There are various approaches to developing an eLearning software. One of the most essential steps to be done before the development is to plan the structure of the future project and choose the main instruments. For instance, one of the most common discussions is which to choose: templates or custom solutions.
Actually, before making the final decision, it is best to consider your ideas and plan your product. Then, you can check the market in case there are similar products. When there are already existing projects which meet your requirements, you may consider buying a ready-made project with the possibility to make corrections and changes. Nevertheless, it is important to ensure that there will be access to the code if you want to be able to make corrections.
It may be the easiest and the hardest solution at the same time. The reason is that, obviously, the easiest decision to make is to develop from scratch. Nevertheless, this will require more resources and effort. Choosing the custom approach allows the development of a fully-customizable product that will satisfy all your requirements. For instance, developers can enable various technologies and software, such as different UI/UX design patterns, or innovative features like Artificial Intelligence and machine learning.
First of all, if you choose this option, you have the chance to get a fully unique outcome. When the project is being developed from scratch, there are literally no limits except your imagination. Of course, this will change during the process due to the boundaries of various tools that will be chosen. Clearly, each programming language, framework, or library has its own strengths and weaknesses. Nevertheless, the developer is the one to decide which to choose and how to shape the whole structure of the future platform.
In addition, thanks to the full development process, the development team will always have access to the code. As a result, it will be easier and faster to fix any bugs or errors, as well as to implement new components and add-ons. It also includes the possibility to manage and develop your own components and implement them into the system later.
On the flip side, in order to develop a custom-made high-quality product, you need a lot of resources. Firstly, you need an experienced development team that is competent to develop such a project, especially if it is large. Consequently, you will have to spare more money. Moreover, development from scratch requires more time in order to create the code-related aspects, to test and to run them.
Alternatively, instead of choosing the custom approach, you can consider the template one. As was mentioned before, you have to shape your idea and plan the structure of the future platform. It is possible that the main aspects can found embodied in an existing platform. In such a case, all you need is to find one and make some changes.
Obviously, there are a lot of ready-made products that provide at least the basic platform, that can be customized or upgraded according to the customer’s needs. Besides, there are also website constructors like WordPress where anyone can create their own site or even web app. Nonetheless, this approach is clearly less customizable than the custom one.
Templates are partly similar to widgets or plug-ins, meaning that they can exist in the form of pre-made components that provide a single feature . They are facilitated elements that can work independently of each other. Also, templates can exist in the form of a simplified structure that can be slightly changed or rebuilt, depending on the requirements. As a result, the user can combine different templates into a single system without fear that they will interfere with each other.
However, using templates is still limited. Mostly, the changes that can be done are not essential changes. In fact, templates are created to be an already working component that have their specific function or feature. Therefore, you have to search for a specific template that corresponds with the tasks you need. In other words, you cannot reshape it as you wish.
This is the flip side of using templates. On the one hand, they allow customization and provide various features. At the same time, they can’t be significantly changed, because they are already complete. So, most of the changes are cosmetic rather than functional.
When To Choose: Template Vs. Custom
Actually, this is not an easy question. It is fair to say that each approach can be a great choice, but the final result is defined by the developer and not the chosen approach. Nevertheless, when talking about choosing one of these solutions, it is possible to characterize the conditions in which it would be better to choose each of them.
For instance, templates are a great solution in case of limited resources, like money or time. They obviously simplify the development process. Moreover, they can be used in case of rapid changes, for example, if your platform is regularly updated or tied to various events. Templates allow the fast creation of alternative pages with various specifics.
Templates are also a great choice if you need an easy solution to develop a common platform with basic features. They are obviously cheaper than developing from scratch. Moreover, using a template does not require high-level development skills. Frankly speaking, most of them can be used without any programming background at all. Templates are regularly doing everything they are meant to without the need for human involvement. As we mentioned before, they exist as ready-to-use structures, in which one has the opportunity to make slight “cosmetic” changes.
It is possible to compare templates with Lego constructors: there are various pre-built parts, and customers can combine these parts as they wish, but also in accordance with some predetermined rules. For instance, you can’t change the shape of the parts, but you can find the ones that suit you best. At the same time, custom solutions are more like plasticine: you are not limited at all and can change the form as you like. Nevertheless, to make a good-looking product, you will have to spare much more time and it will require more skill as well.
Obviously, the custom approach is almost 100% customizable. It allows the implementation of any features and functions, but in order to make them work, you will need an experienced team and a lot of resources. Even though it is harder to upgrade or change the whole structure, it is still possible. Custom solutions are a better choice in case you are going to develop an innovative or large-scale product. Also, it is the only solution if there are no available templates.
Eventually, it is impossible to define the conditions for choosing each option. The best approach possible is to shape the project at first, and only after that to make a decision, based on the specifics of the final product .
References: 10 Compelling Reasons You Should Use Templates For eLearning  Custom eLearning Vs. Off-The-Shelf eLearning: Which Is Right For You?