CMS for Business: Develop from Scratch or Use a Ready-Made Platform?

by Anna Orlova

17 Apr 2014

A stylish, compelling website is no doubt a must-have marketing tool for almost any business whether, for example, a brick-and-mortar retailer, luxury auto rental chain, an online vendor — or anything in between. Recently we wrote about the importance of making your site responsive — as in fantastic-looking in any browser whether desktop or mobile based — and today we explore a little bit into the land of the "CMS for business needs".

Most popular content management systems

Put simply, a CMS (Content Management System) is template-based design tool that allows site content — text and media — to be more easily managed. The diagram below shows the market share of the most popular CMS systems, based on the percentages of websites using them:

Which CMS is right for your business?

The number of open-source CMS solutions are definitely not lacking nowadays, but we often find that our clients are confused between whether to use something free and open source, pay for a more managed CMS — or create a new system altogether tailored to their specific needs.

While each case is unique — and certainly a CMS that works perfectly for a large insurance company would be overkill for a small biz — there are several general observations we have drawn from our experience that will benefit marketing execs and decision makers when in the foundational planning stages of content management.

CMS

Price

Open-source projects are generally assumed to cost less and be completed faster because both the system and plug-ins (modules) are free and ready to implement. However, this is not necessarily the case whatsoever: everything depends on the goals set.

Even if certain CMSs do have a large solid community of creative volunteers or a team of dedicated developers that have written and continue to write useful plug-ins and themes capable of transforming a site into practically anything, sometimes it’s more cost-effective to develop a custom CMS. This is usually a case for projects with such specific requirements that searching for the right set of plug-ins would take too much time — and most likely, in order to satisfy the unique requirements, further customization of the open-source modules would be necessary anyhow!

Flexibility

In regards to open-source CMSs, if one has an active and diverse community, there will be thousands of add-on modules and themes, more than enough to implement the most stylish of promotional sites. In addition, companies that offer open-source development are actively participating in CMS development, so they know the systems inside and out (which is rarely the case with paid CMS solutions).

However, if a project’s specifications require features for which it  would be difficult to find a ready-made plug-in or module, implementing it in a custom-designed CMS may be easier and less expensive than sourcing it from a paid CMS. It may also be less expensive and time-consuming than trying to modify a somewhat similar-functioning open-source CMS system to meet the exact needs of the client.

Security

Having many people familiar with the system code is the essence of open source. However, it also creates a higher risk of hacking. Be ready to budget extra time for work required to prevent against third-party malicious attacks when you choose to use an open source system. The complexity level varies — as does the cost — based on many factors such as how many people require access to sensitive site areas like the admin panel. On the contrary, when creating a custom-coded CMS, developers don’t need to spend much time on securing code.

Freedom

Whatever the reasons, sometimes you have to switch development companies. It happens. And there is a common belief that an open source CMS offers more freedom of movement from one company to another, and that running a custom CMS results in a long-term commitment to a specific agent. Again, this may not always be the case: an existing site with code written by another developer may be quite a challenge for a new team, whether or not the CMS is written poorly.

The right choice

As you can see from the points above, the time and cost-efficiency of a project are not mainly determined by the CMS but by the requirements of the particular project. The best option from our point of view is to discuss a site’s future functionality needs as a team and decide if you are prepared to handle the time commitment of ongoing maintenance — or if it’s better to outsource the task.

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