Choosing the Right Tech Stack

Off-the-shelf vs. custom-build solutions

June 12, 2024

Choosing the right tech stack is about finding the sweet spot between time, budget, team constraints, functionality and security. Our team weighed up the pros and cons of off-the-shelf products and custom builds to help you decide.


Knowing whether to go for an off-the-shelf product or custom build is a tough decision for many organisations. Do you prioritise time to launch, up-front costs or a truly fit-for-purpose result? What will the long-term ramifications be? To help you decide, let’s take a look at the advantages and drawbacks of both.


"Off-the-shelf" products are readily available to use without requiring extensive upfront development. These products are typically designed to serve a wide range of users. For this article, we will refer to cloud-based SaaS products as off-the-shelf solutions. This includes services such as Webflow, Salesforce, and PowerBI.

Advantages of Off-the-Shelf Solutions

  1. Speed: Off-the-shelf products can be deployed quickly, enabling faster time to market.
  2. Lower Up-Front Costs: Typically, these solutions have lower initial costs compared to custom builds.
  3. Less Reliant on Developers: They often come with built-in functionalities, reducing the need for extensive developer intervention.

Disadvantages of Off-the-Shelf Solutions

  1. Harder to Scale: Any future work can be difficult to deliver - adding new features to meet your unique business needs may require some careful consideration.
  2. Less Customisation: Limited customisation options may not fully meet specific business requirements. Some platforms promise easy customisation, but in reality, they require months of development effort.
  3. Less Ownership over Future Development: Future development and product direction are controlled by the service provider, not the user.

Examples of Our Projects Using Off-the-Shelf Solutions

  • Our Website
  • Matariki
  • Cricket Museum: For this project, we used a cloud-based solution to quickly launch and manage a large amount of content without extensive development work.

Custom-Build Solutions

What’s Custom-Build?
Custom-build solutions are tailored specifically to meet an organisation’s unique requirements. These solutions are built from the ground up using various frameworks and technologies.
Some of the frameworks that we like to leverage for our projects include:

  1. Django 
  2. Wagtail
  3. React
  4. Next JS

Advantages of Custom-Build Solutions
Customisation: Offers extensive customisation to meet specific needs and preferences.
Integrations: Can be integrated with various systems and services seamlessly.
Flexibility: Highly flexible to adapt and evolve as business needs change.

Disadvantages of Custom-Build Solutions
Up-Front Costs: Higher initial costs due to development and setup.
Time: Takes longer to develop and deploy compared to off-the-shelf solutions.
Developer Reliance: Ongoing reliance on developers for maintenance and updates.

Examples of Our Custom-Build Projects
Te Whanake: We chose a custom solution for its high level of customisation, essential for the niche subject matter.
Electricity Authority: The custom build allowed for scalability for future content and complex customisations such as "Your Meter" projects and consultations.
Te Whata: This project required custom solutions for scalability (adding new datasets and features) and flexibility to accommodate storytelling and an iwi-led perspective on data.
Turn Up: We opted for a custom solution instead of PowerBI to achieve the necessary level of customisation.

The importance of Scalability

Scalability refers to the ability of a system, network, or application to handle an increasing amount of work or users without compromising performance or functionality. It is an important consideration as it can directly impact the performance and user experience of a website or application.

Scalability in CMS Systems:

  • A scalable CMS should be able to handle a growing amount of content, users, and traffic without experiencing significant slowdowns or performance issues.
  • It should be able to efficiently manage and store large volumes of data, such as text, images, videos, and other media files.
  • The CMS should be able to handle concurrent user requests and distribute the workload across multiple servers or resources to prevent bottlenecks and ensure smooth operation.
  • Scalable CMS systems often employ caching mechanisms, load balancing techniques, and distributed architectures to optimise performance and handle increased demand.

How to decide what to use

To help you decide between off-the-shelf and custom-build solutions, consider the following factors:


Deciding between off-the-shelf and custom-build solutions depends on your organisation’s specific needs, priorities, resources and longer-term strategy. Off-the-shelf solutions offer speed and lower initial costs but may lack the customisation and scalability of custom builds. On the other hand, custom builds provide a tailored fit and flexibility but require more time and investment.

Need help choosing the right tech stack? Get in touch with Logan to discuss how we can help your organisation with a technical discovery.

Logan can be reached at