When Custom Isn’t Custom

We have seen a pattern forming over the few years where we will be contacted by a potential client with a story such as, “I paid over $5000 four months ago to have my e-commerce site built and it’s still not up and the designers won’t fix it!”. I’m not a big fan of stories like this. For one, this means that this potential client has already spent their budget having something created that didn’t actually meet their needs – meaning that they do not have the budget to pay the going rate for having the site done properly. But the more disturbing aspect is when I have a look at what has already been built and find out that the ecommerce website is really nothing more than OsCommerce.

Os-Commerce - Open Source Code - Smackwagon Design

Os-Commerce – Open Source Code – Smackwagon Design

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with OsCommerce, it is a FREE shopping cart solution built by many different programmers to be offered as “open-source“. It’s fine if a client really has a bare-bones budget because hey, it’s free. When we use a free solution such as OsCommerce, what we charge the client for is simply installing, customizing the template design, and setting up initial categories, shipping, etc. Unless you are programming or installing many additional complex modules to interact with the base cart, I really can not fathom why a job using OsCommerce would cost $5000 or more. To me, this screams of shady business practices.

I’ve said this in a number of other articles, that I believe honesty is always the best policy. If you are using any sort of pre-developed software (whether it’s free or if you are paying for it), do not fool your client into believing that they are receiving 100% custom work. (Developers Try Not to Reinvent the Wheel!) I find that even when using software, there are aspects that are custom (usually the design), but we make clear in our estimates and contracts which is which and what the client is actually paying for.

Designers and programmers are always on the look out for things that can help them while doing a job, everything from free scripts to stock photos to the latest software. As a designer or programmer, you have to judge for yourself what works best for you and what would benefit your client the most. I find the clients are much more comfortable working with you when they know exactly what you are doing for them and what they paying for and it’s simply more ethical to let a client know when you are using a free or pre-built solution or something custom.

Remember its a relationship you are building!

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