A Complete Guide to Blockchain Development

Today, blockchain has become the mainstream technology, powering applications with its decentralized nature. The increasing popularity and promising intrinsic properties of blockchain technology have built trust among people, and hence it has been receiving mass adoption across multiple industries worldwide. However, there’s a gap between increasing demand and the practical implementation of blockchain, and this friction is caused by the lack of knowledge and understanding of blockchain development.

To help you better understand the implementation of technology, we provide you with a complete guide to blockchain development.

Table of Contents

  1. Prerequisites
  2. What value does Blockchain add to your platform?
  3. Integrating blockchain into your existing platform
  4. How much does it cost to build a blockchain-based platform?
  5. What is the blockchain development process?
  6. What are the best blockchain app development tools?
  7. How long does blockchain development take?

Prerequisites

Before we directly jump to discuss blockchain development, let’s first understand what exactly is blockchain technology.

Blockchain is an immutable chain of records called blocks that facilitates transactions, helps in tracking assets and recording data and files. All the blocks containing information are chained together with hashes. To understand hashes and the working of blockchain in detail, read our article on blockchain basics.

Developing a blockchain application from scratch and its implementation requires significant time and thorough research. The development starts with finding and selecting the right blockchain protocol that best suits your requirements. We have a precisely curated insight article to help you understand the parameters necessary while choosing a blockchain protocol for development.

What value does Blockchain add to your platform?

Innovators are discovering ways to implement blockchain across financial services, supply chains, government, healthcare, retail, and many other industries to transform business models. Blockchain adds value to businesses by offering:

  1. Transparency
  2. Traceability
  3. Increased speed
  4. Reduced costs
  • Transparency

The history of transactions is becoming more transparent with the implementation of blockchain. Since blockchain is a distributed ledger, all network members share the same updated ledger. A consensus in the network validates the ledger, which implies that everyone must agree on it.
Changing a single record would result in the modification of all subsequent records. Thus, the data saved on the blockchain is:

  • more secure
  • accurate
  • transparent
  • available only to members with permissioned access
  • Traceability

If your company manages products traded via a complicated supply chain, you would understand how difficult it can be to track an item from its origin. When the supply of goods from one place to another is recorded on the blockchain, you get a complete audit trail representing where an asset came from and tracks each stop that it covers on the journey.
Previous records saved on the blockchain can help verify the authenticity of products and protect them from fraud.

  • Increased Speed

Currently, the traditional processes are:

  • paper-based
  • time-consuming
  • using third-party intermediaries to verify the authenticity
  • prone to errors

You can execute transactions fastly and securely by automating and simplifying business processes with blockchain. As a single digital ledger shared with the network participants can be used for record-keeping, you don’t need to manage multiple ledgers. Everyone within the network can access the same information at all times, which results in a quick settlement.

  • Reduced Costs

Reducing costs is a priority for most businesses. Using blockchain, you don’t need intermediaries or third parties to establish trust as the network participants validate everything on the network through a consensus. You won’t have to review documentation to perform the trade because everyone will have access to an immutable version.

Integrating blockchain into your existing platform

Following are some of the questions that will help you determine if integrating blockchain into your existing solution is a good idea:

Do you want to store data?

You don’t need a database if your business solution does not require a lot of data to be stored. Therefore, blockchain is of no use in that case. If you have an application that needs to manage massive data, blockchain can be used to manage a single shared distributed ledger. Instead of maintaining multiple databases, blockchain technology will allow you to have a single transparent view of the updated ledger, shared with all network nodes.

Is the data dynamic with an auditable history?

Though paper-based documents are difficult to counterfeit, they have limited permanence. If transactions need to be updated and shared frequently, maintaining them on paper can be time-consuming. If the data and its history are crucial for your business, you might require a blockchain solution that allows multiple parties to write entries into an incorruptible system.

Should a central authority control your data?

Third-party authorities lead to trust issues due to a lack of transparency. On the other hand, multiple parties manage blockchain data validated via an agreed-upon consensus algorithm. If you have privacy concerns, it can become possible to provide read-only and write-only permissions to a specific party using blockchain. Elimination of dependency on a central authority will reduce:

  • high fees
  • delays
  • single-point-of-failure.

