Bespoke Development and Why it matters more than ever

Bespoke Development and Why it matters more than ever
By Gareth
18th February 2017 at 12:57

Unless you’re a skilled web designer, getting a website built nowadays can be a daunting task for anyone. There are so many buzzwords including “Wordpress”, “Bespoke”, “Magento” or “Drupal”.

Unfortunately, the web design and development world has gone a bit mad in the last few years by using off the shelf packages or solutions. However, in 2017 offering something unique has become more important than ever.

In terms of bespoke development, an enormous amount of time can be spent in creating core development foundations.  We all know that time is money and the longer something takes to create, the more expensive it will become.  For a skilled developer, if they have created a framework that allows them to create bespoke websites in a short period of time, then this solution is the most ideal.

So why do some web designers use off the shelf solutions?

There a few reasons why designers use off the shelf solutions. In a conversation with a graphic designer I was saying how custom development is the best solution for websites. Her immediate reply was "but I can't do that"! That in a nutshell is the primary issue. While off the shelf will open the door to more industry professionals (a problem we will discuss later), it then means scalability has a good chance of going out of the window.  After all who wants a site created where you're restricted by not only the software but the skill set of the person building it.

Even for more experienced developers that have room for maneuver, solutions like Wordpress have issues in their own set of right.

Wordpress - an evolved blogging software

Wordpress started out as a blogging platform and over the years has evolved as a platform to build websites. It was never intended to become as big as it has.

Security Issues

Due to the popularity of Wordpress and other similar packages, hackers have targeted the platform. As a result, security is a major concern and as we see from previous hacks, it has become a very common occurrence. While the Wordpress core may be safe (prior to latest updates), plugins may have their own security holes which means keeping the main platform updated is extremely important.

Keeping Things Up To Date

Speed Comparison Wordpress vs Bespoke

When using an off the shelf package, they will need to be updated on a regular basis.  Outdated platforms are vulnerable from a security standpoint.  Hackers could target the application knowing the various workarounds and thus compromising the system.  Wordpress also uses third party plugins and extensions which are also vulnerable to such security issues.  In fact the most common reason for Wordpress sites being hacked, are the plugins themselves.

The issue with updating the main core of a program is that any plugins are often dependant on specific versions.  As a result, functionality will break and the only way to fix the issue is to update the plugins too. However, plugins are not updated as often as the main core platform.  The end result is a main feature of your website no longer working while you await for an updated version.

Keeping any off the shelf platform up to date is a game of cat and mouse where you need to update to defend against the known vulnerabilities but ensure you are not breaking the site at the same time.  Sometimes it’s best not to partake and look at better or more robust solutions.

The sheer lack of control

The greatest of issues in the non bespoke world is the complete lack of control when it comes to customisation.  Incorporation of additional features is sometimes possible by changing the foundations of the code.  However, this could open up a “can of worms” in terms of affecting the functionality of the system in other areas as well as opening up security holes.

Now one could argue that you could then develop your own plugins and use Wordpress etc as the base platform. That may be true but essentially defeats the object if using an off the shelf platform in the first place. In addition, when Wordpress updates, you’ll need to update your own plugins to compensate.

As a web designer, if you’re looking at developing a Wordpress site you run the risk of coming across feature requests from the customer but you are unable to offer them.  Telling your customer that they may need to alter the way they work in order to fit in with the application is a difficult concept for some to grasp.

Some Examples

Let's take a look at a few examples of features that have been achieved with bespoke development.

Unique Menu - Hertford Town Council

Unique Menu

The sub menu on Hertford Town Council may not be anything too fancy but it makes a content rich site easy to navigate around.  The menu has been carefully designed for the customer on a unique level.

Search Facility - Little Chickie

As you can see from the search facility on Little Chickie, you can narrow down your results using a quick click of the button.  On other non custom platforms, this would be clunky, but with AWD we’ve spent time ensuring that there is a high level of fluidity and ease of use.

Cool UX - OnPoint Training

UX is an artform and takes skill to achieve.  In the case of Acoustik the blurring of the background is achieved by writing completely custom code

SEO Performance

One of the biggest misconceptions of Wordpress is that it’s great for SEO by default.  Unfortunately, that statement comes with many caveats and considerations.  It is true that Wordpress has many core features that lend themselves to SEO. However, the right tools in the wrong hands scenario could not be more accurate here. These features need somebody who knows what they are doing to use them.

While Wordpress may have these elements in place, any good bespoke developer can offer the same and in many cases much more.

