Open Source or Custom CMS

Should I use my web developer’s custom built CMS or an open-source CMS like Joomla or WordPress?

While it can be comforting dealing with a web developer who does everything for you, make sure you understand the consequences of your choice. You may think the option of a custom website or a website built using a CMS is your only consideration – there’s a bit more to it…

What many people don’t understand is that while a CMS should mean you have more control over administering your website once it is built and running, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have complete control.

Firstly, lets understand the benefits of a CMS (Content Management System) and why it is a great option to use in building your website:

  1. Once your website is built, you can easily manage your website from anywhere, without the need for additional software and without the need for special skills. It should be as simple as editing a document.
  2. You don’t need to start from scratch, but still you can get it looking and functioning exactly as you want. Why re-invent the wheel?
  3. There are thousands and thousands of extensions, plug-ins and components available to add to your site. If you weren’t using a CMS, you would need to develop each and every function you require from scratch.

Back to the question at hand…

It is important to understand that just because it is a CMS, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will have all the benefits you think it may have – there are 2 types of CMS’s.

“Open-Source Software” and “custom built software”.

While both options will give you ease of use once your site has been built. It is important to understand the major differences and the things to look out for in choosing your CMS.

With a custom built CMS, someone owns it and you will always remain dependant on them. While they may not charge for it, (as the use of their system could be included with the building of your website), you are “locked in” to using it as well as the platform it runs on. You therefore become dependant on them for a number of things:

  1. For upgrades, and how often these are done. They will usually be done on a reactive basis (because of bugs that need fixing)
  2. If they go out of business or choose to stop developing it further, what do you do?
  3. If you have a fallout with your web developer, you cannot simply ask a new developer to pick up where the other one left off. They didn’t build the software! Also, sometimes you cannot simply move the site elsewhere, because it won’t work on another platform as it needs custom tweaks and settings, etc.
  4. If you need a specific function on your site, while they may have some prebuilt functions, they will almost definitely not have the library of resources available to an open-source platform. This will be additional time and cost considerations for any future enhancements you may require.
  5. It may not work on as wide a variety of platforms as “Open Source software”

And here are the reasons you should seriously consider using an Open Source CMS, such as, Joomla, WordPress, etc. In most cases you would still require the services of a professional web designer to build your website. However, there are a number of key differences…

With an Open Source platform, rather than one person or company owning it, there is a whole community of people who contribute to its ongoing success. This is a constantly changing community working towards its constant improvement. Your web designer would make use of this Open Source platform and in many cases also contribute to the community and overall success of the software.

  1. This means upgrades and improvements are proactive rather than reactive.
  2. The platform is managed by a whole community to ensure its ongoing success.
  3. There are thousands and thousands of web designers who use these platforms as the basis of their businesses. This means they know the ins and outs and if you have a fallout with your designer, it is very easy for another designer to pick up and take over from where the other one left off.
  4. Almost any function or anything you can think of will most likely have already been built and available as one of the thousands of extensions to the CMS. This means it is available immediately and integrates nicely with your existing site.
  5. It is in the interest of the Open Source platform to work on as many different server environments as possible, and the platform has the community backing it to ensure this.

NewSprout Hosting’s MD, Gavin Payne, has been Hosting servers, applications and websites for over 10 years, helping global companies including Telstra, Bidvest, VISA, AVIS, AT&T, Peugeot, BMW, Motorola and many others build their online presence. NewSprout is an Australian company offering website hosting, email services and domain name registrations to business and personal clients. For more information visit