Is Custom Software 100% Custom Made?

Contrary to popular belief, custom software is not 100% made from scratch.

Just like when you are baking a cake, you don’t personally cut the wheat from the field and milk the cows yourself! Instead, you incorporate some pre-packaged items like processed flour and pasteurized milk that you get from the store. Once you have the basic building blocks, you assemble them into your final creation – the cake.

Custom software uses a similar process to source what goes into it. Prefabricated individual building blocks are assembled to create the final product to a customer’s specifications. For example, a database engine is the starting point for most custom software applications. Luckily software developers do not need to build a database engine from scratch for each new project; they use an existing one as a basic building block of a custom application.

The programming language used to create a new application is certainly not developed from scratch each time either. Developers select an established language that has been created by programming geniuses and used in thousands of other projects already.

The above two technologies are examples of very basic building blocks. This article will highligh some less basic building blocks that we use to create custom business applications, mobile apps, and marketing websites. Once these basic building blocks are selected, developers assemble them into the final creation.

NPM for Node.js

Many modern developers leverage an open source framework named Node.js. Node.js is especially good for custom software development projects. One of the reasons that Node.js is so successful is because it launched with NPM, also referred to as the Node Package Manager.

At the time of this writing, there are 475,000 Node.js packages – the name Node.js calls their building blocks. These include low level functions, API integrations, database drivers, the ability to send email and text messages, and much more. Developers can gain significant efficiencies on a project by quickly pulling one of these building blocks in and using it to implement a requirement.

Although it’s a quick process to import a building block, the custom logic pertinent to how you need to use that building block still needs to be specifically coded to each project. That’s the “custom” part of custom software development.

NuGet for .NET

Another framework that developers utilize to create custom applications is Microsoft’s .NET framework. Just like Node.js, .NET has an open source gallery of packages – what Microsoft calls building blocks in .NET projects.

This gallery is named NuGet and has about 97,000 building blocks at the time of this writing. Just like with NPM, developers can download and install .NET building blocks that interface with APIs, database, email servers, etc. These elements are then layered with custom logic that makes a custom application unique.

WordPress Plugins

Node.js/NPM and .NET/NuGet are used for custom software and mobile app development. But for marketing websites, WordPress is a favorite of web designers and developers. It’s a better tool for content creation, content management, and digital marketing.

WordPress itself provides a ton of building blocks for content (ex: blogs, articles, marketing copy) websites. Just like other platforms, WordPress offers open source building blocks which are called plugins. WordPress offers an extensive plugin gallery featuring 53,000 plugins.

Like with Node.js and .NET, these are building blocks that can be downloaded and installed in the marketing site to do all sorts of cool things like eCommerce, sending emails, rotating images, and a whole lot more. How they’re used by developers is determined by the project’s requirements.

Building Blocks Everywhere

Almost all programming languages offer some sort of listing of building blocks that that developers can use. This means that not everything has to start from scratch when they create custom software. Many of these building blocks are open source and available to the community free of charge, but others are “premium” and thus have a cost associated with them. Successful software platforms like Node.js, .NET, and WordPress leverage these capabilities extensively.

These building blocks help developers create custom software much more quickly than if they had to create each piece from scratch. How they’re assembled together, and what they do once assembled, is the “custom”piece in custom software development.

Your primary development cost comes from having developers put these building blocks together and adding additional logic to make the application as a whole do what you want it to do.

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Erik Olson

Erik the Founder & CEO at Array Digital. We help grow businesses through custom software, websites, and digital marketing.

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