Custom or Out of the Box
Choosing between custom or out of the box software applications can be confusing. Whether the choice is for an in-house software system or a content management system (CMS) for a website which is the better way to go.
Custom software has one advantage: It can be tailor-made to suit a set of exact requirements. Custom application developers may over-state the benefits of custom software – creating these custom apps are their livelihood. What may not be mentioned are the potential difficulties that may appear later… What happens if or when the application builder is no longer available to support the product?
Consider also the cost of developing custom applications. Developing, testing and debugging (fault-finding and fixing) software is time-consuming. any custom developer worth their salt will charge premium rates (be very wary of anyone offering to work well below established market rates – custom development is one of those areas where you get what you pay for). As the buyer of the custom app you will most likely bear the entire cost of this development.
Custom Application Developers
Developers of custom applications have a vested interest in selling their own skills. They have made a major investment of their time and money to gain the knowledge to provide their service. Just as with a web developer who has spent time mastering a particular CMS application, custom developers will want to use their talents as often as possible.
Sometimes a business already locked in to a custom application, created specifically for their needs, possibly at a time when no Out of the Box alternative was available, should consider switching to an OOB option. Granted, where the original application is still fully serving the needs it was intended for such a move may be wasteful. However, once the custom application is out dated, and business requirements have changed in line with modern technology, the time has come to look into alternatives. An article posted on Graphicline today presents a case study where such a switch would have been in the user’s best interests.
Out of the Box Applications
On the other side of the coin, Out of the Box (OOB) applications are more generic, being designed to fill a wide range of roles. Adapting the desired project to the application will often be required. The big advantage OOB has over a custom-built application is long term support. The OOB system will more than likely have a large foundation of supporters to draw on.
Cost wise, OOB applications will always cost considerably less than a custom alternative. The development cost is spread over all the applications sold. There may be initial purchase expenses, and possibly annual licence fees.
Other cost factors will be for deployment and implementation, and on going support, but these will apply in either instance, for OOB or custom apps.
Only choose Custom where essential
There will always be a need for custom applications, however it makes practical and economic sense to look first at what can be achieved using an Out of the Box application.
This rule of thumb extends to website content management systems. From the range of well-developed systems available, for example Drupal, WordPress, Joomla and others, virtually any website can be built. These CMS applications can be adapted (customised) if required to fulfil almost every requirement. The cost of adapting an existing system will nearly always be much lower than having an entire new ‘mouse-trap’ developed from the ground up.