Should You Build a Custom or Off-the-Shelf Mobile App?

Wherever you go, from your local coffee shop to the mall, most folks are sure to have at least one thing in common: smartphones.

As of 2015, Pew Research Center found that 72% of adults in the U.S. own a smartphone, with Millennials (18-34 years) having the highest percentage of smartphone users (92%). And as these tech-savvy generations grow older, the use of smartphone technology is only expected to rise.

Given the statistics, now is the optimal time to build an app for your business. But if anything’s holding you back, it’s probably a matter of how you should build it: Do you hire a custom software developer to build your app or save some money with off-the-shelf development?

To make the decision a little bit easier, let’s evaluate the pros and cons of custom versus off-the-shelf development. That way, you can decide what option is more suited to your business’s needs, goals, and budget.  

Off-the-Shelf Mobile App Development

Off-the-shelf mobile app development can range from software to app builder sites. In either case, you’ll be using a do-it-yourself tool to create your very own mobile app.

While off-the-shelf development allows you to quickly deploy an app, and at a lower cost, this form of development comes along with a set of limitations.


  • Inexpensive - As mentioned, off-the-shelf development is the least expensive route. In this case, most expenses are limited to the cost of the software being used to build the app (often a monthly subscription) to a small charge per app use.

  • Simple - Since you’ll be putting the app together yourself, simplicity is crucial, and off-the-shelf software generally keeps things easy.

  • Quick deploy - In a time crunch? There’s a reason it’s often referred to as ‘out-of-the-box software.’ Just plug in some content, and you should be ready to go.


  • Cookie-cutter - You get what you pay for: You probably won’t have much of an edge over your competitors (your app might look just like theirs, in fact), and there’s a chance you’ll get rejected from the app store for minimum functionality.

  • Limited - Simplicity is great when building your app, but not so much when it comes to the final product: Your app will most likely have a simpler design, features, and be predominantly informational.


Custom Mobile App Development

In contrast to off-the-shelf development, custom development comes along with a much higher price tag, but the possibilities are endless. Outside of working with a developer to determine what you need from the app, your developer will handle the heavy-lifting involved in bringing your app to life.

But just like off-the-shelf development, custom development has its own share of benefits and drawbacks.


  • Customization - The word ‘custom’ says it all: If you can think it, there’s a developer who can build it. Plus, you can tailor your app in such a way to gain that extra edge over your competitors.

  • Scalability - Anticipating growth of any kind? You may need an app that can grow with you, and custom apps can offer that scalability.

  • Better UI/UX - As noted, off-the-shelf development is limited in terms of functionality, design, and more. To acquire the ideal user interface (UI) and user experience (UX), custom development is a must.


  • Expensive - The freedom to customize comes at a cost. To build a custom app, you’ll need to hire a custom software developer, and the hourly rate of most U.S. developers is over $100, which can add up pretty quickly.

  • Lengthier development - If you’re going to bother going custom, you’re probably going to request those extra features you’ve been dreaming off, but remember that every extra feature will require extra time from your developer.

What Will Work Best for You?  

Now that you’ve weighed the pros and cons, you’re probably leaning towards one form of development over the other. More than likely, your decision will be heavily influenced by what you can afford.

Custom mobile app development has more to offer, and if budget was never a concern, it would surely be ideal option for most businesses. By going custom, you can offer your customers the best user experience, increasing your chances of receiving the best return on your investment.

However, even with a limited budget, there’s a strong chance you can still go custom. For example, you can significantly cut costs by hiring a blended software development team with U.S. and international team members.

For those on a very tight budget, namely very small businesses or nonprofits, custom development may simply not be an option. In that case, off-the-shelf development is a viable starting point.


Looking for a Custom Software Developer?

If you’ve decided that custom development is the appropriate choice for you, you’ll need to find the right team to build your app. Choosing the right team is essential to ensuring that your app will meet your expectations.

ClikFocus values understanding your business’s needs and goals in order to create the ideal mobile app for you. From simple to complex, iOS or Android, we’re excited to make your vision come to life.

To start taking steps towards making your mobile app a reality, let’s chat.