Difference between Custom and Customized System

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Freelance PHP Developer

I want to register my regular frustration here, where my clients have used this word “Customized” quite frequently.

So, whenever we are discussing about developing a management system for their business, they are sooooo very used to “the others” using the term “Customised” so much that they think that is the ONLY option they have.

Most probably, they have been inundated so much by other IT vendors with the word “Customised” that they don’t even think or believe that there is even an alternative.

To define what “Customised” means, let me explain:
It means to take a ready-made system, that already comes with the set of features that the client wants, more or less, and then customise it to add, remove or tweak some of those features, to be exact as possible to what the client wants.

If you know what is WordPress, you know what “customised” means already. WordPress is a ready-made engine for making websites. You want a booking system, there’s a plugin for that. You want a shopping website, there’re many plugins for that.

So, a developer, or a semi-developer (because I hardly agree that people who just sets up WordPress sites should be called Developers), will set up the WordPress site, adds in some of the plugins, and voilà, present it to the clients, sometimes as if they did the whole engine from ground up.

Anyway, that is what customising a system means.

Not so the Custom system.

Custom system means to develop a management system, literally from ground up. That means, EVERYTHING that the client wants, from ground up. That means exactly what the client wants, nothing more, nothing less.

In fact, this is an oft-repeated complain among my clients. “The system I have now have 1001 features, so much features that I’m overwhelmed. Most are unnecessary, but thank you. But! It doesn’t have the 2 features that I really need! And I’ve been requesting and complaining for months/years already!” (from an actual client’s statements).

Let me give an example, from a real-life experience of a “Customised” experience which I had.

Client wanted a restaurant reservation system. He pointed me to an existing ready-made reservation system out there, and said that he likes all those features, but it doesn’t have 2 features that he wants. Namely, being able to accept a deposit for reservation, and being able to reserve an exact table by number.

He wants me to 1) take THAT system, and 2) magically put in the 2 new features, and voilà, he has a perfect system.

Sadly, it doesn’t work that way.

I have oft-repeated to my prospects an analogy: about ready-made and tailor-made shirts. it doesn’t make sense to purchase a ready-made shirt, and then bring it to the tailor to make many adjustments. It makes better sense, either to accept the ready-made shirt, as it is. OR have the tailor make a shirt, exact to your measurements, from ground up.

So, if you are running a restaurant and you need a reservation system with special requirements, please do not expect magic from the developers by saying something like:
“Just take this existing ABC Software, and add my 5 features in it. Should be cheaper, right? Your work is only the 5 features, right? Most of the 1000 features are already in ABC Software, right?”

It just doesn’t work that way. If anyone claims it is so, please do not trust that. I have seen way too many clients calling me in exasperation after testing this method out.

And what I told them is what the gist of this article is: if you need a Custom System, get a custom systems developer or tell the developer you know that you want it custom-made. Otherwise, it’s just going to be an expensive lesson, which will be wasting both your money and time.

This article is for your awareness and better decisions.

About the Author

Anees Khan is a freelance web and mobile app developer for the past 28 years, and is running Getcha Solutions to help companies get the latest tech for their business needs, requirements and custom operational workflows.


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