That’s something I have been asked many times by clients and IT managers: «I have found that SharePoint web part on the web, it seems to be what we need. Do you think we should buy it or make our own custom web part?»
Well, the answer is not straightforward; there are many third-party web parts available over the web. Some companies have been doing it for years and have maintained high-quality web parts, others are not so reliable. But even from trusted providers like Kwizcom, you should look twice before taking the decision to buy it.
The main reasons for deciding to buy an existing web part instead of developing it from scratch are: Time and directly related: Money.
From my experience the following always happen: the available web parts do almost what the customer wants.Almost. If the missing functionalities are not critical so you can go for it. Otherwise you should reject this option, you will lose time either by contacting the company that made the web part, or by trying to modify it yourself and you will probably end up doing it from scratch… Also, even if you can modify the web part by adding some scripts or modifying the source code (if provided), the idea of buying it in the first place was to avoid losing time and money doing development.
So, what you should ask yourself before buying a third-party web part:
1. Until what point is the web part configurable?
Imagine you are 100% satisfied with the web part, and are asked to do a slight modification. Will it be doable quickly and easily?
2. Is the source-code provided?
If you will have to do some modifications, having the source-code is a must.
3. Is the generated html well structured?
If you want to include the webpart in an accessible site designed respecting the standards, you don’t want it to be poorly rendered.
4. Can I apply a custom style sheet to the web part?
What if the web part has a totally different styling from you company’s corporate identity?
5. Does the web part require some features we don’t have in our current SharePoint platform?
Make sure it will work for the current version you have. Many web part providers assume everyone has at least the Server version, so be careful if you have SharePoint Foundation.
6. Does the company have a strong governance policy for deployed solution?
During an audit we made in one of our clients, we found out that some third-party web part didn’t respect some good practices and had some broken dependencies, bad naming convention, no versioning, etc.
7. How much does it cost?
It sounds obvious but be cautious: some web parts have the following pricing policy: one license per server. So imagine you have 1 test server, 2 front-end + 1 application server on UAT and the same on the production environment, you will have to pay for 7 licenses. So the cost argument may not be valid at that point.
8. What about support?
Sometimes support is not included in the web part price. Also, most of the providers are companies located in the US and are US-market focused. So don’t expect a good support outside of US work hours.
9. What about translation?
For non-English customers: make sure the texts in the web part can be translated.
10. Last but not least: can I try the web part for free?
To answer most of the other questions: it would be great to be able to download a free trial version of the web part.