How to Build Custom Software

July 13, 2021
Emilie Mitchell

Custom software development is the process of designing, creating, deploying and maintaining software for a specific set of users, functions or organizations.

There are various steps to take when building custom software. Each step in the process has its own importance and works together with other steps to create a successful custom software development project.

For example, user experience (UX) design guides user interface (UI) design during the design process. Project managers then use the design during project planning to create user stories, which are used by developers to code the platform.

In this blog, we'll cover the following topics involved with the process of software development:

  • Who to hire
  • Workflow methods
  • Project planning
  • Project management
  • UX and UI design
  • Front-end and back-end development
  • Integration
  • Quality assurance
  • Deployment

Who can you hire to build custom software?

It takes a full product development team to build custom software. For this, you can build a team of freelancers, hire an internal team, or work with an agency.


A freelancer is a self-employed individual who is skilled in a specific area. Depending on the project, one freelancer may not be enough. This would then require a freelance team, made of several experienced professionals. Because they don’t work for an employer, they determine what they want to charge, who they want to work with, and how many projects they want to work on. This often makes building a freelance team a cost-friendly option.


An in-house development team is a group of professionals who work in your office. To create an internal team, businesses must build a new department and hire employees fit for the open roles. Determining processes and finding professionals is often costly and can take a large amount of time. When the project is complete, your business may not need this department anymore, resulting in unneeded employees and resources. 


Agencies are established teams of professionals who work together seamlessly. Software development agency teams commonly consist of project managers, designers, developers, and more, providing expertise from a variety of fields. Agencies can be hired exactly when you need them and offer long-term support at a lower cost to your business. Unlike internal teams, agencies already have processes in place. For guidance determining which agency may best fit your project, try visiting

Workflow Methods

Once you have your team together, you may need to a workflow to guide your project. There are two main methodologies you can use to guide your development process: waterfall and agile.

Waterfall Methodology

The waterfall method breaks the steps of a project into different phases that each have their own tasks and objectives. By utilizing the waterfall workflow, the development of one phase can only start when the previous phase is complete. This means the project doesn't allow for any changes to the custom application until it has completely gone through all of its phases.

Agile Methodology

Unlike the waterfall method, agile methodology doesn't rely on the status of its preceding phase. Instead, the agile method allows multiple phases to work simultaneously within small iterative periods, also referred to as sprints. This allows the custom application to be reviewed and improved several times before the project is complete. 

When deciding who to hire to build your custom software, be sure to consider the methodology behind their process. Choosing the right process can save you large amounts of time and money in the long-run. Find more information about agile vs. waterfall software development methodologies here.

Project Planning

Project planning is a discipline that states how a project should be completed within a specified timeframe. During this process, the team focuses on these main objectives:

  1. Determining business goals
  2. Setting a detailed timeline
  3. Defining project stages

Project Management

Project management is the process of achieving all project goals within the given constraints—scope, time, and budget. Common activities included in project management include the following:

  1. Measuring progress
  2. Delegating tasks
  3. Allocating resources
  4. Communicating effectively


UX and UI design are two similar, but different, elements that contribute to consumer experience. While user experience design is focused on problem solving and user interaction, user interface design is the design of the visual elements of the application.

UX Design

Short for user experience design, UX puts the user first and considers the overall feel of the interactions and experience with a product. UX design involves problem solving to determine how to make experiences and interactions most valuable to the user. How does it make a user feel? How easy is it for the user to complete tasks?

When designing digital products for an audience, it’s important to take the laws of UX into consideration to improve the overall experience your users have.


Wireframes are simple, black and white blueprints of an application's layout and functionality. They are an affordable commitment and an invaluable tool that helps pave the way to the future of your product. What are the benefits of wireframes?

  1. Improve communication to designers, software teams, and potential partners
  2. Prevent miscommunication by serving as a clear visual representation
  3. Enable focus on user experience factors, such as layouts and user interaction
  4. Allow you to be proactive by exposing potential issues early on
  5. Help define your MVP and eliminate unnecessary features to prevent misuse of time and money.

