How To Build a Blockchain Application: A Guide on Blockchain App Development

 min read
26 March 2024
Tomasz Gołkowski
Tomasz Gołkowski
Backend Developer
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Contents

  • Intro

Blockchain is all the rave right now and for good reasons. This innovative technology has the potential to transform how business is done across various industries. Although it is more popular as a secure and transparent way to store or transfer data, blockchain has also found some usage in applications development. In this article, we’ll explore the concept of blockchain application development, explaining how blockchain apps work and how to build a blockchain app.

  • Blockchain applications or decentralized apps are applications built on blockchain technology. 
  • The underlying infrastructure of blockchain apps is similar to that of conventional apps, but instead of storing data on a central server, decentralized apps use blockchain technology as their backend. 
  • Building a successful blockchain-based application requires carefully considering factors like the consensus protocols, scalability, and the needed tech stack of the product you intend to build. 
  • To build blockchain apps, you need to identify a problem, refine your idea, choose a blockchain platform, develop, build, and test your product before deploying. 

What Are Blockchain Apps / DApps?

Blockchain applications are also known as decentralized apps. These are apps built on blockchain technology, meaning the apps operate on a distributed ledger system that stores data in linked blocks on multiple nodes and executes transactions with smart contracts. The nature of decentralized apps makes them secure, transparent, and free from censorship. 

Blockchain technology can be used to build various kinds of apps. This opens up a world of possibilities for app development across various industries. While blockchain technology can be used to build pretty much any type of application, it is most commonly used for apps that require a higher level of security such as financial services, supply chains, marketplaces, ID verification systems, healthcare, and so on. However, less serious apps such as games and social networking sites can be built on the blockchain as well. 

How Do Blockchain Applications Work?

Before delving into the process of developing a blockchain application, let’s take a look at how blockchain apps work. To truly appreciate how blockchain apps are built, you have to know how regular apps work. 

With conventional web applications, you’re essentially accessing a web page with a front-end built with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code and stored on a web server. A web app will also communicate with a backend and database stored on a central server. 

The underlying infrastructure of blockchain apps is similar to this as well, but the method of storing and retrieving data is considerably different. For a blockchain-based application, instead of a central backend web server, all the backend information for the site is stored on the blockchain. This means all the code and data for the website are stored on a decentralized network of nodes. 

These nodes are individual computers on the blockchain network that hold identical copies of the blockchain. Nodes create new blocks and validate transactions while working together to ensure the blockchain is up-to-date. 

Transactions on blockchain apps are managed by smart contracts. These are self-executing instructions written into the lines of codes on the blockchain. These contracts are programmed to execute when certain conditions are met. The self-executing nature of smart contracts eliminates the need for intermediaries or a central authority. 

In addition to decentralized storage, another essential building block of blockchain apps is the consensus mechanism. This is part of the blockchain network’s algorithm that validates transactions and adds new blocks to the blockchain. Blockchain apps can either use a proof-of-work or proof-of-stake consensus mechanism to ensure all nodes on the network agree on the validity of each block or transaction before they’re added to the blockchain. 

What to Consider While Creating a Blockchain Application?

Blockchain-based application development is a complex process (perhaps even more complex than traditional app development). As such, there are several factors to consider and different decisions to make as the development process begins. Let’s explore some of the most important factors to consider in blockchain software development.

Blockchain Platform

The blockchain platform is the main underlying infrastructure on which you build a blockchain app. Your choice of platform will influence the complexity of the development process, app speed and efficiency, transaction fees, security, and scalability of your app. 

For instance, Ethereum is one of the most popular platforms for blockchain app development mainly due to its smart contract system and the robust ecosystem of blockchain development tools that help simplify the process of building decentralized applications. However, the Ethereum smart contracts platform has limitations in terms of security and high transaction fees. 

Bitcoin on the other hand is known for its high security and robustness, but with limited smart contract functionality, it is not traditionally considered for app development. This example demonstrates how the attributes of different platforms and the components of blockchain networks can influence your choice of app development platform.

