As a web developer, one of the reasons I can keep my prices down is because I use a lot of pre-made scripts that do just what my clients want them to. All I need to charge my clients for is the installation of the script, integration of the script into the existing design, and setup of any admin features. This saves a ton of money when some of these scripts consist of thousands of pages of code. To hand code it all would cost thousands of dollars versus a few hundred of dollar to simply use a pre-built script.
There are a lot of reputable script providers out there, but a lot of not-so-good ones as well. Here are a few tips to look at when deciding whether or not to purchase a script for your website.
1. Always look for free GPL/Open-source scripts first. You can find many different and professionally programmed scripts at http://sourceforge.net/ that are essentially donated to the public by programmers. Plus if it doesn’t work for you, you haven’t wasted any money.
2. Always look to see if the if there is a demo of BOTH the admin and user interface of the script before you buy. Poking around in the admin before you offer up your dough will allow you to see if the script will do everything you need it to.
3. ALWAYS check to see what the system requirements are before you purchase. I can’t tell you how many times clients of mine purchased scripts on their own, and assumed they would work with their hosting server. Its a pain to switch hosting for no good reason, or to waste money on a script because it won’t run, so check first!!
4. Beware of websites that sell scripts but don’t have any contact information! This is a good indicator that you will send them your money and never hear from them again.
5. Look on the script website to see if there is a support section. If so, this is a good sign that if there are any problems with the script, you will have somewhere to go for answers. Support forums are very important to look for as well. A lot of smaller/cheaper scripts don’t have a support forum associated with them, but if it does, definitely a plus!
6. Do a google search to see if there are any people complaining about the script on forums, message boards, or blogs. Feedback and reviews are not always directly available for scripts, so its good to do a little digging.
7. Do your research. Don’t buy the first script that you find that does what you want. There have been many times that I have found perfectly good scripts with an abundance of features for $50, and others that do the same thing or less for $300.
8. Try to find scripts and software that also have support for additional modules (mods). This is an indicator that you can add features that may not be standard to the script, plus it means the script is probably being actively developed.
9. Find out if the script website offers updates to the script. Once again, this means the script is being actively developed (the bugs are being worked out, and new features added). This also means that as technology changes over time, your script will keep up, per the updates.
10. Finally, if you are not a developer yourself, consult your web developer before you buy anything! More likely than not, they know more than you do about the functionality of the script and whether or not it will work with your website. This will save you from wasting your money.