E-commerce: To bespoke, or not to bespoke?
If you are serious about setting up shop on the world wide interweb, this is a question which you will need to ponder with considerable trepidation: will your online shop be powered by an off-the-shelf solution, or will you design and develop a bespoke e-commerce system? Both options have their pro's and con's. Let's discuss.
There are a great deal of pre-built solutions out there, ranging from small open-source systems to massive enterprise-level solutions designed for multi-million pound turnover websites. The features they offer vary as much as their prices, but at the core of every solutionis a database of products, shopping basket functionality and a payment gateway, whether it be third-party (such as Paypal) or integrated.
Advantages of an off-shelf system are:
- If they are commercially available then (assumably) they have been fully tested and are bug-free. However, anybody who has used a Microsoft operating system in the past knows that unfortunately, this ethos is not a guarantee.
- They can be cheaper to implement.
- For anybody other than the team who developed the product, they can be a right pain to customize.
- Lower-end solutions produce out-dated and invalid code, with no SEO strategy in mind.
- If the solution doesn't offer a desired feature then... tough. More often than not, the time and cost involved in developing a custom feature to fit within an off-the-shelf solution is false economy, and your shop will be forced to constrain within the capabilities of the solution.
A bespoke e-commerce solution is created to exact specifications, with custom-features and management tools all custom-made for the client. As a bespoke systems developer, it could be argued that I am perhaps a little biased, but I shall try to cover both advantages and disadvantages in a neutral manner:
- The solution can do anything you want, and is only limited by time, budget and imagination.
- The client is involved with the development of the solution and its logic, ensuring it performs exactly as expected.
- If you intend on working long-term with a development agency, the team of developers will be a lot more familiar with their own system as opposed to someone elses, and tweaks and updates become easier and less time-consuming.
- It is easier to create new features and functionality with a thorough working knowledge of the solution.
- Statistically speaking, you are more likely to encounter bugs, especially in early development. However, maintenance agreements ensure any bugs that occur get fixed at no extra charge.
- Time, and therefore cost, can add up.
No matter what path you take, there will invariably be a large time and cost commitment. That is why at Artlines, we offer frank and honest advice on which path to walk - and no matter what you choose, we can help turn an online shop into a successful commercial venture.