The Lighthouse Blog

Weighing Off-The-Shelf vs. Custom Development

Weighing Off-The-Shelf vs. Custom Development
When it comes to software, there are times when custom development is the only way to go: You need a system that mirrors your organization’s precise business processes, or you have an idea for an innovative application that fills a gap in the market. Either way, specific, customized functionality usually requires specific, customized development.
Then, there are times when custom development is a spectacular waste of money.

Don’t reinvent the wheel

If an off-the-shelf solution is a near fit, then it doesn’t make sense to invest in a design-and-build project to achieve mere marginal improvements. Often, applications can be modified at a relatively low cost. Be sure to examine what’s out there and how it can be configured before embarking on the road to custom development.

There are thousands of established apps and frameworks floating around to fit nearly every business need. Especially when it comes to common organizational tasks, it’s likely that an existing solution will fit the bill, even if it does need a little tweaking.

Here are just a few examples:

Blogs or simple websites

You certainly don’t need to start from scratch when creating a corporate blog or website. Popular Content Management Systems (CMSs) like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla! have countless templates that are completely customizable to meet any needs you may have. Best of all, most of these CMS platforms are inexpensive or free — free, I tell you!

Often, a $40 WordPress template and a little elbow grease can save you thousands in web development costs. If you don’t have in-house IT to do the configurations, it’s a relatively simple job for any web development firm to incorporate your desired look and feel. We do it all the time.

Project management tools

There are dozens of free, subscription-based or purchasable project management apps available. Unless you have very specific requirements, it is unlikely that you will need to develop a custom application to manage projects. Urban Lighthouse has even developed a software platform for oil and gas companies, called Oplii, which includes a project management module. (Apologies for the blatant plug.)

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Managing leads, customers and contacts across your organization is a critical component of an effective sales process. To meet this need, there are a wide variety of applications to serve all sizes of companies. From the industry giant, Salesforce, to countless other smaller vendors, you should be able to find a CRM to match your requirements.


For every coding language, there are thousands of existing scripts that do every imaginable task, from complete applications like online auction builds, to components of websites like FAQ layouts and image galleries. In fact, our developers often make use of programming libraries so that new applications don’t require us to start from scratch. This saves our clients time and money.

Not every script works well or will be flexible enough to conform to your needs, but it’s a good idea to browse popular script sites to get an idea of what is available. and Hot Scripts, for instance, offer thousands of scripts in popular development languages. Make sure to talk to your developer about any interesting scripts or applications you’d like to make use of.

Making the final choice

Even if you ultimately determine that a custom application is required, it can be helpful to use and test existing scripts to give you a better understanding of your exact requirements and potential limitations.

When in doubt, feel free to contact us or any other reputable web shop for assistance and advice. We specialize in helping companies realize their options so they can make fully-informed decisions.

Obviously, custom development is Urban Lighthouse’s bread and butter, but any decent firm will agree on this: The client’s needs and satisfaction come first. Steering a client away from the right solution to line your company’s pockets is a death wish for any service provider.

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