As you have probably heard over the last few months, speed is an important factor in Google’s new algorithm.  I’ve seen countless Wordpress sites fail miserably in terms of speed and performance. Even the latest version of Wordpress doesn’t handle these too well.

Speed comparison - AWD and a Wordpress site

Pre December 2016*

  • AWD Developed Site - 90/100
  • Wordpress Site - 30/100

Post December 2016*

  • AWD Developed Site - 90/100
  • Wordpress Site - 15/100

*Since Google changed their speed algorithm

The above sites were checked with Google’s Speed Test tool, which can be found by clicking here

Google has made some changes to their speed algorithm recently which check the images and see how much they can be compressed.  While our scores did drop slightly when the new algorithm came in, it was easily rectified using newer methods, something that simply can’t be put into an off the shelf platform.

Bespoke development doesn't necessarily mean that speed is going to be at the highest level. What it does do though is offer a level of control and optimisation to skilled developers.  Choosing the right bespoke developer will far outway the same level Wordpress developer.

What about e-commerce platforms?

There are many good e-commerce off the shelf platforms out there, but the the inherent problems still remain.  Systems like Magento are essentially a fancy version of the terrible OSCommerce that plagued e-commerce businesses years ago.  It is true that the likes of Magento do have some great plugins but customisability is still a lingering issue.  Such complex plugins come with their own array of issues.

While it is true that building such advance systems in a bespoke manner can have significant time issues, spending time at the start will then make the process far easier in the future.  Good developers will have libraries of code they can use and adapt with precision.

Then comes the issue with theming.  Unlike Wordpress which is pretty easy to theme, Magento is a real nightmare.  While some may argue against the case once you’ve got to grips with the method in which Magento works, the learning curve is steep.  In addition, future versions of Magento may change their styling choices.  Such issues could become a development headache to achieve a high level of quality.  A customer who wants that extra level of design may never achieve it using an off the shelf system.

All the issues discussed with off the shelf platforms remain including SEO performance, customisation and lack of complete control.

Anyone can do it

Off the shelf packages mean that pretty much anyone can build a website and launch it in the web. The issue with that is that it anyone can put low quality websites out into the world. As previously stressed, there are numerous factors that need to be considered in launching a website and making it successful.

The availability of such systems also mean that high quality developers are often lost amongst the crowd, something that is not good for the web design industry in the long run.

Responsive sites work better

Responsive Websites

There are numerous templates for pre packaged websites and many now offer responsive design. Truth be told, it means that responsive design can often lack flexibility or take into consideration more than one device.

A bespoke build means responsive sites work better in general. There are a number of devices you have to take into consideration when developing a website.  In my development environment, specific layouts are given to the following device and screen types:

Desktops & Laptops

  • High Definition screens
  • Standard Desktop
  • Laptop widescreen
  • 4K Resolution Screens

Tablets:

  • iPad Pro in Landscape
  • iPad Pro in Portrait
  • iPad Air in Portrait
  • iPad Air in landscape
  • iPad Mini in portrait
  • iPad Mini in portrait
  • Android device

Mobiles:

  • iPhone
  • Android

Imagine having that level of customisation down to the device and orientation. Research tells us that usability is key to the user to finalising the sale.  Therefore, taking these into consideration at such diverse levels will drive sales and increase user experience.

Ease of Use

As a bespoke developer we often have people coming to us who have almost been tearing their hair out with Wordpress etc and finding what they want to do. Bespoke development not only allows you to customise the CMS to their customer but is bloat free.  Bloatedness within CMS platforms are one of the biggest customer complaints.  There are features that will never be used by the customer or aren’t even applicable to the site itself.

The drawbacks of bespoke development

We could be considered biased towards bespoke development as we firmly believe that quality and the end result are what makes modern web design so important.

Development time is the biggest drawback with the first builds. However as a developer builds up their catalogue of code it soon negates the issues that can arise of increase development time.

Costs could become a factor in terms of bespoke development.  Increased development will often have a negative impact on the customer in the short term.  Providing good foundations are built in the early stages the costs can come down.  I myself have recently discussed just why development time in general is far greater than it use to be in this article.  However, I stand by my reasons for developing in a bespoke method and avoiding off the shelf packages.  When you're trying to achieve quality, uniqueness and performance, bespoke development is paramount.

1 Comment(s)

  • John at 18:29 on 08/03/2017

    A very good read. I always say Wordpress is like a ready meal, it's quick and convienient to most but will never match the real thing. - Reply

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