Smart Contracts / Consensus Protocols 

As defined earlier, a smart contract is a self-executing protocol that determines how trigger-based actions are processed and verified by the blockchain application. Different blockchain systems have varying consensus protocols for verifying smart contracts. The most common types are proof of work, proof of stake, or proof of elapsed time.

In blockchain software development, you need to determine which of these smart contract consensus protocols would be the most suitable for you. Your choice of consensus protocol will determine the efficiency and scalability of your application. For instance, platforms with a proof-of-work consensus system tend to have slower transaction processing times compared to platforms designed with proof-of-stake systems. 

Private or Public Network? 

You also have to determine if you want to build your app on a private or public cryptocurrency network. With a public blockchain, anyone can participate in how transactions are managed and validated on the blockchain. The source code is also public which means users can suggest improvements to the underlying source code of the blockchain system. 

Private networks are a lot more closed off. It is typically a permissioned system, which means only authorized users can participate. There’s also the option to use a consortium blockchain system or a hybrid solution. Your choice of network depends on factors like your security needs, desired level of control, and regulatory compliance.  

Blockchain Scalability

In developing blockchain applications, you also have to pay attention to the processing capabilities of the blockchain platform and how it holds up, especially in the long term. The three biggest factors to consider in blockchain implementation regard are the transaction speed, security, and decentralization of your choice of blockchain platform. In most cases, the blockchain development platform will only meet two of these three requirements, which means you have to determine what is most important to you and compromise on what the platform lacks. 

Consider the Tech Stack 

A typical blockchain app is built with a combination of backend frameworks, front-end frameworks, APIs, and SDKs. The backend framework determines how the blockchain will interact with the application’s interface. 

Some of the most popular options for building the backend of blockchain apps include Node.js, Django, and Ruby on Rails. You may also need APIs and SDKs like Web3.js, Bitcore, and Hyperledger Fabric SDK especially if you intend to build custom functionalities into your application. 

A Step-by-step Guide on Blockchain Application Development

The process of building blockchain platforms is similar to conventional app development. It follows the same pattern of coming up with an idea, defining the application’s scope or purpose, designing, and eventually building the app. Here’s a step-by-step guide to blockchain development. 

Market Research 

Blockchain application development is a strategic process. Beyond the technicalities of app development, there’s a need to understand market dynamics and the specific preferences of the potential users of the blockchain application you intend to build.

Before you start building, you need to gather essential requirements by scrutinizing what the market is saying and exploring the strengths and weaknesses of other blockchain solutions in the niche you intend to build for.

Also, since blockchain is a relatively new technology, you may have to examine the regulatory frameworks surrounding blockchain development for various industries. All of this research and valuable insights will help steer the rest of your development efforts. 

Identify the Problem 

The problem your app is meant to solve is the foundation of any development process. This is true for blockchain apps too. Identifying the goal of your app development helps to define the scope of the project and how to make a blockchain application to solve the identified problem. 

For instance, an app meant for supply chain management will be built differently compared to one that’s meant for secure financial transactions. By identifying the problem and setting clear goals for solving it, you can create a clear roadmap and set realistic milestones for your development project. 

Develop and Refine Your Idea 

Before you start building, you may need to develop an idea and refine or modify it to near perfection. Building an app may require lots of brainstorming sessions with your development team to develop a solution that best solves the intended use case of the application. 

Refining your app development ideas before developing a blockchain solution will also help you determine if the concept needs to be built on the blockchain in the first place. During your brainstorming sessions, you should focus on the major needs of the target audience and consider the technical feasibility of meeting these needs. Your decisions should also be based on the blockchain market analysis and backed by concrete research data. 

Compare Blockchain Platforms

As you conclude the planning and draw closer to the development phase of the project, one of the crucial decisions to make is your choice of a blockchain platform. Blockchain technology has developed a lot in recent years, so much so that we have numerous blockchain development platforms with many distinct features.