Do you require a trustless environment?

Trusting other parties is essential when doing business, especially in a partnership. We have to trust banks to keep our money secure and business associates to maintain agreements. What if the trust gets broken? Unfortunately, trust is being violated every day, and it’s a significant issue.
Now, the question is, how would you know when to use blockchain. Though blockchain is a trustless environment, parties can work simultaneously without worrying as they have an updated ledger at all times. It uses various consensus algorithms to validate all transactions without giving more attention to any particular party. Hence, it brings fairness to the system.

Do you need a little change or no change in the rules of the system?

Everyone considers blockchain an immutable system as it does not allow you to change rules on the system once they are written.
But blockchain might not be immutable always as it could have a chance of a 51% attack. If a community of miners can control more than 50% of the network, they can control the system, stop other people’s transactions, and double-spend the amount. The risk of the 51% attack is prominent for the Proof of Work algorithm, but other mechanisms ensure a secure environment.
If the answer to 4 out of 5 questions is “Yes,” you may need a blockchain solution for your business.

How much does it cost to build a blockchain-based platform?

While estimating the cost to build a blockchain-based platform or application, you need to consider the following scenarios:

  • Developing a blockchain app with an in-house team
  • Hiring freelancers for blockchain app development
  • Hiring blockchain development companies for blockchain app development

Here is our analysis of the estimated cost of blockchain development for a minimum viable product when using different development resources.

Skill Level In-House Freelancer Agency
Beginner $500,000 $30,000 to $50,000 $250,000 to $500,000
Experts $2,000,000 $50,000 to $90,000 $500,000 to $1,000,000

Working with an in-house team of developers is quite expensive, but it can give you more control over blockchain development. However, you should take this path if software development is your core business. On the other hand, hiring freelance blockchain developers could be less expensive but very risky. Hiring freelancers when the project is small is recommended, but risk factors could increase when a project’s scope grows with time.
Working with a third-party company could be a viable option if your project is enormous. Blockchain companies are experienced and can help you with every development process. Compared to an in-house development team, the cost of blockchain companies is lower.

The cost of blockchain app development also depends on the following factors:

  • Type of Blockchain App you need
  • The complexity of a Blockchain Project
  • People involved in developing an app
  • Project Management Tools
  • Third-Party Tool Subscription Costs

Type of Blockchain App you require

Every business requires a digital solution to run its business operations efficiently. Building a blockchain app can build trust and transparency while removing additional intermediaries.
Before implementing blockchain technology and estimating its cost, you must understand the type of blockchain app you need. Whether you need a permissioned blockchain app or a permissionless blockchain app, you need to consider which application can suit your business needs.
Also, the cost of a blockchain application varies from industry to industry. For example, you may need an app for supply chain management, healthcare, real estate, education, and many other business domains. The cost of an app will depend on the complexity of the project.

The complexity of a Blockchain Project

The complexity of a blockchain project depends on the issues that an application wants to solve.

Here are some examples of blockchain projects based on the complexity level:

  • Low Complexity Blockchain Apps: Payment apps, Smart Contracts Development App
  • Medium Complexity Blockchain Apps: dApps developed on blockchain platforms, Semi-decentralized apps, Hybrid blockchain apps, Blockchain dApps
  • High Complexity Blockchain Apps: Development of Blockchain platform from scratch, A complete decentralized network

People involved in developing an app

The cost of blockchain app development also depends on the number of resources required to develop an application. Salaries of blockchain experts are the significant expenses you should not miss when calculating the cost to build an app.
Since blockchain is still in its nascent stages, you won’t find the right blockchain talent easily. While investing in blockchain developers, ensure you have hired the best and added their salaries to the total expense.

Project Management Methodology

Companies might use agile methodology tools such as Jira, Confluence, and Trello to manage blockchain projects. They use such tools to test an app and track timelines and deliverables. Therefore, the price of project management tools is also added to the cost of blockchain implementation.

Third-party Subscription Tools

Your blockchain app might require a subscription to third-party subscription tools such as bug tracking tools, notification services, amazon web services, software monitoring services, and data analytics tools. The cost of subscription tools also contributes to blockchain app development.

What is the Blockchain Development Process?

