We often see clients trying to deal with the combination of long feature lists and limited budgets. One way to overcome this issue is by building and releasing the application in stages. This method provides the additional advantage of allowing you to get user feedback quickly, then use that information to decide which features you need to build next.
Another solution is to use a viable off-the-shelf solution, which are often a fraction of the cost of fully bespoke systems. However, what if you find yourself in a position where an off-the-shelf system doesn’t quite fit your needs and a fully bespoke one is out of budget? There are three options:
Customizing an existing open source application (if one is available) will cost considerably less than a bespoke system, as you only need to pay for the new features.
API Extensions / Plug-ins / Widgets
It is possible to build bespoke applications which use third party APIs, a good compromise which not only saves on development time but also provides the client with a more feature-complete solution. For example, MailChimp can be added for email marketing, Intense Debate or Disqus for commenting, and Get Satisfaction or Zendesk for support and help-desk functionality.
If you use an existing paid application platform, it may sometimes be possible to extend it with existing plug-ins or develop your own one to suit your needs. For example, Shopify allows users to customize their e-commerce sites with a range of additional apps, as well as giving option for developers to build custom features.
People beginning online business ventures have to be creative. There is no point in pushing the boat out on bespoke applications when the same results can be achieved for much less.
The existence of open source applications, plug-ins and API extensions on the internet is a gift to clients who are bootstrapping – and they should be exploited accordingly.