How to Build a Decentralized Application (dApp)
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Have you used a decentralized app before? You likely answered 'No'. You may have used one and probably didn't know it was a decentralized app (dApp). Differentiating a dApp from other applications may be puzzling even for well-versed users. So, what’s the big deal about dApps? Can anyone build a dApp?
DApps are simply applications that run on blockchains. The growing popularity of blockchain products like cryptocurrencies and NFTs have put dApps on the map. Just like in the name, dApps are new applications that offer a decentralized way to do things.
Even with the many dApps in the market today, you can build apps for almost any operation. To make your dApp stand out, you must build a robust infrastructure that offers problem-solving functionality with top-notch user experience (UX). And building such apps isn’t complex. Read through this simplified guide to getting started.
Differentiating dApps from Conventional Apps
Conventional apps are everywhere – we use them to browse the internet, access social media, make cashless payments, and even check the time and weather. These apps rely on data stored in servers to work efficiently. And these servers are often managed by companies that provide the apps’ services.
Contrarily, dApps run on peer-to-peer networks powered by blockchain technology. The apps’ servers have no central governing institution. Instead, the users collectively manage the dApps through the decentralized network. Blockchains ensure that all data stored in the servers are cryptographically secured and distributed publicly to network participants.
Arguably, dApps are at the core of the Web3 revolution, which aims to revamp our conventional centralized infrastructure with a decentralized architecture. The key advantage of dApps over these traditional apps is that they give users full control. Traditional apps often monetize users by selling their personal data or using it for marketing purposes, making you the product.
Outwardly, dApps and conventional apps may look similar. However, beneath the user interface (UI), dApps run on blockchains. Most, if not all dApps have digital tokens that facilitate app operations.
Overview of the dApp Sector
Data from the dApp tracker, DappRadar, indicates there are over 12,000 dApps across 50+ blockchains. Notably, most of the dApps provide financial services, gaming, ecommerce, and social networking. These services are popular in dApps because they largely depend on processing requests and transactions, which blockchains can help to expedite. Decentralized finance (DeFi) and gaming apps remain the most popular dApps in the sector.
The most popular blockchain for building apps is Ethereum. It was the first to introduce smart contracts – self-executing contracts that run securely on the blockchain. Other popular blockchains that support dApps are BNB Chain, TRON, EOS, Neo, Polygon, Avalanche, and Solana. When building your dApp, it may be confusing to select a preferred chain. Alternatively, you may deploy a multichain blockchain API that enables your dApp to run on multiple chains.
What Are the Benefits of dApps over Conventional Apps?
Are dApps really necessary when we already have apps that can perform just about any function well? Here’s why dApps have an edge over traditional apps:
- Decentralized: dApps have no central authority, meaning users interact directly (P2P). Since there are no intermediaries, operations on dApps aren’t driven by profits. So, fees paid to facilitate transactions are minimal – often for incentivizing network users to secure the network. Additionally, dApps allow for open-source development, ensuring the apps are secure and transparent.
- Fast: Smart contracts are the lifeblood of dApp operations. These protocols automatically execute transactions, ensuring no downtime and flawless continuity.
- Access to DeFi Products: Financial services in the decentralized economy are gaining traction among mainstream companies. These dApps offer new ways for people to earn through staking tokens, providing liquidity to token swap pools, and earning interest from token lending.
- Secure: Primarily, blockchain technology has no central point of failure. So, it is practically near-impossible to breach a dApp as one has to breach over half of the nodes on the network simultaneously.
Even with the benefits, dApps also have a few drawbacks including:
- Scalability: Some blockchains have scalability problems and during peak traffic, network congestion can slow down the functionality of other dApps.
- Poor UX/UI Designs: Most dApp developers do not build intuitive apps with enhanced UX. So, users may opt for conventional apps.
Luckily, you can offset these drawbacks. To overcome scalability issues, ensure you adopt a highly scalable blockchain for building the dApp. Alternatively, you can deploy a blockchain API that works with multiple blockchains to leverage the best features for your dApp.
How to build a dApp
Decentralized apps have three primary features: crypto wallets, tokens, and smart contracts. The crypto wallet allows users to manage digital assets like NFTs and send or receive crypto. The tokens are the dApp powerhouse, running transactions and allowing users to transfer value. The smart contracts make transactions possible on the dApp, automatically executing commands when specific conditions are met.
To make a dApp that stands out, ensure your UX/UI design is as good or better than alternative conventional apps. At the back end, deploy an all-purpose blockchain API that will fetch the necessary data for your dApp. Here are steps to go about creating a dApp:
1. Generate a Smart Contract
For an app to operate without intermediary control, you must use a smart contract. This self-executing contract will perform actions securely, transparently, and without oversight from a central authority. The smart contract you build will operate according to the underlying blockchain architecture.
Whatever tasks you intend for the dApp, a smart contract will be the tool powering transactions and requests by users. Ethereum is the most popular blockchain for building dApps. Other blockchains like Solana feature high scalability and minimal gas fees. Ethereum is most preferred because it has many users, offering your dApp a further reach.
2. Build the UI (Front-end)
The front end of your dApp is a make-or-break feature. When building the app’s UI, ensure that it looks similar to other apps in its category and is easy to use – without many instructions on how to operate the app.
Create an exciting UX by refining the app based on test feedback from users. Continual improvement will help you build a robust UI that is simple, responsive, and versatile. Allow users to connect their wallets and experience your dApp during the development phase and collect responses on improving the protocol.
3. Build the Back-end
The back end is the interface that links your app to the blockchain. For your dApp to operate smoothly, you will need to tap into massive data quantities on blockchains. To simplify your back-end build, integrate a blockchain API that will reliably source blockchain information for the dApp. This way, the app functions optimally with secure, verifiable, and real-time data from the blockchain.
4. Carefully Test the dApp
Before a live release, test the dApp carefully to ensure all critical bugs or loopholes are fixed. Ensure that your smart contracts are secure against common vulnerabilities and exposures that may be exploited by hackers.
5. Release and Conduct Regular Maintenance
After confirming that the dApp is fit for a general release, proceed to launch it to users. Then, schedule regular maintenance to identify, fix, and resolve issues. This way, the dApp maintains peak performance, offering users unparalleled UX.
Decentralized apps are rethinking how users access financial, gaming, ecommerce, and many other products. While the blockchain architecture that runs dApps is quite different from that of centralized apps, the front end of dApps should offer a similar, or else better, experience. Adopting the simple and powerful UI design of conventional apps and tapping into the power of blockchains via a blockchain API is one recipe for building the ultimate dApp.