How to avoid being fooled by a “custom software development company”?

So you searched for a software house and found one that calls itself a custom software development company or claims to do bespoke software development? What do you think those words actually mean? Are you sure you know what you’re paying for? Let’s answer these questions and determine what should be understood be custom or bespoke software solutions.


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Spend 5 minutes searching for software companies on Google and you are bound to find it. Custom software development company, bespoke software solutions, bespoke software development — those phrases get thrown around quite easily regardless of what those companies actually offer.

If you are an optimist and assume that by customor bespoke they always mean a tailor-made solution made from scratch just for you, you might be in for a disappointment. Let’s try to get things straight.

What does custom software development company do?

Some of the most common definitions of custom or bespoke software pit those terms against off-the-shelf software. The latter simply means any kind of software solution that is sold to an unlimited number of buyers as a standalone product.

But a lot of clients need more than this. They require unique and complex web or mobile apps to support their marketing campaigns and various business objectives. Those apps are supposed to have very specific features to perform various tasks in a given context. Best, it should also be a quality product; one that is well-coded, efficient and relatively bug-free.

Is that what you expect you get when you hear “custom software development company” or “bespoke software solutions”? The practice proves that there are certain problems with this expectation.

Problem #1 — custom may simply mean “slightly modified”

A large portion of developers that, by their own admission, fall under the “custom software development company” umbrella are offering merely minor-to-major modifications and implementations of standard solutions. This may include the development of websites based on open source content management systems such as Magento and with the use of ready-made templates. Such projects may (or may not) involve a lot less effort that you might expect. And some templates may not be well written, easily scalable or customizable. This may matter in the future when you decide to make a website overhaul.

Problem #2 — there is no standard definition of what custom means

Some definitions refer to custom or bespoke software development as an opposition to off-the-shelf solutions. This may suggest a product made from scratch and completely unique. But if you take it literally, it may also refer to any solution that was even slightly modified to make it unique.

Problem #3 — ANY developer can claim to make custom software

By extension, if a slight modification is enough to make software unique, ANY (and I really mean “any”) developer may claim to do custom software development. As long as they are able to make a change to its source code. Once you realize this, you will never assume that “custom” automatically translates to unique or of supreme quality again.

So what should I do to get quality developers?

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against ready-made solutions or even projects that are based on them in their entirety. As a matter of fact, they are extremely useful as they speed up development and decrease price. Not every single project requires hundreds of hours of work. Some clients consciously choose simple solutions in order to save money. They may also be simply testing their ideas and be interested in getting any working solution that is useful enough to do that (read more about Lean Startup, minimum viable products and proof of concept in software development). The point is that no matter what the project is, it should always be labeled correctly. And you should be aware of what it means for the price, amount of work involved in the project and its future potential for further customization. To make sure of that, ask the right questions:

  • Will the application be made completely from scratch, without using any ready-made solutions?
  • If some ready-made software is used, what is it and what purpose does it serve?
  • Can its usage be avoided and what would the implications for future scalability and customizability?

What are bespoke software solutions and bespoke software development?

This takes care of the most important issue. But since I have already mentioned the term “bespoke”, I could not let the opportunity pass to tell a bit more about bespoke software development and bespoke software solutions. The term “bespoke” is not nearly as popular as custom and chances are you have never come across it. The word has a long tradition and originally referred to suits that “has been spoken for”. The tailor created bespoke suits by carefully taking measures of the client, polishing the pattern on that person. “Bespoke” is as close to creating unique things from scratch as you can get. If you come across a company that offers bespoke software solutions, you should definitely expect them to be able to develop complex and unique web apps that are tailor-made to the most specific of your requirements.

As for Sensinum, we are using the terms “custom software development” and “bespoke software development” interchangeably. That’s because every time we use the phrase “custom software development company” to refer to Sensinum, we’re talking about solutions that are:

  • carefully crafted by skilled developers,
  • full of custom-designed features made from scratch to work in the context of your business,
  • ready to meet your requirements to the fullest, with no compromises to be made,
  • but at the same time without being an overkill, that is employing more affordable components wherever it is possible without negatively influencing the final product, with the goal to minimize the costs.

This way, our definition of the word “custom” fulfills the definition of the word “bespoke” as well. If that’s the kind of custom software development you’re looking forward, contact us and let us turn your marketing ideas into magnificent software.

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