Websites are fantastic tools for marketing, information and selling products or services. But the web is an ever-growing and advancing technology and it’s capabilities expand constantly. Much the way cities develop, thousands of people from around the world are building and updating powerful tools and resources for others to tap into, connect to and build up. What makes this important though, is how it can help you or your business grow and optimize.
By definition we can assume that custom development is literally development that has been customized for a particular purpose, but that doesn’t really help with trying to visualize what custom development is or how it could apply in a given situation. In reality it could mean anything from a WordPress plugin to a fully featured employee portal suite. The options are nearly limitless, but practically speaking there are trends and categories we can use to help identify needs and where custom development might benefit.
There are some prebuilt options out there at varying price points, but some businesses are simply too unique to fit a mold. Custom built solutions can take some of the tracking and administration out of the day-to-day by managing timesheets, accounting, invoices, marketing, sales, projects, inventory and products, contacts, contracts, payroll and pretty much anything else you can think of. Business solutions can also automate tasks so nothing gets forgotten. Another favored feature is to display accurate reports that pull directly from your own data to aid in decisions.
One example of this is a project we’ve begun to develop for one of our clients, that tracks each step of their manufacturing process both for the purposes of inventory and handling a complex payroll system. While we are starting small, the foundation is being laid to expand the system in any direction, offering a flexible, powerful and fully customized solution that directly solves the problem our client was facing about records and auditing.
When the goal is to help customers accomplish some task or provide them with a resource we call that a customer solution. These sometimes appear as simple calculators on your website, or can be a more complex system to help them create and compare quotes for services. Many times this is integrated with eCommerce or contact solutions to foster business-client relationships and communication, other times it could be a fun little app that purely exists for marketing purposes.
Partially Custom Solutions
So what happens when you’ve found a great solution but you wish it could also do ______? Sometimes building something from the ground up isn’t necessary when we can add functionality to an already existing system. This could mean simply hooking up two solutions to work better together or building a little extra something to make that solution really perfect. This is where something called Application Program Interfaces(API’s) often enter the picture. An API is essentially a feature of a program that allows other programs to connect and share data. For example, the QuickBooks accounting software has an API that would allow eCommerce websites to send payment data directly into QuickBooks, saving you the time of having to enter the data manually and ensuring your numbers are always up to date.
We created a partially custom solution for our client, SNAPa. They used a membership system but wanted to connect their website as seamlessly as possible, so we used their membership system’s API to pull not only the membership data but also data for events and sponsors from their membership system to their website. This created a much better experience than what their membership system had to offer but also saved them the time of having to relearn a new system.
Pros and cons of custom solutions versus prebuilt versions vary wildly based on what you are looking for. Cost both upfront and long term can be an issue for either side as well as features, which is why before we start a custom solution of any kind we make sure we know exactly what you want, what you need and what you will want and need in the future. Once we’ve compiled your wish list we look for the best solution, and when we can’t find one that suits your business or customers then we look at what it would take to build your solution from the ground up.
Our clients appreciate our process for building custom solutions because it saves them time and gives them a clear set of steps moving forward. They have full control over their options without needing to be experts in web technology. We also take pride in the fact that from the start we are looking for the best way to meet our clients goals while setting them up for continued success.