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CMS – When to Custom Build

One of the things we have to consider a lot is whether to custom build a Content Management System (CMS) for a client, or to use a ready made CMS. Actually there are perfectly good reasons for doing both. Let’s take a look. There are myriad ready-made CMS’s out there. You may have heard of some popular ones, like Wordpress, Joomla and Drupal - and in fact, most of them are great. It’s easy to buy ready made templates to use with them, and simple to find and install plugins to extend their functionality – a simple contact form plugin, for example. Another benefit of using the popular ready-made CMS’s is that your website becomes more transferrable. You can always find another programmer or designer to work on your website with minimum fuss, because most web professionals will have experience in one or more of those systems. On the whole then, this can make your web development effort a cheaper affair, because you are starting with some ready-made building blocks. It is said that the popular CMS’s are more secure than a custom-built offering, as they are “tried and tested” by tens of thousands of other website owners. However, it could be argued that the popularity of these systems also makes them large targets for hackers that work hard to find and exploit holes in the CMS. The payoff for them is bigger, since a single identified exploit can be used against thousands of other sites. A properly built custom-CMS can in fact be more secure, since it only exposes the features that are absolutely necessary to the performance of the website; limiting the opportunity for a hacker to exploit the system. A custom CMS can also be far easier to use for most customers, since it is usually aligned quite clearly with their website design. Editable content areas can be labeled in the same way at the front-end and back-end of the website, making the management process easier to understand. Certain data types can be structured and managed more efficiently through a custom CMS – consider a staff profiles section split in to pre-defined content areas: photo, name, job title, skills, experience – all with it’s own separate field in the database, rather than the single editable content area you might face with something like Wordpress. This helps you present your content more uniformly and preserves the original design of the website – crucial for brands that want to be taken seriously. Custom CMS’s are usually far more extendible than their off-the-shelf peers. When you’re ready to add on a shopping cart, or a member management system, or a document repository, or a staff benefits portal; then you will want the whole thing to fit seamlessly with your website and its existing content management features. Using a custom CMS does not have to be expensive. Consider the added value of simpler content management, tailored to the design of your website; along with the opportunities for future extendibility, then many companies see a bespoke solution to be a far more attractive proposition.

Insights by Kishen Hawkins

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