The Complete Guide to Bespoke Software Development


The recent crisis that the whole world has been affected by – the COVID-19 pandemic – has led to everyone embracing digital media with open arms. Internet and smartphone usage is consistently and rapidly on the rise. Therefore, businesses of all types have been forced to move operations online so that they can stay in the game and not lose out on their customer base.

If you, as a business owner, are still contemplating going digital, this is the perfect chance for you to come aboard the ship called ‘digital and technological revolution.’

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There are two options when choosing to launch a new app or website in the market:

  1. Off-the-shelf software
  2. Bespoke software

What Is Off-the-Shelf Software?

The term ‘off-the-shelf’ is self-explanatory. Quite literally, a product being off-the-shelf means that it is ready to be sold. It has been manufactured, packaged, and put on display on a shelf. You can walk into the store and purchase it right away.

Off-the-shelf software also works the same way. It is a software program that was developed to meet certain needs that a lot of people may have in common. Let us take Microsoft Word, as an example. The developers felt that computer users needed a computer program that could help them type documents and format them as they liked. What did they do to address that need? They came up with a common software solution that would meet everyone’s needs for a word processor. Word was developed long ago and, to this day, is available for purchase to whoever needs it. You can buy a license for Word very easily.

Why is this convenient for everyone? Firstly, the developers do not need to make new software from scratch, again and again, every time someone needs a word processor. Secondly, customers do not need to hire a developer for something as basic as word processing software. They can quickly go to Microsoft’s website, purchase Word, and start using it right away, without having to wait for weeks or months!

What Is Bespoke Software Development?

As opposed to off-the-shelf products, bespoke apps are made to order. You can hire freelance software developers or a professional software development company to work on your software project.

With custom software development, there is a lengthy process to follow. Before the process begins, you have to choose the best developers (we will give you some tips for this part at the end of the article). Now the development process will start.

The Process

In the first step, your software partner will conduct an extensive requirements gathering and analysis phase. This step will give you the perfect opportunity to communicate what outcomes you expect at the end of the project. You can make a list of features you want to see in your app. When done right, this activity can save you a lot of time in the long run. If your app is not planned properly (or at all), you will have to keep coming back to the first step even in later stages of the development cycle.

The next phase is design, which is crucial in this day and age if you want to gain an edge over your competitors. Your app should be designed in such a way that it meets your target audience’s expectations in terms of ease of use and simplicity. During this stage, you have to not only decide the aesthetics and outlook of your software but also ensure that your app is designed to be user-friendly and easy to adapt to for the end-users. The UI/UX designers can draw up some wireframes or design a software prototype so you can figure out the look and feel of the product that you have envisioned.

Now comes the part where you can lower your level of engagement with the development team. The software developers take over and start the coding phase. Your app idea is coded to reality. At the end of the development phase, the quality assurance engineers and testing experts take your software on a trial run to make sure that there are no faults in your app and everything works perfectly. They may also approach you for feedback. If the intended user is someone other than you, you can introduce a select few users to the app so that they can test it out and let you know if they notice anything wrong with the app.

After testing is complete, your final product is ready for official release on a larger scale!

Which Is Better, Bespoke Software or Off-the-Shelf Solutions?

Off-the-shelf software works well for people and organisations who are not looking to carry out a highly specialised task. It is also a cheaper solution compared to bespoke software. Off-the-shelf software is ready for use immediately, so it is ideal if you are looking for a quick solution to your problem. Sometimes, however, these software apps can be offered on a periodic subscription-based model instead of a one-time payment, which could cause the costs to go way beyond your budget in the long run. Also, in wanting to adopt a quick solution, you may not be able to get your hands on all the features that you wished to see in your dream app. These software products can thus be very limited in terms of features and level of customisation.

Bespoke software, on the other hand, is ideal for customers who would like to have a specialised product made specifically to achieve their unique goals. This option is often considered when there is no other solution readily available in the market. It may take a long time to finish building though. You will have to partner with a reliable software development company or hire a costly in-house software development team. It would also incur higher costs but you can think of it as a one-time investment. Maintenance and updates don’t cost much either, making bespoke software quite a sustainable solution in the long run.

The decision to choose bespoke or off-the-shelf software depends on your requirements and expectations, among other factors.

How to Find the Right Bespoke Software Development Company

There are several simple ways to find a developer who would be best for your particular project.

  1. Google Search: Over time, Google has improved the quality of its search results in terms of relevance. Just a basic search for “software development company in the UK”, for example, would give you some great answers for your query. Google also gives users the option to rate businesses on its platform, so you can rest assured that the results you get are high-quality and relevant, and will not be a waste of your time.
  2. Review Platforms: An alternative to carrying out a casual search on the Internet is the option to look into a few trusted review websites. These sites have lists of software developers who are often categorised according to the types of services they offer. For example, if you are specifically looking to have a website built, you can skim through the list of top web developers for this year. Review platforms also give you the option to shortlist a suitable bespoke software development company according to other factors, such as budget, geographical area, industry, past reviews, and overall ratings. If, for example, you are looking to partner with a software development company in London, you can add a filter for location so that you are only shown developers based in the London area. Two great websites that offer a vast catalogue of development companies are Clutch and Manifest.