You already know the benefits of custom software development.

You know an off-the-shelf solution won’t meet your business requirements.

But to prepare for custom software development, you’ll need to know the process.

The better you understand the process, the more knowledgeable you’ll be when you need to choose a company, and the better you can adjust expectations to fit your budget and timeframe.

Thankfully, the process isn’t that challenging.

There are a few steps that nearly every software development company uses, and they’re pretty easy to understand.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the custom software development process. We’ll look step-by-step at a basic roadmap, and provide some best practices that can ensure your software project is a success.

How Devize speeds up the custom software development process

The timeframe to develop custom software is usually between 4-9 months, but at Devize we can do the same quality work in 4-6 weeks.

We follow the same basic steps laid out below, but usually move through them much faster than our competitors.

The two biggest reasons are automation and cutting-edge software.

Most custom software development companies code everything from scratch, including the boilerplate functionality that’s the same across every site, like user logins and settings panels.

At Devize, we use automation and modern no-code tools to build out your app faster than anyone else.

1. Discovery: Gathering requirements for your unique needs

  • Devize: A few days

  • Typical developers: 1-2 weeks

  • Also called: Requirement gathering, scoping stage

The first step is ensuring the team you’re working with knows exactly what you need.

In this step, you’ll probably have several discovery meetings with account and project managers and development team leads.

(At Devize, we want you in direct contact with the team working on your project, so we don’t have separate “account managers.” But most agencies do.)

You’ll want to explain all the details of the project, how you expect everything to work and what you expect the finished product to look like once the development is finished.

Be sure to emphasize the unique competitive advantage of what you’re commissioning, and how it specifically meets user needs. This is what sets it apart from off-the-shelf software, so highlight it often.

The most important thing to remember in this process is to be as honest as possible. If one feature is most important, if you’re on a tight deadline, or if you need to limit the cost of custom software, let your dev team know.

This is also the stage where you’ll sign contracts and agreements to finalize the deal. You’ll also most likely be asked to make an upfront payment for the development team to begin work.

This stage is finished when you have:

  • A signed contract that establishes the rights and responsibilities of both parties

  • An established project scope that’s agree upon by both parties

  • An estimated timeline and project milestones

  • An estimated cost, payment terms, and confirmation of your deposit

  • Signed confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), if applicable

2. Design: Creating a plan for success

  • Devize: 1 week

  • Typical developers: 2-4 weeks

  • Also called: Architecture, planning stage

In this stage, your software development partner will plan the framework for the project.

The three areas to plan are the front-end, back-end, and project workflow.


The front-end includes the user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) of the application. It’s how the end user interacts with a software product. You’ll probably get design layouts of the finished product you’ll need to sign off on.


This is the logic of a software solution that integrates with your database and other existing systems. The team will choose programming languages and frameworks to use, devise the system architecture, prepare security measures, and might map out basic logic modules.

Project workflow

Software projects are extremely complex, and you’ll need an efficient system to integrate feedback and make sure the project stays on track. Most teams will provide a project management portal to track progress. Try to learn the system before development starts.

Your most important job at this stage is to ensure the designs you’re given match up with your specific needs. Make sure the customer experience is user-friendly and ensure there’s compatibility with any other systems you’ll need.

If something doesn’t look right, now is the time to speak up—it will be much more difficult and costly to make changes once development starts.

This stage is finished when:

  • Wireframes or design mockups have been signed off by both parties

  • The team has a good understanding of the backend architecture of the project

3. Development: Building out the software itself

  • Devize: 2-4 weeks

  • Typical developers: 3-6 months

  • Also called: Build, production, implementation stage

This is the most important and time-consuming part of the software development process.

In this stage, the development team will write the code that actually builds the software program, web app, or mobile app you’ve assigned them.

There are two main development methodologies to develop software, and the one your team chooses will affect how (and how quickly) your product is built.

Waterfall development

The waterfall method follows concepts from manufacturing, where one development stage must be completed before another starts. This can make sense for a clearly defined project, but has limited flexibility and can cause the entire project to fall behind if a single step takes longer than expected.

Agile development

The agile model is a modern application development framework that’s built around an iterative lifecycle. That means finishing frequent versions of the app, each time with additional features. Agile development methodologies move quickly, but it can take a lot of upfront resources to put this adaptability into place.

If your team uses an agile method, you might be able to see early prototypes of the app as it’s developed. If the team chooses a waterfall approach, the entire app may not work until it’s fully developed.

At Devize, you’ll be able to see progress on your application as we work on it. Since we use a no-code tool to build, you can visually watch the app develop in near real-time.

This stage is finished when:

  • You’re presented with a working prototype of the app to test

  • All the features from the initial scope are included

4. Testing: Making sure everything works

  • Devize: 1-2 weeks

  • Typical developers: 3-6 weeks

  • Other names: Quality assurance (QA), debugging, review stage

For a commercial off-the-shelf software solution, the testing has been done by the time you buy the product.

But that’s not the case with custom software development projects.

You and the software development agency will work together to make sure the product matches up with your specific business the way you had envisioned.

Your software development partner will do most of the heavy lifting to test the software, but if possible you’ll also want to run tests with your team members.