The blockchain development process consists of the following six stages:

  1. Identify the Goal
  2. Choose the right Blockchain Platform
  3. Brainstorming and Blockchain Ideation
  4. Proof of Concept
  5. Visual and Technical Designs
  6. Development

Let’s discuss these stages in detail.

Blockchain_Development_Process_Web

In this section, we have explained the process of building a blockchain-based application. Let’s understand how to start with blockchain app development and what steps are required to develop an app successfully.

1. Identify problems you want to solve with blockchain

First of all, it is essential to develop a problem statement and understand all of the issues you want to solve with a proposed solution. Ensure that the blockchain solution will benefit your business abilities. Analyze whether you need to migrate your current solution to the blockchain, or you require a new application to be developed from scratch.

For example, suppose you are a healthcare provider who wants to develop a blockchain-based health record exchange app. In that case, you should know various use cases of the applications and what benefits they will offer to users.

Once you decide that you need a blockchain solution for your business operations, the next step is to select the right blockchain platform and blockchain development tools for your project.

2. Choose the right blockchain platform

As mentioned above in the article, building a blockchain from scratch requires thorough research and takes months to years to develop successfully. Therefore, you should build a blockchain app on top of a blockchain platform that meets your business requirements. You should identify the right blockchain platform for your application based on the factors like consensus mechanism and problems you want to solve. For example, you can build an Ethereum-based application to develop a decentralized public application with smart contracts. When the blockchain platform is identified, you must do a brainstorm and understand the exact business needs.

3. Brainstorming and blockchain ideation

Once you identify the platform for developing a blockchain application, you should focus on drafting business requirements and brainstorming ideas. Find what technology components should be added to the blockchain ecosystem as off-chain or on-chain entities. Create a product roadmap that will help you build an application within a decided deadline. You should develop a blockchain model and conceptual workflow for the blockchain application.
Also, decide if the application needs to be developed on a permissioned or permissionless blockchain network. It would help if you also decided on front-end programming languages, servers, and external databases at this stage.

4. Doing a Proof-of-Concept

A proof of concept is done to represent the practical applicability of a blockchain project. It can be either a design prototype or a theoretical build-up. In Theoretical Build-up, each project requires theoretical cases so that users could understand the applicability and viability of the product. Proposals can be created to explain the project’s parameters. After creating a theoretical build-up and receiving feedback, a prototype is designed, which includes:

  • sketches
  • mockups
  • tested product
  • designs
  • information architecture

When the client approves the PoC, the next step is to prepare technical and visual designs for the application.

5. Visual and Technical Designs

Since you have planned an entire application at this stage, start creating UIs for each software component. Designs APIs that will be integrated with user interfaces to run an application at the back-end. Visual designs are created to give a look and feel to the application, whereas technical designs represent the application’s technology architecture.

Once the admin consoles and user interfaces are designed, the application gets ready for development.

6. Development

Development is the significant phase of the blockchain development process, where you should be ready to build the blockchain app. In this specific stage, you either have to develop or integrate APIs for particular use cases of the application. The application is built under multiple versions.
Firstly, an application that does not undergo formal testing is a pre-alpha version of the app.
Once the client approves it, the application moves to the next stage, i.e., alpha, where the developers test the software with white-box techniques. But, the software might not comprise all the features at this stage.
After the alpha version is released, the app is prepared for the beta version. During Beta Phase, the software application has the complete feature set but with some unknown bugs. Developers share the beta version with a particular group of people outside the organization to test its functionality.
Once the beta version is approved and tested, the application moves to the Release Candidate version, an advanced beta version that is ready to be a final application and can be launched.
After thorough testing, the application moves to the production phase and gets ready for delivery.
Before an app goes live, you should deploy it on the test network to carefully test its functionalities.
Administrators can also manage which versions of the app need to be deployed to various resources with provisioning when deploying an application.
Once an application is provisioned, it must be hosted on the main chain. If your blockchain app is a hybrid solution, i.e., it contains both off-chain and on-chain business entities, you need to deploy it on the cloud server and app store/play store. The application should be able to upgrade according to any new business needs and prioritization.
For instance, if you need to upgrade the smart contract, you should be able to deploy the new contracts without any difficulty later on.
Developing and deploying an app does not mean you are done. Instead, a software application needs to be maintained post-development to ensure that it works with all types of upgrades in the future.

