Bespoke software versus off the shelf: what's the difference?

Bespoke software isn’t for everyone.

While its personalised nature can reportedly offer you a high return on your investment, the initial costing of bespoke software can seem as a hindrance – especially, when compared to off the shelf options that are popular and cheaper in contrast. If you’re not sure which will be best for you, then here’s a break down of the positives and negatives in each.

The positives and negatives with bespoke software


The most prominent feature of bespoke software is that it’s tailored to you and your business’ needs, this is the feature that most often attracts customers to bespoke software as opposed to off the shelf; it is this personalised nature of the product that opens up a range of other benefits.

One of those being the hands-on work that goes into this software. Due to its unique capabilities, in many cases you’ll find yourself working closely alongside the developers of your software. This closeness that often develops gives you an insight into the inner workings of the product, and also is an added perk for when it is time for your software to receive updates, as it is easier for the software to be updated to your ideal specifications when you’re working 1-2-1 with developers who understand what you’re looking for.

Alongside that, on average, there tends to be more control for those who opt for bespoke packages as the software is tailored to you, your own skill and need level.


However, as expected the bespoke software is a costly investment; for the obvious reasons. Saying that, the end price depends entirely on your own needs and expectations from the software, there are ways to vary the price if the investment becomes too costly.

But the more one adds, the longer it will take for the developers to create. If you’re on a time restraint or deadline, it may be wise to take into account how long the creation of your bespoke software may take.

As bespoke software can sometimes be a niche area, there may be a limited number of developers who can tackle your project, and in many instances tailored software can become outdated quicker because of the unique capabilities.

However, it has been documented that if the project is executed well and all issues are ironed out, then there is the potential for you to receive a higher return on your investments – as opposed to if you opted for off the shelf software.

The positives and negatives of off the shelf software


While bespoke software offers many positives (as well as negatives), that doesn’t mean that there’s no space for off the shelf software as well.

A few of the reasons as to why people tend to lean toward this standard version of software is due to the fact that is cheaper.The price margins tend to be lower on the product because it is a one-size-fits-all software, this means that it offers a vast arrangement of capabilities – even some you may not need.

Alongside this, due to the popularity of a one-size-fits-all prototype, off the shelf software tends to have a dedicated userbase and therefore, can offer community support if there are any issues with it; it’s also not uncommon to find reviews and opinions from previous buyers. By default, this then means that off the shelf software is technically easier to fix as it has already been tried and tested by so many others.


However, there are a few downfalls.

One common complaint is the extraordinary size of off the shelf software. Although it’s a positive that there is so much content jammed into the programme, it does mean that it’s a bigger file and therefore not as simple to run.

Alongside this, the inundation of unnecessary content may be off-putting for some users, however, this should be judged on an individual basis.

When it comes to aspects such as updates and issue resolutions, people in the past have complained of many problems being pushed to the side. The reason behind this is understandable because whereas bespoke software offers a 1-2-1 service, this professional help isn’t on offer in the same way for those who buy off the shelf software. Each programme offers extensive benefits, and with that, comes disadvantages. However, these depend entirely on your own perception and business goals.

If you’re after a low-cost solution that does the job, then the off the shelf software would be ideal for those needs. However, if you’re willing to invest in your business for the long term then you may find the benefits in the bespoke package are more akin to what you’re trying to achieve.

Whatever you decide, it needs to be software that is conducive to you.

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