Custom CMS vs Off-the-Shelf: Pros and Cons

In a perfect world, we’d all know how to code and could easily build and manage our own websites from scratch. Unfortunately, for most business owners, that’s not the case. All is not lost though, because content management systems (CMS) were designed to save the day.

There are over 73 million websites using a CMS today, and with the number of platforms on the rise it can be overwhelming to decide which one is right for you. Should you stick with what’s off-the-shelf or opt for a custom CMS? 

We’re going to cover the pros and cons of both to help you design and develop that killer website. Read on to learn more about custom CMS vs off-the-shelf solutions so you can decide which option works best for you!

What’s the Difference Between an Off-the-Shelf or Custom CMS?

A CMS is a platform that enables users to manage information and content on their websites without needing to know how to code. Off-the-shelf options are popular because they provide an easy solution for setting up your site quickly; however, they can be limited in terms of customization and may not offer the features you need for your project. 

Some of the most popular off-the-shelf options include WordPress, Joomla!, and Drupal, and they all offer something a little different.  

  • WordPress is the most popular CMS, offering many themes and plugins. 
  • Joomla! is slightly more complex than WordPress but still offers plenty of customization. 
  • Drupal is used primarily by developers as it provides more advanced features but requires coding knowledge to use effectively. 

On the other hand, a custom CMS can be tailored to your exact needs. It gives you full control over the design and functionality of your site and allows you to scale it as your business grows.

Off-the-Shelf CMS: The Great Stuff 

Off-the-shelf CMSs like WordPress have become the go-to choice for businesses and brands needing web design and development. It’s easy to see why: it’s incredibly versatile, cost-effective, and can be customized quickly to meet various needs. 

We must confess, at Buddy, we love WordPress – it provides all the features and flexibility we need for our client’s websites, and we believe WordPress is one of the best off-the-shelf CMS solutions on the market. 

Easy Maintenance

The biggest plus of an off-the-shelf content management system over a custom CMS is easy maintenance. In most cases, you simply log into the platform’s dashboard using your credentials and start adding new content, make updates and changes, or manage settings without any coding knowledge needed. 

Plenty of Customization Options

One of the advantages of using an off-the-shelf CMS is that there are plenty of customization options available. Various templates, plug-ins, integrations, and extensions can be used to customize your website experience according to your needs and preferences. 

  • Templates allow you to quickly create websites with professional flair without coding knowledge. 
  • Plug-ins provide extra functionality such as contact forms, e-commerce solutions, SEO optimization tools, etc.
  • Integrations allow you to connect your website with external services such as social media platforms. 
  • Extensions increase the functionality of a website even further, allowing for more complex features and functions. 

Plus, with a common platform, you can utilize the content created by others like quality templates, tutorials, etc., that can be used to customize your site without having to start from scratch. 

With an off-the-shelf CMS, you can create a highly tailored experience specifically for your brand while still taking advantage of all the prebuilt components available in the platform.

Lots of Support

A definite edge for an off-the-shelf CMS is the tech support. There’s lots of it. If you’re not tech-savvy or don’t have much experience when it comes to building websites, then having easy access to FAQs, forums, and bug reports can be a lifesaver. 

Finally, since most off-the-shelf CMS solutions are widely used, the vendor will likely be aware of any potential issues that may arise. This makes off-the-shelf CMS an excellent choice for businesses who don’t have the time or resources to develop their own custom CMS. 

Off-the-Shelf CMS: The Less Great Stuff 

While an off-the-shelf solution can provide an excellent way to get started quickly with minimal upfront investment, there are also some drawbacks. For companies that need very highly specialized features, an off-the-shelf option just might not get the job done.

Because they tend to be more general in nature, off-the-shelf CMSs may lack certain functions or capabilities that your business requires. Additionally, you could run into compatibility issues between your business model, the tools your company uses daily, and the CMS. 

Overall, an off-the-shelf solution can be a good option for businesses that don’t need highly specialized features. Still, if you require any particular functionality, it might make more sense to opt for a custom CMS instead. 

Custom CMS: The Great Stuff

A custom CMS offers plenty of benefits, and allows you to tailor the platform specifically to your needs while giving you full ownership of content, design, and functionality. Here’s some of the best options that come with investing in your own custom CMS.

Meets Highly Specialized Business Needs

One of the top advantages custom CMSs offer is the ability to meet highly specific business needs. They can be designed to handle unique challenges and workflow with no compromises on functionality that come with generic platforms. 

Furthermore, if you have complicated or niche tools, software, or need unique functionalities, they’re guaranteed to be compatible with your custom CMS. Additionally, a custom CMS gives you total control over the design and look of your website so it’s a spot-on match for your brand’s identity.

No Unexpected Changes

One significant advantage of using a custom CMS is that it gives you complete control over your platform, so you don’t have to worry about unexpected interventions from owners or developers. 

With a custom CMS, say goodbye to those pesky unanticipated updates, alterations, or upgrades by third parties that could cause disruption in your day. Any tweaking will happen on your terms and on your timeline.

Custom CMS: The Less Great Stuff 

Having a custom CMS created for your business or brand can sound cool and impressive. However, this route does come with some disadvantages you should be aware of before making a decision.

It’s Expensive

The costs associated with building a dedicated CMS platform can add up quickly. Labor-intensive processes such as designing, configuring, and coding features take time, and as we all know, time is money. 

In addition to labor, any custom features you may want will require additional expense. All of these factors add up to high prices that some businesses may not be able to afford. 

It Takes Forever

If you want a custom CMS, be prepared to wait. Creating one is a ground-up affair that requires designing architecture, developing features and functionalities that meet your specific needs, and coding all the elements into one cohesive system. 

This process is highly time-consuming since you have no template or existing system to work with. It requires a lot of manual coding, testing, and debugging to get everything working properly. Even then, there’s no guarantee it will perform perfectly until it’s had some active time on your system to find all the glitches. 

It’s Hard to Maintain

If you opt for a custom CMS, you’ll want to ensure that there is technical support in-house or on-call who are knowledgeable and comfortable working with the system. The maintenance alone for one of these can be costly unless you have an experienced software developer at your disposal. 

Your People Will Have to Learn

Finally, these systems are one-offs, which means you’ll need to invest valuable time familiarizing staff members with the system. Remember: nobody’s walking into the office with 5-years experience with a platform built from scratch. 

Is It Time to Re-Evaluate Your Website?

There are pros and cons to a custom CMS versus an off-the-shelf solution. As website trends change constantly, it is crucial to keep up with the times and select the best web development option for your business. 

From our experience at Buddy, our feeling is that the vast majority of business websites can be efficiently developed and customized through a robust CMS like WordPress. You might be surprised by the wide range of functionality that can be incorporated into a WordPress site. There are literally thousands and thousands of plugins and a robust developer community that has made the platform the CMS of choice for many in the industry. But, we know that every business has its own unique situation and needs.

At Buddy Web Design & Development, we understand how difficult it can be to navigate through different web design options. We are here to help you make the web development process hassle-free so you can focus on what matters most: growing your business! 

Contact Buddy today for more information about how we can work together toward building an amazing website for your business!

Buddy Web Design & Development

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