The content management system (CMS), or the backend portal of a website, can be crucial when it comes to website maintenance/updates. Choosing an existing, plug-and-play CMS (WordPress being the most popular) is an option. But sometimes, a custom CMS might be the better alternative. So why choose a custom CMS if there are already many mature open-source choices available?
For smaller companies or websites that don’t require a lot of functionality (simple page management and maybe a blog), an already established CMS is the obvious choice. In this case, your time and money will be better spent marketing the website.
If you are a larger company with custom content types, multiple features and complex functionality requirements, you may be better off with a custom CMS. Some may argue that you can flex and/or extend an existing CMS to your needs, but this can be overly taxing in terms of time and resources. In this case, you may need to install multiple plugins to get the desired functionality, and each plugin may come with its own set of options and settings that you don’t really need. On the other hand, if you start with an overly advanced existing CMS, you might get much more than you need, but still may be missing some key custom functionality.
Either way, you may end up with a working frontend website that is very bloated on the backend, to the point where it is difficult to manage simple content. In the worst case scenario, you may need to modify some of the core functionality of the CMS and/or plugins to make them work and perform the way you want them to, or to be more secure.
In other words, retrofitting an existing CMS can be like trying to open a door with the wrong key; forcing your way in with a drill; realizing that now you can’t lock the door behind you; and finally installing another lock to patch previous retrofits. Get the idea?
A custom CMS, on the other hand, is usually built with your specific content and functionality requirements in mind from the start. Data and application architecture is optimized for you, but that doesn’t always mean that everything is built from scratch; some existing CMS components may be reused (but are always optimized and scaled up or down) so you don’t get stuck with an overcomplicated backend. The end result of a well-designed custom CMS should be a high-performing, more secure and very simple-to-use application. If needed, you should be able to manage all content and perform required actions with ease and confidence.
A custom CMS isn’t always the way to go. Each case should be analyzed by experienced professionals. Sometimes, clients’ requirements may perfectly align with an existing open source CMS, in which case, choosing the existing CMS saves time and money.
Just remember: Even an existing CMS requires experienced developers to keep the final product secure and optimized—the most popular existing CMS platforms are a favorite target of hackers and spammers.
- Andy Owerczuk, Web Developer