User Research

User research focuses on understanding a user's behaviors, needs, and motivations through observation techniques, task analysis, and other feedback methodologies. What are some of the methodologies that you can use?

  1. Desk Research: study users digitally on various platforms.
  2. Research Interview: unbiased interview to understand product owners/users intentions .
  3. Focus Group: group of potential users discussing opinions on the subject matter.
  4. Intercept Study: gathering short questionnaires/surveys at a specific location or event to gather info that may relate to that occasion.
  5. Ethnographic Research: observe users' natural behavior when interacting with product in their natural environment. (This method may require permission to observe in private locations, such as medical buildings.)
  6. Competitor Usability Testing: user tests on competing products to understand pain points in competing products. 
  7. Card Sort: have user organize content or group cards that can be categorized in same group, write group names for each group, and order each group by priority.

UI Design

Also known as user interface design, UI focuses on the user’s visual interactive experience, such as tapping a button or swiping through images. What happens when a user clicks on this, or taps on that? User interface design creates an emotional connection with the user and contributes to the presentation, look, and feel of a product.

Component Boards

A component board is an outline of a digital product's color palette, font system, and interface components. They include any components and assets used in the digital product with specific functionality within the application. Component boards prep developers with the resources required to start the project and take away the guesswork from front-end development by allowing developers to quickly access the designer's intention for the product.


Prototypes are basically a more advanced version of wireframes, providing an in-depth rendering of an application's design and functionality. This gives users a realistic idea of their future digital product.


In general, web development can be broken down into two specializations: front-end and back-end. Front-end development focuses on the visual elements of a website or app that a user interacts with, while back-end development focuses on the parts of a website or app that users can't see.

Front-end Development

Commonly referred to as the client side, front-end development includes everything the user experiences directly. Front ends make up both the user interface, the space where the user and a computer system interact, and the user experience, how the user interacts with and experiences the product. There are three main front-end languages: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Back-end Development

Also known as the server side, back-end development includes the behind-the-scenes elements that the user doesn’t see. Back-end development is in charge of the server and communication between the front end and database. A database is simply where the information is stored so that users can view or interact with it when desired. Overall, the back end works closely with the front end to deliver the final product to the end user.


Custom software integration takes multiple pieces of software and aggregates them into a single application. Integration creates a multi-functional application that can help with your organization’s efficiency.

Existing Databases

Database integration is the inclusion of an already existing database in your own application. For example, many healthcare companies have stored data about their patients and may find it useful for this same information to be made available to their employees on their new software.

Third-Party Data

Third-party software integration is the inclusion of an outsourced application program interface (API) in your own application. For instance, your business may want to integrate Google Maps to your software to allow your users to access location-based experiences such as navigation or tracking systems.

Quality Assurance

Quality assurance (QA)  ensures all software development processes, methods, activities, and work items are monitored to ensure proper quality of the software. During this process, QA professionals check to make sure the platform is completely usable. They look for any potential issues that may be present in the software. This could include elements that may be confusing to the typical user or parts of the product that don't work.

Effective quality assurance results in a properly-functioning product that has no major issues. Any others issues are caught during various rounds of testing, like alphas and betas.


Deployment is the process of making your digital product available to your audience, whether they are employees at your company or the general public. Alpha and beta testing can occur at any time, but is often most impactful just before or after deployment. Alpha testing is only open to a small group of testers, usually internal members, while betas are open to a wider audience for testing. If major issues are found during testing, the product goes back to development. Once everything is fixed, your team can deploy your product again.


Building custom software is a complex process that requires a large amount of strategy and knowledge. Partnering with the right team will not only save you time and keep you within budget, but you will also have your software product designed how you want it. A solid team will complete every milestone while also remaining transparent and keeping you involved.

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