Recruit a few in-house testers and have them do some basic tasks on the software. Ideally, find a mix of stakeholders and end-users who will be interacting with the software on a daily basis and listen to their feedback. A custom software solution should streamline work according to your business needs, so take their recommendations seriously.

In most cases, software development teams will provide a place where you can report bugs or issues. Use that system whenever possible, because it keeps feedback in a single place that’s easy to prioritize.

If you need to mention other problems in an email or during a call, it’s a good idea to also log it in the bug tracking software so it doesn’t get lost along the way.

This stage is finished when:

  • Your team has verified the software works as intended

  • The development team has fixed all major bugs

  • There’s an agreed-upon roadmap in place for fixing any minor issues

5. Deployment: Releasing your app into the world

  • Devize: A day or two

  • Typical developers: 1-2 weeks

  • Other names: Launch, go live, production stage

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for!

The development agency will prepare your bespoke software to run in the real world.

Depending on the type of app you have and the integrations you need, there’s some preliminary work that needs to happen before going live.

The software will need to be moved from a development environment to a production one, which usually involves code optimizations and a few small tweaks to improve performance. Integrations will also be switched from a test database to live data you’re using.

Web apps will need to transfer domain names and possible hosting and mobile apps should be submitted to the app marketplace.

You’ll usually coordinate a deployment date with your development team. If possible choose a day with a lighter load of business operations. There will be plenty of work to do with the software, and you don’t need an overly full workload on top of it.

If you encounter bugs or minor issues during the deployment, don’t panic—they’re almost inevitable. Usually, the development team will be on call to fix any issues promptly.

This stage is finished when:

  • Your software application is live and working

6. Maintenance: Improving your software over time

  • Devize: DIY or with non-technical teams

  • Typical developers: Need to re-hire agency

  • Other names: Upgrades, ongoing support

Too many organizations—established businesses and startups alike—think product development is over once it’s deployed.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

You’ll want to release additional features you didn’t think of the first time around. You’ll want to connect a new data source, or remove an old one you don’t use anymore. You’ll want to make the app more user-friendly.

These ongoing changes will help you maintain a competitive edge and automate business processes for years to come. So, what’s your plan for ongoing maintenance?

Most projects depend on one of three methods:

  • Re-hiring the original team. When you need to implement changes, you’ll hire the original app development team again. Sometimes you’ll get maintenance as part of the contract. Other times, you’ll have to hope they have time to do more work for you.

  • Outsourcing to another team. You can hire another team to build new features on top of the existing codebase. Because it’s a tailored solution, there’s a learning curve. And the new changes might hit scalability issues down the line.

  • Doing the changes in-house. Unless you have a development team, this is the riskiest of all. Inexperienced developers poking around in the code can accidentally delete data or open security vulnerabilities.

All of these can work, depending on the circumstances.

But at Devize, we have a different approach. We build your app in a no-code tool that anyone can review and edit.

When you want to update or maintain your app, you can work with us, hire an outside no-code development team, or even do it yourself. The risk is lower because the learning curve isn’t as steep.

There aren’t any milestones for finishing this stage—it keeps going as long as you’re using your new software.

4 best practices for custom software development

If you’re going to embark on creating a custom software application, these are the most important best practices to follow.

1. Know your software category

Want to finish your project on time and under budget?

Learn the category of software you want to build. Once you know your category, you can get a much more accurate estimate and find a qualified team more easily—just look for a portfolio of software of the same type.

Common categories include:

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) software lets you store and organize contacts and sales opportunities. Examples: Salesforce, HubSpot.

  • eCommerce lets you host a store online, list products, and collect orders. Examples: Amazon, Shein.

  • Software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications are subscription-based software that do any number of things. Examples: Spotify, Notion.

  • Project management software lets you organize tasks and projects. Examples: Asana, Jira.

  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software integrates internal systems like sales, warehouse data, and more in a single platform. Examples: NetSuite, Xero.

2. Have a clear value proposition

Before you reach out to software companies, understand your biggest priorities.

What single feature (or set of features) would provide the competitive advantage that meets your unique needs?

What single sentence best summarizes what needs to happen when someone opens up your application?

Having a clear value proposition upfront can shape the process. It’ll save you time in the long run, since you’ll know what type of companies to work with. And it can be more cost-effective, since you’ll know which features are an absolute priority.

3. Test accurately

When it’s time to test the software, do as thorough a job as possible.

It’s best to catch any bugs at this point rather than once the app is in production. Major issues can lead to downtime as the team fixes the problem and deploys a new issue.

Run through the most common scenarios with your testers, then every more unusual scenario you can think of.

The more thorough your testing, the more likely you are to rely on the app for years to come.

4. Know any special requirements

If you’re in a regulated industry, share this from the very beginning.

Sectors like finance, healthcare, oil and gas, medicine, and more have specific requirements from the government that not all development agencies can accommodate, including HIPAA, SOC 2, ISO 27001, GDPR, PCI DSS, and others.

Be clear about what requirements you’ll expect now and in the future.

How to optimize the custom software development process

Building great software takes time and careful planning.

But that doesn’t mean you should be in the dark after you bring on custom software development services.

At Devize, we want to make sure you’re engaged in the process and understand each step of our workflow.

From the beginning, you’ll see what we’re planning and developing to bring your custom web app to life