Is our bread and butter.
A custom web application is a website that allows users to log in to view and change information in an organized database. It can be used by people inside your organization, and for authorized people outside also – in that case, it’s often called a portal. For example, your employees can track and update inventory and orders, while your customers can check the status of their orders on the customer portal.
The thing that makes it custom is its uniqueness – we design and build it just for you. This is in contrast to packaged software (also called Software as a Service, or SaaS), which is built with a set of features that the provider thinks will be helpful for many companies, or will drive new sales. There’s nothing wrong with using a package – we use them too, for common activities like accounting and CRM. But sometimes there’s no package that fits your specific business requirements, and you’re only one voice out of many asking the provider for specific changes. We sometimes say that you may only use 10% of a package’s features, but it will only provide 90% of what you need.
Custom application development is the process of understanding the specific needs of your organization, then designing and constructing software to meet those needs. There are many steps along the way, including discovering and understanding your requirements, describing them in easy-to-understand documents, designing the database structure, estimating the work, designing the screens and reports, programming the actual system, then testing it, deploying it, and supporting it afterward. Custom application development is best done by a team; it’s rare to find a single person that is skilled at all the areas – business, design, programming, testing and support.
There are several major platforms (Microsoft ASP.NET, PHP, and others.) They all have their strengths. The most important things are to choose a platform that is widely-used (so there are lots of people to support it), actively being improved (so the features don’t stagnate), and one that your trusted developer is proficient with. We focus on the Microsoft platform (ASP.NET MVC and SQL Server) – we would rather be very good at one platform, than try to use multiple technologies and be master of none.
As with many things in life, it depends. We do custom development projects ranging from tens of thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands—occasionally exceeding a million dollars.
With most custom development projects, we do an early discovery phase we call an Architectural Framework, which usually ranges from a $4K to $12K investment. Completing the Architectural Framework will give you a clear Project Plan, an initial database design, and a Screen Flow diagram that will act as a “road map” of the system. This upfront work allows us to build accurate budget estimates, so that you can decide whether you want to continue with the project.