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I am creating a custom sharepoint feature (2010) it will have the following:

-5 custom lists -3 workflows -Adding some fields to existing lists

All this can be done in sharepoint designer, however i want to be able to give this feature to other clients without having to go into sharepoint designer and set it up for every client (i want a more automated process as this will save time and reduce bugs).

The first idea that comes to mind it to do this programatically e.g. create all lists, workflows, fields etc in visual studio.

Is this the best approach? Are there any downsides to this?

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I don't think there is any downside in this approach... as this seems to fit best for your need! However, other options to consider may be that you setup a single site with the custom lists, workflows and fields and save the site as template! Then distribute the .wsp file created for the site template... This will save you from programming everything!

But that really depends on the requirements you have!

Kind of similar question is answered here

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