate updates just to keep up. 

Naturally, there are circumstances where it would be more beneficial to opt for a pre-existing product. Perhaps your business needs require a too-urgent solution to a pre-existing problem, or you need a simple construct that's already on the market and fresh. Maybe you're a new business that doesn't want the burden of a commitment to the customised solutions market at this stage. 

But for businesses that are eager to keep one step ahead of competitors, with the ease of an optimised and bespoke service that will reap benefits for years to come, the financial and time commitments of developing custom software is becoming a much less fearsome, and much more ambitious prospect in this day and age.

Download the free agile tools checklist from 321 Gang. This guide will help you choose the right agile tools to position your team for success. 

Topics:
software ,software development ,custom software ,agile ,competitiveness ,cost analysis

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

{{ parent.title || parent.header.title}}

{{ parent.tldr }}

{{ parent.urlSource.name }}