Content Management Systems - Open Source vs Bespoke

Content Management Systems - Open Source vs Bespoke

Content Management Systems - Open Source vs Bespoke

A content management system, or CMS as it’s more commonly known, is a system that allows you to publish, modify, organise, delete content and maintain a website from a central interface. Whether you’re setting up a blog, an online store, or any website in general, you’ll probably consider using a CMS framework to get started. Almost nobody uses static web files any more when building a website, which is why CMS has become an ideal solution.

There are plenty of open source CMS platforms out there, with the most popular being WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. These are all based on PHP and MySQL, and offer developers and users a wide range of options. On the other hand, you might want to consider a bespoke CMS platform created by a single company. Let’s take a quick look at your options.

Open Source CMS

Using an open source CMS is free of charge, and all you need to get started is a domain and hosting. Here are some more advantages to using open source CMSs:

  • Installation is fast and fairly easy to set up. You will be able to start adding content to your freshly installed website straight away.
  • There are thousands of plugins available that can add a new feature to your website in minutes. Some plugins will require you to spend a bit of money, but they will inevitably save you in the cost of developing a feature from the ground up.
  • The platform will be constantly worked on and tested by a community, so there will be new updates released frequently.
  • Changing from one developer to another is easier as most will be comfortable using open source CMS already. If you’re looking to take on developement yourself there are also plenty of online resources to fall back on for help.

Even with a large community of users, open source still has its problems. Here are some disadvantages to using open source CMSs:

  • Some open source platforms are built with a specific type of website in mind. For example, WordPress was built for blogging which means the interface is geared towards creating posts rather than different content types.
  • An understanding of CSS and HTML will be needed if you want to give your website a unique look and feel. There are plenty of ‘themes’ available to download, but you’re not exactly going to stand out from the crowd without a bit of customisation.
  • Compatibility issues can occur when adding new features, such as plugins, to your website which may cause it to break. There may be a lack of communication from the plugin developer to fix compatibility issues, and waiting for an update (if there will ever be one) can be tedious.
  • Keeping your CMS platform up-to-date is important for security. As open source CMSs tend to have a larger user base, they become attractive targets for hackers who want to cause damage. Plugins and add-ons have the potential to be less secure than the CMS platform, so it’s important to make sure they’re tested, checked and monitored too.

Bespoke CMS

As we previously mentioned, bespoke CMSs are developed and controlled by a single company or agency. A bespoke CMS should be built with the clients needs in mind, and reflect how they want their website to function. Here are some advantages to using a bespoke CMS:

  • The platform will be tailor made to your needs, and do exactly what you want it to do without the addition of bloated code. This helps keep the CMS a manageable size whilst ticking all the boxes.
  • No need to keep updating the platform, or checking to see if features are compatible with your version. This keeps maintenance down to a minimum, allowing you more time to focus on your content.
  • A much reduced security risk and less attractive target for hackers, spammers or anyone who wants to cause widespread damage. This is because the code base isn’t readily available to download and explore.
  • Easier to integrate functions of the CMS with business systems. For example, you may want to integrate your in-house customer relationship manager with your CMS, allowing the two systems to act as one.
  • The developer understands 100% of the code base. This means that any major issues with the CMS can be easily fixed by the developer, even if it takes a little longer.

A bespoke CMS built from the ground up can still cause issues. Here are some disadvantages to using a bespoke CMS:

  • It takes time to set up a bespoke CMS. Before a developer can make a start on your CMS they will need to run through what features you need and how you plan on using your website. If you’re eager to see a functioning website, you might be waiting longer than expected.
  • It’s not free. If you want something tailor made to your own needs, you’re going to have to spend a bit of money on it. There isn’t a ‘ballpark’ figure for the cost of a bespoke CMS, it’s based on individual client needs.
  • Adding new features to your bespoke CMS will involve contacting the developer for a quote, and waiting for them to come back to you with a date and price for completion. Scalability could be an issue in the future.
  • It can be difficult to move from one developer to another once the platform has been built. You may be forced to give up your CMS if the company have copywrited the code.

What’s best for me?

There really is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing the ‘best’ CMS. Most websites are essentially a series of pages using distinct templates and the occasional contact form or ecommerce system. Unless your website needs something unique there will be an open source platform that can do the job for you.

If finding an open source CMS that meets your needs proves difficult, then bespoke might be the way forward for more complex websites. Sometimes it’s worth spending a bit more on development for something that truly suits what you need, instead of trying to find a quick fix solution that might backfire on you later on down the line.

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