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How Custom Software Avoids Unnecessary Complexity

It is not uncommon in the software industry to have people question the value of a custom solution versus an off-the-shelf one. In some cases, an off-the-shelf enterprise solution will do the trick, in others – a more tailor-fitted system is needed. It all depends on the needs of the organization in question, and the issues they are trying to address.

Custom vs. Off-the-Shelf Phone showing multiple screens

In one of our past blogs, our Software Development Team Leader quickly explained the difference between custom software and off-the-shelf.

Off-the-shelf software solutions (i.e. Norton, Adobe or Microsoft) are developed for the mass market. Because these solutions are distributed to millions of people, they can justify selling their products for less than a custom system. However, if you wanted Microsoft to custom tailor their Microsoft Excel program to fit your specific needs, the cost to develop would be colossal.”

The big takeaway here is that off-the-shelf solutions are developed for the mass market, whereas custom solutions are developed specifically to your needs. Because custom systems are built around your requirements, the features included are exactly what you need – no more and no less. For a quick overview of the differences between custom software and off-the-shelf, check out our infographic at the bottom of the page.

Unnecessary Complexity vs. Simplicity

Due to the wide net cast by commercial software systems, they often come loaded with various features and functions which can convolute your user experience. You find yourself digging all through the system to get to the heart of what you really need it for. We refer to this abundance of irrelevant features as unnecessary complexity.

Nielsen Norman Group explains the first step in ensuring a great user experience:

“The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother. Next comes simplicity and elegance that produce products that are a joy to own, a joy to use.”

Simplicity might not be a word that comes to mind when you think of Custom Software, but it is vitally important when developing a custom system. Developed properly, software built around your unique process and needs results in an easy to use, intuitive system that accomplishes exactly what you need it to, without the unnecessary complexity. Consider it like your very own No Frill’sTM solution.

On the other hand, off-the-shelf solutions are one-size-fits-all, coming out of the box with functionalities that allow it to apply to a wide range of needs. Just like one-size-fits-all clothes, you may find your off-the-shelf solution either too small or too big, rarely will it fit perfectly.

Stagnation vs. Scalability

When it comes to scaling your solution, you will find off-the-shelf software to be much more rigid when compared to its custom-made counterpart. Commercial software may have options for add-on features, but it is purposefully built as a standardized broad-spectrum solution.

Custom software, however, is more scalable, flexible and versatile. Functionality can evolve with your business because it is built around your specific requirements, allowing you to add or remove features at your request (give or take some development time). It can be made to work on any platform or device, as well as integrate with any system you choose. Obviously, additional development time costs money, but it costs much less and is much more attainable than trying to customize a mass-market solution.

Final Thoughts

Custom software isn’t for everybody, but it could be for you. Before committing to the development of your own custom system or paying a year’s subscription for one off-the-shelf, perform an internal assessment. What do you need the software for? Is it for a mission-critical process? Will it need to scale with you over time? Depending on the answers you come up with, you will be better positioned to determine which path is right for you.

If you need some guidance during the process, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. With +30 years of experience in software development, we can help you determine what the right approach is for your organization. Schedule your free 20-minute consultation today!



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