Different blockchain development platforms vary in terms of their smart contracts capabilities, consensus mechanism, transaction speed, and security. Choosing a suitable platform isn’t about selecting from the most popular blockchain platforms available. Instead, you have to compare what each of these platforms has to offer in line with your development goals. 

For instance, if you’re building an app that will likely be handling high transaction volumes, the transaction processing efficiency and gas fees have to be one of the most important factors to consider. 

Aside from the option of choosing a blockchain platform of your selection, you may also choose to build your own blockchain framework from scratch. This gives you full control over vital decisions such as the smart contract algorithm and the transaction validation mechanism, among other things. Although it’ll cost a fortune to deploy private blockchain solutions, it is one of the most efficient methods of building blockchain solutions. 

Design your Blockchain App

The next step is to determine how your app will look and behave. This is known as UI/UX design. This step is where your app comes alive visually. You should work with professional designers to create intuitive user interfaces, regardless of the technical complexity of the app you’re building. 

UX designers do this by mapping out the user’s journey and coming up with the simplest and most effective app interface that takes them to the end goal the fastest. Good app designs will contribute significantly towards user adoption and satisfaction with your blockchain app. 

Create a Proof of Concept 

Although this is not a compulsory step, creating a proof of concept for your app idea can help demonstrate the feasibility of the project. This step also helps evaluate its practical potential and address any potential issues before you start developing the final product. The proof of concept only demonstrates the core functionality of your app and confirms that it can solve the identified problem. 

Development

The development stage is where you start building your blockchain based app into an actual product. The process involves multiple steps including coding the application backend, building the front-end, and integrating the blockchain with other necessary frameworks or technologies. For this phase, you work with a team of in-house blockchain app developers with the required proficiencies to build your decentralized app or hire a development company to build for you. 

Test and Refine your Product 

Blockchain apps are typically complex with stringent development requirements. Consequently, you have to pay a lot of attention to refining your final product to meet the highest standard possible. Before deploying the finished product, QA engineers run comprehensive tests to ensure everything works perfectly. The best approach to testing blockchain apps is to incorporate continuous integration and deployment practices. This method allows you to test in real-time, identify bugs, and fix them instantly instead of waiting till the entire product is built. 

Deployment 

Finally, when your app development is complete, you can proceed to launch the app. To ensure smooth deployment, you must ensure that the app has been fully tested and all the components are working as expected before releasing it to the public. You should also establish plans for maintenance and long-term scaling of your app. Monitoring frameworks should be put in place to track both the technical and non-technical performance of your application and address issues promptly. 

Best Languages for Blockchain Application Development

In building blockchain applications, you have to consider usability, innovation, and security. Achieving this largely depends on your choice of programming language. The front end of your blockchain application can be built with conventional front-end programming languages and frameworks like CSS, React, Angular, and Vue.js. Similarly, the backend of the app can be programmed with conventional languages such as Java, C++, Python, and Go.

In some cases, developers also use more complex blockchain-specific languages like Simplicity and Solidity. The peculiarities of these blockchain languages are highlighted below: 

  • Simplicity: Simplicity is a low-level language used to create smart contracts in blockchain applications. As a blockchain coding language, Simplicity was designed as an alternative to Bitcoin script. The Simplicity language is characterized by extremely simple semantics that allow static analysis and reasoning by formal methods.
  • Solidity: This is a statically typed language from Ethereum. Solidity is designed for creating smart contacts to be executed on the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) and other blockchain frameworks. As an object-oriented programming language, Solidity shares many similarities with traditional languages like C and C++. This also makes it pretty simple to learn and understand. 

Pros and Cons of Blockchain Apps

Advantages

  • Blockchain apps are secure and decentralized 
  • All transactions on a decentralized system are recorded on publicly visible and trackable ledger
  • Blockchain by its very nature is resistant to censorship 
  • Improved efficiency and speed

Disadvantages

  • Most of the best blockchain technologies today still struggle with scalability 
  • Smart contracts on their platform make them susceptible to bugs and vulnerabilities 

Real-life Examples of Using Blockchain Apps in Business

Blockchain is quite versatile, with the potential to revolutionize several industries and businesses. Building blockchain solutions can introduce innovative ways of handling transactions, app security, and data management. Here are some real-life examples that demonstrate the applications of blockchain app development across various industries. 

