So we’ve written many articles about Custom Software. We’ve talked about what it is and what the pros and cons are, but we’ve only scratched the surface.
As we’ve mentioned, Custom Software is software built specifically for you. When you’ve tried existing solutions and they didn’t fit your needs for whatever reason, Custom Software is definitely an option to consider.
Let’s take a concrete example. Let’s say you want to build a website, and you’d like to be able to manage the content on it. So you go out and you try all the industry leaders: Wix, Squarespace, Wordpress. As you use these, you might start to think “Hey these are great, but there are some key features that are missing that would be perfect for my business.” At that point, Custom Software is something you might consider.
The hidden message in “Custom Software is software built specifically for you” is that “Custom Software is software built specifically to solve your problem”.
Let’s examine that a bit more closely.
The problem with Mass Market Software
When people come to us, professionally or for friendly advice, we usually recommend mass market software. Mass market software is generally very high quality, feature rich, and cheap. If you look at software like Wix, Shopify, or Freshbooks, you can generally get started for as low as Free and only go as high as maybe hundreds of dollars a year. In the grand scheme of things, you get a lot for your money. For the most part, and for most people, mass market software is the way to go.
However, it’s not for everybody.
The main problem with mass market software is that it’s designed for the mass market. Product companies, rightfully, design their software to satisfy 90% of the market and do a great job at it. The issue is that there is still that 10% whose environment is different, whose problems are different, and whose lives are different.
There are a myriad of reason why you might fit into that 10%. Perhaps you’re in a very niche industry. Perhaps you’ve invested in legacy software that you want to continue to use. Perhaps you’re pushing the boundaries and doing things that no one else has done before. Whatever the reason, if you’re in that 10%, mass market software might not cut it.
Why isn’t there Mass Market Software to solve my problem
So then you may ask, well I’m among a bunch of people who need this problem solved. Why hasn’t anybody solved it yet? Well it comes down to company strategy and creating a successful business. Think about it. If you were building a company and you did some market research and you found that 90% of people deal with Problem A and 10% of people deal with Problem B - who would you go after? Naturally you’d pick Problem A.
So that’s why generally if you find yourself in the 10%, you might not find any mass market software to solve your problem.
What do you mean it’ll solve my problem
We keep talking in high level terms here that Custom Software is designed specifically to solve your problem. However, it can be abstract, so let’s take an example.
Let’s go back to the example of building your own website. Let’s say you try these “built it yourself” programs and let’s say you are creating some kind of booking system. For example, perhaps you are a plumbing company and you want to build a form where people can book appointments.
So you build a form and people start filling out the form to book appointments. As you start to use it, you realize that it would be really beneficial that if someone booked an appointment for today, that any plumber that’s already out in the field be notified. So you enable that feature and emails start going out to the plumbers who are on duty.
Then you run into a problem.
You realize that the plumbers you have on duty are not actively checking their email on their phones. They are busy driving and doing jobs. You find that they respond best when the phone rings.
So they you think “It would be great that if someone booked an appointment that was specifically for today, that it would call a list of phone numbers and leave an automated message”.
This might be exactly the type of problem that no one has solved yet or no one has built for the platforms you’re dealing with.
You deal with this problem because of the industry that you’re in and because of the way your team operates. Rather than get your team to change, you could build software that works well with the dynamic you already have.
To be honest - this is the flow that we typically recommend for people. Try something out like mass market first, and if you really find it doesn’t suit your needs - custom software is a good consideration.
Sometimes it’s more than just features
Sometimes custom software is not just about implementing features that don’t exist. Sometimes it’s about tailoring an existing feature to suit your needs.
Perhaps some mass market software does indeed solve your problem, but it’s clunky, or the interface has too many steps or clicks or taps to execute what you want to do. You want to make it easy on you and your staff so you get a Custom Software shop to build you that same feature but with an optimized user experience.
The other thing is, Custom Software also gets rid of the clutter that can overwhelm you, your staff or your customers. Because mass market software is catering to 90% of the market, sometimes they have a ton of features you don’t need. You might have a huge number of sections to the application and hundreds of pages to navigate through and while the features are there - it becomes very overwhelming to use. With custom software, you only have what you want.
One note about Custom Software Development
In talking about this, I should mention that Custom Software is definitely a spectrum. While we specialize in ground up solutions, Custom Software development does exist in the realm of mass market software. For example, platforms like Wordpress or Shopify do allow for custom development that integrates with the platform.
So do not let anybody tell you that you can’t do Custom Software development on an existing mass market platform. It all depends on the platform. Some are very open and easily to develop on, and others not.
Only when you’re ready
So in the end, the big take home message here is that Custom Software can be optimal for solving your problem. However, because of the time, effort, and money it takes to develop, it should really only be considered after you’ve explored existing mass market solutions.
If you do end up in the 10% though, having a custom solution built specifically for you can be incredibly rewarding and help you grow your company and push the boundaries of your industry.