How can charities benefit from a custom web application?

Matty Forth

Matty is a full stack developer, specialising in creating bespoke applications and systems from the ground up using the Laravel framework for PHP. He has 8+ years experience in the industry and has a passion for building highly extensible and maintainable software solutions, ensuring we can get the job done for our clients in the best way possible with minimal fuss!

Matty Forth, Full Stack Developer

Every charity has its own unique needs and so reflecting these in a custom web application will set you on the right path to meet them.

A custom web application can be completely tailored to even the most complex user requirements and means you aren’t limited to the rules set out by many CMS systems.

In this blog, we’ll look at why charities should consider a custom web application over a CMS and what the key benefits are, so you can explore all the options available to you.

What is a custom web application?

A custom web application is a type of system that is usually built entirely from the ground up, or on top of a framework that provides a strong foundation for a new application. At Studio Republic we use Laravel as our framework to build our custom systems as it provides a vast toolbox of quality features and functions. This means that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel when developing the common areas of a system but gives us enough flex to build anything on top of it and adapt as needed. 

A traditional CMS such as WordPress or CraftCMS, differs from a custom build as they usually come with a lot more pre-configured functionality. This works incredibly well for simple blog websites and some types of ecommerce platforms. However, for a system with very specific requirements, this can make it harder to configure and develop the highly personalised features that really matter.

Unlike a CMS, a custom web application gives greater control over the entire structure and provides much more flexibility.

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The benefits of a custom web application

Like all systems, a custom web application has its pros and cons. Identifying what these are and how they apply to your charity is going to help you best assess its suitability. Let’s have a look at some of these below.

Benefits:

  • Fully customisable and can accommodate even the most specific requirements
  • Completely tailored to the end user to create a more streamlined experience
  • More performant than most CMS solutions with a great level of flexibility
  • Can be easier for the end user to use as they don’t have to learn the intricacies of a CMS
  • More satisfying developer experience 

Drawbacks:

  • Can be more time consuming to develop
  • Steeper learning curve for developers as knowledge of more systems is required
  • Often more costly

 

The benefits of a CMS

In comparison, a traditional CMS system has its own set of benefits that can work extremely well for a lot of charities. However, they also come with some drawbacks that can be mitigated through a custom web application.

Benefits

  • Can speed up the development process by providing a pre-built admin area
  • Out of the box support for content editing and page creation
  • Can use pre-made themes to help launch a site quickly without a specific design

Drawbacks

  • Often crowded with features that you will never use
  • Easy to break when a user has access to adding plugins or changing configuration on the live site
  • Difficult to extend or customise
  • Not as fluent developer experience as they often rely on outdated tech 
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Custom web application: key questions

When developing a custom web application with our clients, we often come across the same questions from charities. Here, we’ve put together a quick Q&A of the top questions we get asked, to help you discover if a custom web application is the best fit for your charity.

Q: Why should I choose a custom web application for my charity?

If your main goal is a basic website where you are free to adjust the content on each page, with limited end user interactions and login capabilities, then a CMS will do just fine. There are lots of great CMS options that can provide a high-level of functionality that can meet the needs of your charity and users.

However, if you require something a bit more complex, such as a custom booking system, specific user logins, or integration to another system that your charity uses – such as Xero or Salesforce – then a custom web application is likely to be much more suitable.

By developing the system entirely from scratch we can achieve a build that meets the design perfectly. This can enhance your charity’s reputability, approachability, and most importantly, meet the specific needs of your users.

A custom web application can be customised to work in any way you prefer, with control of each part of the system that just isn’t feasible in a CMS. 

We can completely tailor the experience of using the system to the end user, meaning you can prioritise accessibility and inclusivity. 

Q: Can I still have an admin area to manage content throughout the system, even with a custom web app?

Yes! Just because we opt to build a system as a custom web app, it doesn’t mean we can’t integrate the same kind of functionality and quality of life features that you get from a CMS. The beauty of being able to design and implement everything from the ground up, is that we are free to build the admin area in a way that matches the rest of the system and allows customisation of any area.

This also has the benefit of allowing us to only show the admin users the content that is relevant to them. Often in a traditional CMS, there are so many areas and options exposed to the user that they will never touch.

Q: I already have a CMS site, can my charity easily transition to a custom web application?

Any website or system that is run on a CMS can be built as a custom web application and likely be improved by doing so. However, it’s not as straightforward as simply porting the system over or converting the website. A new system would have to be built in a way that incorporates the features and functionality that you can’t live without from the CMS and developing this further through a custom web application.

The short-term cost of a rebuild is therefore quite high, however, the benefits of converting your CMS system to a custom web application are massive if you are planning further enhancements to the site with some more advanced features.

 

If you want to find out more about developing a custom web application for your charity, get in touch with us today to chat with our team.

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or give us a call: 01962 659123

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