Software vs. Custom Builds
There are many different options to choose from when building a website – and a big cross roads at the beginning of the project is deciding whether you’re going to have something custom built or if you’re going to use a piece of software.
By “software” I mean when you buy/obtain a website “off the shelf” – like WordPress, or OpenCart or Joomla. There are so many different options out there available to buy or download for free, which you then can get your web developer to set up for you and customise.
On the whole, software gives you heaps of functionality for the fraction of the price of a custom build. Your developer just needs to set it up and change the design to suit your brand (which, don’t get me wrong, can take time – but not as long as building everything from scratch, generally speaking). You also get the benefit of sometimes years of refinements and the work of many, many experienced developers who have got it to where it is today.
However, if you’ve got really specific requirements, sometimes there just isn’t a piece of software that’s completely suitable for you. And there can be lines developers aren’t willing to cross when it comes to modifying the core code of software. With software options, you’re wise to upgrade the version you’re using when there are upgrades available, so as to make the most of latest features but also so as to keep up to date with any security patches.
You’ve got to think about the details – if you’ve opted for a piece of software, you need to understand that, without changing the software, you’re signing yourself up for what that software offers. So further down the line you can’t necessary have the luxury of saying “oh, can the online checkout please work like this instead?” or “can you please add in a post code search?” and such like!
Many established pieces of software such as WordPress have an established community of developers who developer “plugins” or add-ons, meaning you might be able to cheaply buy, or download for free, some extra functionality. This can be a fantastic way to grow your site although it is always possible that the member of the community who develops your chosen plugin(s) may at some point stop supporting it / updating it. And you may upgrade your software and find the old plugin no longer works. Worst case scenario though, you could just ask a developer to build you a similar plugin again.
Software isn’t more “insecure” than a custom build – with so many great minds behind it it may be more secure in some instances – but in a way you might say it’s “more worth a hacker’s time” to learn how to get into a piece of software, because once they’ve found a loop hole, they can attack thousands of sites across the web through the same loop hole. So it’s important to keep your version up to date. And when you keep your version up to date, you may have to update the files at the center of the site. Which may mean overwriting the modifications your developer made… which may mean applying the modifications again and potentially even having to work out a new way to do them if the upgrade has changed the code substantially.
If you do use a piece of software, and your developer has quoted a fixed price for setting it up, and then there’s a bug in the software, your developer may charge to try and correct the bug because it’s not their code/not their fault that a piece of publicly available software has a fault. With software constantly being updated, little issues can crop up across versions and no one can stay on top of everything everywhere. And it might just be that you’re using a feature your web developer hasn’t had to use for anyone else recently.
Bespoke website builds
A bespoke website is just that – completely bespoke to your requirements. If you’re working with an experienced team you can often have pretty much whatever you want! But as a result, bespoke builds do cost more.
Whereas a software option begins with a website in a box, a custom build starts with a blank page in a text editor. And each line of code has to be written by the developer. This takes more time, hence the higher price tag, and means it’s very important that every required feature is discussed and taken into account.
Whilst I’ve gone on about how a bespoke build is more expensive – there’s nothing to stop you starting small and working up. Plan out your features with your development team, and split it into phases. Work out what you need in order to launch (and it’s often less than you initially think!) and start with that. This way you have the luxury of ultimately having exactly what you want, but with it being built in affordable chunks.
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