Why Use a Custom Content Management System (CMS)

Author Justin Smith
by Justin Smith, CEO
Updated Aug. 2, 2017

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of open source content management systems easily searchable on the Internet today. Why would anyone in their right mind recommend a custom CMS? The answer is both simple and complex.

If you were a small business, and wished to remain small, I would not tell you to use a custom CMS. In fact, I would be wary of recommending any proprietary systems, let alone a system designed specifically for one site. The reason behind that is because to pay for a custom CMS, you’d be getting way more than you might be using. Plus, you’d be paying to re-invent the wheel for all the functionality of a brochure-ware site. I would, instead, suggest putting that budget towards differentiating yourself on design and search engine marketing. The vast majority of the sites on the Internet today would fall into this group. They don’t need any more functionality than a simple blog or page management system like Wordpress or Drupal offers.

What to Know about a Custom CMS:

  • A custom CMS doesn't always mean proprietary
  • Depending on your needs a custom CMS may be needed or may not
  • Often a custom built solution may run quicker, if developed properly
  • A custom CMS is not recommended for a basic website
  • Typically enterprise level customers run customized CMS platforms

The lines start to become blurred when we start talking about high performance websites. The lines become even more blurred when we talk about custom user-facing functionality and integration into back-office systems.

To use our example from above, Wordpress and Drupal are great Content Management Systems. You can get decent performance out of them with a bit of effort in configuration and deployment, maintenance, purchasing extra hardware/setting up reserved instances to handle traffic spikes and generally beating it into submission. At its heart though, it’s just something to manage a traditional model of a website: a collection of pages. Would you use Wordpress (or something like it) to manage something like Facebook? No! Of course not! That is because Facebook has custom functionality and features that are not part of a standard website.

Building high performance websites, whether eCommerce or informational, requires more work than your typical website: they are custom applications with a very rigid set of requirements for performance, responsiveness and search engine optimization capabilities. The amount of time spent on bending another CMS into working how you want it and to function at the level of performance required would give you a sub-par product and often takes longer than building it from scratch.

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Is building a custom CMS considered "reinventing the wheel?"

 

SEO and CMS selection

Search engine optimization is a big of part any websites success, so thinking about your SEO strategy before selecting a CMS can be important. Some CMSs are built with certain URL structures, offer certain plug-ins and can be good for one type of website, but might not handle another type of website (say a content site vs. eCommerce site) very well. There are many Wordpress SEO plug-ins and we've found Wordpress to work fairly well for content website. Magento, which is an eCommerce shopping cart and CMS we've found to be very difficult to work with. Magento SEO campaigns often require a lot of "fixing" of core code structures and reworking the base of how the CMS was put together. Be sure to look into will the CMS you're looking at choosing allow you to execute the SEO strategy you, or your SEO company, have in mind.

So, how does it make more sense than a premade CMS?

To begin, you’re breaking the abstraction that the particular CMS in question has been built for. In other words, you’re spending time, resources and money to make a round peg fit in a square hole. You have the façade of extensibility (“It’s built on Drupal! You can use plug-ins!”), but in reality most of the time you are left with a site that’s very brittle in terms of architecture and that looks something like Frankenstein’s monster in the back-end. A custom CMS allows you to build a site that is matched for YOUR business, YOUR workflow and YOUR needs — not the needs that others think are important.

We build websites that offers much higher performance, integration and extensibility than a pre-packaged CMS could offer out-of-the-box. We build websites that are specific to your business and give you the throughput and customization you need to give your users content-rich and relevant results with a superior user experience. None of this would be possible in Drupal or Wordpress without significant development resources. And, it should be said, a lot of the development time we propose isn’t spent re-inventing things that have already been developed. For example, in any CMS we build, we are not going to create our own WYSIWYG editor. We recognize there are workable solutions for units of work within the application out there that save development time and money and work just as well or better than we could create within the project scope. Our base engine that we build all our sites on has been tested, optimized and battle-tested in high-traffic sites.

We’re going to spend less time working within the constraints of a system that doesn't fit your business needs and spend more time creating something that allows you to differentiate yourself from every other site out there.

The most interesting part of all this? We are experts at a lot of pre-built CMS products. We love Drupal. We love Wordpress. We love Magento. We also love presenting the solution we feel is best for our clients and working with them to get them what they need. So, if all you need is functionality that Drupal offers with some custom design and hardcore SEO work, we can do that and have the needed experience. If you need something more high-performance, custom, good-looking and exciting like we proposed, we can do that too.

At the end of the day, both of these solutions require development and design. Our design, SEO and development skills are superior to most agencies in the country and a lot of big brands have spoken already in favor of us. We know what we're doing. We've executed successfully in the past. We're here to take your brand and elevate it to the position it deserves at the top.

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