A content management system (CMS) does exactly what the name implies. When it comes to developing and managing a website, most people will choose a CMS-based website rather than hard-coding new pages or blog posts manually. In our experience, this is often where the decision arises to either build a custom CMS or go with a pre-packaged, open source solution like WordPress or Drupal.
While our experience is vast on both sides of the content management spectrum, it's always necessary to weigh the pros and cons for each project individually – based on requirement, functionality and internal process of the client.
Before deciding on a custom or open source CMS for your website, consider the following points and how they relate to your particular situation.
Cost (now and later)
Obviously a driving factor in the decision-making process is the price. How much are you willing to invest initially and which option is more cost-effective in the long run?
All fancy talk aside, a custom CMS will always cost more than an open source solution because it is being built from scratch based on the client’s needs. That being said, having a CMS built for you is like comparing a custom tailored suit to an “off the rack” alternative.
On the other hand, open source solutions are often backed by a community of enthusiastic designers, web developers and marketers who are constantly looking for ways to improve core functionality – which you don’t get with a custom set up.
One of the most common questions we get during the discovery phase is “will the content management system be able to grow with our company and its products?”
Though many experienced web developers will argue until they’re blue in the face that a custom CMS is the only way to accommodate scalability, it’s becoming common for startups to rely on open source platforms, like Drupal, for speedy deployment and extended support from the community.
A custom built CMS may require your developer to “create” a module in order to accommodate certain functionality, whereas using an open source solution means there’s usually a “plugin” or “widget” already available on the marketplace – saving time and development costs.
No matter how super-human your web agency may appear to be, there will always be someone out there that is more clever and in the mood for digital destruction. Being hacked is a horrible feeling, regardless if your website backend is custom or open source.
Just because you’ve paid for a custom CMS, it doesn’t mean that you’re automatically protected from potential cyber-attacks. We have seen plenty of scenarios where our client’s CMS was custom built, yet their server still managed to get infected due to a lack of encryption etc.
Open source systems like WordPress don’t have the best reputation for security, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t options to protect your website and its data. The best case scenario when working with an open source CMS is to address security concerns from the early stages of development – once again, there are plenty of plugins and widgets available for this purpose.
How do I decide which CMS solution is best for my business?
If you have a great relationship with your web agency, and they make a suggestion, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seek a second opinion. Remember, no matter the size of your company or how gigantic you project your website to become – make the decision based on needs, functionality and support.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic – which is better: custom or open source?
Image courtesy of Addison Berry