Tailored Fit or Ready-Made: Navigating the Web App Dilemma for Small Businesses

November 16, 2023

Ben Ben Townsend

When small businesses seek browser-based software solutions or web apps, they often face the choice between custom development and off-the-shelf solutions. This decision can have significant implications for their operations, budget, and overall efficiency. In this article we compare the advantages and disadvantages of both options to help small business owners make an informed decision.

Custom Development


  1. Tailored Solutions: Custom development offers solutions that are specifically tailored to meet the unique needs and processes of a business. This ensures that every feature and function is relevant and contributes to the operational efficiency of the business.
  2. Scalability and Flexibility: Custom-built solutions can grow with the business. They offer greater flexibility in terms of updates and changes, making it easier to adapt to evolving business needs or market changes.
  3. Competitive Edge: Custom software can provide unique features not available in off-the-shelf solutions, offering a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
  4. Integration Capabilities: Custom software can be built to integrate seamlessly with existing tools and systems within the business, enhancing workflow and data consistency.


  1. Higher Initial Cost: Custom development typically requires a higher upfront investment compared to off-the-shelf solutions. This can be a significant barrier for small businesses with limited budgets.
  2. Longer Development Time: Developing a custom solution takes time, from planning and designing to testing and deployment. This can delay the time to market and operational improvements.
  3. Maintenance and Support: The business is responsible for the ongoing maintenance and support of the software, which can require additional resources and expertise.
  4. Risk of Choosing the Wrong Developer: If the development team is not skilled or experienced, the project can face significant delays and increased costs.

Off-the-Shelf Solutions


  1. Lower Initial Cost: Off-the-shelf solutions are generally less expensive upfront. They are designed for mass-market appeal, spreading the development cost across many users.
  2. Quick Deployment: These solutions can often be deployed quickly, allowing businesses to benefit from the new software with minimal delay.
  3. Reliability and Support: Established off-the-shelf solutions usually come with vendor support, updates, and a community of users, ensuring reliability and assistance when needed.
  4. Proven Solutions: These products have been tested in the market, reducing the risk of software failure.


  1. Generic Features: Off-the-shelf solutions may not perfectly align with a business’s specific needs, leading to compromises in functionality or workflow efficiency.
  2. Less Flexibility: These solutions are not as flexible in terms of customization and scalability, which can be a limitation as the business grows or changes.
  3. Dependency on the Vendor: Businesses may become dependent on the software vendor for updates, improvements, and support, which can be risky if the vendor discontinues the product or goes out of business.
  4. Integration Issues: There can be challenges in integrating off-the-shelf solutions with existing systems, potentially leading to data silos and inefficiencies.


The decision between custom development and off-the-shelf solutions for a small business depends on various factors, including budget, time constraints, specific business needs, and long-term business goals. Custom development offers tailor-made solutions and flexibility but comes with higher costs and longer development time. Off-the-shelf solutions (often in the form of SaaS or software-as-a-service) are more affordable and quicker to deploy but may not perfectly fit all business requirements and can limit future scalability.

Small businesses should carefully evaluate their current and future needs, budget constraints, and the expertise required to maintain and support the software before making a decision.

Not sure which option is best for your business? We can help you assess the options.