Custom vs. Off-the-Shelf Software: What Should You Choose?

Choosing the right software for your business can be a challenge, especially when budget plays a significant role in the selection process.

Oftentimes, off-the-shelf software seems like the most appealing choice because it can be purchased quickly and for a lower price. But at the same time, custom software has the draw of being designed especially for you.

Before you run out and buy off-the-shelf software, or start calling up custom software developers, let’s weigh the pros and cons of each. That way, you can choose the type of software that’s right for your business.

Off-the-Shelf Software

Off-the-shelf software is simply software designed for the general public, which can easily be purchased in-stores or online.

If you think of software in terms of clothing, off-the-shelf software is akin to the mass-produced clothing you find in most stores: It fits but maybe not exactly how you want, or expect, it to. Nevertheless, it still does the job.


  • Less expensive - There’s no question: The initial cost of off-the-shelf software is much lower than that of custom software. You won’t need to hire a developer: The software’s already been built.

  • Readily available - As in the name, off-the-shelf software can be taken off the shelf--literally. Visit your local tech store, or search for it online, and your off-the-shelf software will be there waiting for you.

  • Reliable and well-tested - Classic examples of off-the-shelf software include standard office programs, like Microsoft Office, to accounting software applications, like QuickBooks. Such software is widely used and thoroughly tested, so you know it can do the job.


  • Difficult/expensive to customize - Off-the-shelf software doesn’t come without its limitations, and surpassing those limitations may be more complicated and expensive than you would expect.

  • Too many/few features - You may find yourself drowning in an excess of features, or realizing there aren’t enough. In the case of the latter, you could end up bouncing from one program to another, significantly decreasing efficiency and disrupting your workflow.

  • Designed to accommodate many users - The same factor that makes off-the-shelf software so readily available can also make it less useful for your business. Designed for a broad audience, it’s built to meet the majority’s needs, and not necessarily yours.

Custom Software

Custom software, also called ‘bespoke’ or ‘tailor-made software,’ is software developed for a specific business or organization.

Unlike mass-produced off-the-shelf software, custom software is like clothing designed to accommodate your unique body type and style. As in the nickname, it’s tailor-made to fit the person it’s for.


  • Designed with you in mind - The greatest thing about custom software is its ability to meet your unique business needs. Because you can choose how and what specifications it must fulfill, your custom software will perform exactly as you need it to.

  • Limitless possibilities - With custom software, the sky’s the limit. As long as you have the funding, you can build whatever your business needs to grow, streamline its practices, or acquire a competitive advantage over your competitors.

  • Scalability - Even if you can’t afford to build your dream software today, you can start taking steps towards it: Establish a strong foundation now, and build onto it in the future.


  • Higher cost - Getting exactly what you want comes at a price. Building custom software requires a software developer: The more complex the project, the more time it will require from a him, and thereby, the more money it will require from you.

  • Lengthier development time - Since custom software is built just for you, a significant amount of time is required to plan and develop it. From mapping out every detail to testing the software, each step in the development process adds up.

  • Potential for wrong team - Hiring the right team is crucial in custom software development. Without the right team, your chances of seeing your ideal software come to fruition drop dramatically.

So, What’s Better for You?

As with most anything, there are pros and cons to both custom and off-the-shelf software, and from reading through the list of differences, you’ve probably realized that cost is the great differentiating factor.

Generally speaking, while custom software offers greater flexibility and customization, it typically comes at a higher cost. Conversely, off-the-shelf software is cheaper and more readily available, but not always the right fit.

Is Off-the-Shelf Software Really Cheaper?

It should be noted, however, that while the initial price of off-the-shelf software may be less, it’s not always less expensive. As mentioned, customizing this software can end up costing you more in the long-run.

If you known that you’ll need to go custom in the future, it’s better to start with custom software from the get-go. That way, you can bypass the costs and complications associated with customizing off-the-shelf software, and even better, have the software you need from the very beginning.  

Ready to Go Custom?

Building the right custom software for your business will require the right team. The ideal team will show an interest in your business’s vision and help to arm you with the tools necessary to further that vision.

That could be us. At ClikFocus, we partner with businesses like yours to make your custom software ideas into realities. If you think it, we can create it. With us, the possibilities are endless.

Let’s start building your software today! Contact us.