What are the best Blockchain App Development Tools?

Some of the best blockchain development tools are:

  1. Geth
  2. Remix IDE
  3. Mist
  4. GanacheCLI
  5. Solium
  6. EtherScripter
  7. Embark
  8. Metamask
  9. Blockchain Testnet
  10. Truffle

Let’s discuss them.

1. Geth

An Ethereum client, Geth, is used to run Ethereum nodes in the Go programming language. Using Geth, users can mine Ethers, create smart contracts, run them on EVM, explore the block history, and send tokens between addresses. Geth can be downloaded and installed on Linux, Windows and Mac, and it supports two types of installations, Scripted and Binary.
Once you start using the Geth, you either have an option to create your blockchain based on the provided settings or connect to the existing blockchain. If you don’t set any default values, it will automatically connect you to Ethereum’s mainnet.

2. Remix IDE

Remix IDE is a compiler used for small contracts, and it is a browser-based tool used to create and deploy smart contracts. Using the Solidity programming language, you can use Remix IDE to write, debug, test, and deploy smart contracts. Remix can connect to the Ethereum blockchain via Metamask.

3. Mist

Before using Ethereum, you should have a place to store Ether tokens and execute smart contracts. Mist is the Ethereum wallet used for smart contract deployment and is available for Mac, Windows and Linux. While installing Mist, remember that you cannot update it again once you set up the password. Create a strong password and never forget it.

4. GanacheCLI 

A NodeJS package, GanacheCLI, is a customizable and fast blockchain emulator that can stimulate the Ethereum network on a single computer. It allows users to make calls to the blockchain without running an Ethereum node.
GanacheCLI is used for the instant mining of transactions. It is an easy-to-use API that provides you with an overview of test chain events.

5. Solium

Security plays a prominent role when it comes to building a blockchain application. You need to ensure that the Solidity code does not have security holes. Solium tool is specifically designed to format Solidity code and fix security issues in the code.

6. EtherScripter

EtherScripter has an easy-to-use interface used for coding basic smart contracts. With a simple drag and drop interface, developers can connect different components as jigsaw puzzle pieces for developing a contract. It only supports the Serpent programming language.

7. Embark

A development framework for Ethereum-based dApps, Embark, is used to build and deploy dApps and enable you to create smart contracts written in Javascript programming language. If an application contains multiple contracts, Embark can also handle the migration of smart contracts. Using the Embark framework, developers can manage contracts on multiple blockchains such as live networks, testnet and private networks.

8. Metamask

It is a wallet that connects Chrome or Firefox with Ethereum blockchain by acting as a browser extension. It can save keys for Ether and ERC20 tokens. By linking with Coinbase and Shapeshift, you can sell and buy ERC20 tokens and Ethers. It can be installed simply as a Chrome extension.

9. Blockchain Testnet

Users need to pay for the gas usage and launch an application when writing EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine) programs. Since blockchain is immutable and transactions cannot be updated or removed once added to it, untested programs can result in high costs. That is why it is essential to test a decentralized application before deploying it on the mainnet. Ensure to test your app on Blockchain Testnet before going live.

10. Truffle

Truffle is a framework for Ethereum that provides a development environment. The framework supports a library that can link complex Ethereum apps and offer custom deployments to make contract coding simpler. It supports some of the features mentioned below:

  • Automated Contract Testing with Chai and Mocha.
  • Interactive console for direct contract interaction.
  • Built-in smart contract compilation, deployment, binary management and linking.
  • Network Management for deploying public and private networks.
  • External script runner to execute scripts within a Truffle environment.

The list of blockchain development tools is endless. You will find numerous tools that can be used to develop blockchain apps (dApps) and smart contracts. To know which is the best blockchain development tool for your project, consult our team of blockchain experts.

How long blockchain development takes?

The duration of a blockchain project depends on the application’s requirements. The project is initiated with PoC, which typically takes 2-3 weeks. Once the PoC is done, it takes 4-5 weeks to develop a minimum viable product with bare minimum features.

Launching an application on the mainnet takes around 2-3 months based on the requirements of a client.

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