Finance and Banking 

The finance industry has been one of the leading adopters of blockchain. By creating crypto exchange platforms, wallets, and other financial instruments, businesses in the finance sector can streamline transactions and enhance security. An example of this in action is JP Morgan’s Quorum created to facilitate interbank transfer and streamline settling of security transactions. This private blockchain platform features enterprise-friendly functionalities like permissioned access, transaction privacy, and higher transaction throughout. 

Healthcare Industry 

The open, but secure nature of blockchain makes medical record-keeping easier for players in the industry. It makes it easier to share patient data securely between stakeholders. MedicalChain is an example of decentralized blockchain platforms built with this purpose in mind. The platform uses blockchain for storing and sharing medical data.

Real Estate

Propy is a real estate platform powered by blockchain that allows buyers and sellers to securely exchange property titles and payments without intermediaries. The immutable nature of blockchain ensures security and transparency in real estate record-keeping. Blockchain also has the potential to reduce the cost of real estate transactions. 

Gaming and Entertainment

Many of the latest games now incorporate blockchain to facilitate true ownership of in-game assets. By combining metaverse app development and blockchain, blockchain games allow gamers to own virtual goods such as game characters, weapons, avatars, and other in-game assets that can be sold, exchanged, or even used across other metaverse games. For example, the Enjin platform is a purpose-built blockchain wallet that creates an effective and transparent virtual asset trading environment for games and apps. 

Start the Blockchain Application Development Process with CrustLab!

As blockchain becomes increasingly popular, more businesses are starting to realize the need to build innovative applications that leverage the many benefits of the technology. Building apps with this technology is just as intensive as conventional app development (perhaps even more intensive). To achieve your own blockchain application development goals, you have to hire a development team or work with a reliable development agency like CrustLab. 

As a software development company that provides product design and development, one of the services we offer is to help organizations figure out how to create a blockchain network for their business. We provide complex blockchain solutions for businesses of all sizes across various industries. Get in touch with us to hire a product team of blockchain development experts to create a successful product for your organization. 

FAQ

  • Can you build an app on the blockchain network?

    Yes. It is possible to build apps on the blockchain network. These apps known as decentralized apps run on a peer-to-peer network of computers instead of being stored on a central server. They differ from conventional apps in the way they handle transactions and data management.  

  • How to develop blockchain applications?

    The process of blockchain app development is similar to traditional development in terms of ideation and design. But in building the product itself, you have to understand the core concepts of blockchain and get a clear blockchain app market overview. Next, you’ll need to choose a suitable blockchain platform on which your app will be built. Coding involves a mix of conventional programming languages and smart contract languages like Solidity.

  • How long does it take to build a blockchain application?

    The timeline of blockchain app development depends on the complexity of the solution you intend to build. On average, it takes about two to seven months to build a blockchain app from start to finish. But it could also take longer. Before you start blockchain application development, you’ll need to carefully plan your project, define its scope, and consult with experienced blockchain developers for a more accurate timeline for the specific decentralized applications you’re trying to build.

  • How much does it cost to develop a blockchain app?

    Blockchain app development costs depend on the overall scope of the project. For a simple blockchain app, you can expect to spend between $45,000- $350,000 on average. However, complex enterprise solutions may cost millions of dollars. The expertise, technology stack, and third-party services required will determine the overall blockchain app development cost.

  • Which blockchain technology is best for developing an app?

    Ethereum is currently the most established platform for blockchain app development. The blockchain platform is popular for its large developer community and wide range of development tools, which makes it ideal for building general-purpose decentralized apps with complex smart contracts. However, other platforms such as Hyperledger Fabric, EOS and Solana offer unique benefits as well. The optimal choice at the end of the day depends on your specific app development needs.