Custom CMS development – Is it right for your website?

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Ainsley Clark

Dec 23, 2023 - 4 min read.

For many businesses today, off-the-shelf content management systems (CMSs) are no longer robust enough to fully support their goals as they grow and evolve. Due to limitations in their features and functionality, they often become a constraint for larger organisations, thus fuelling a rising demand for more custom solutions.

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Building a custom CMS from scratch provides unmatched flexibility and control, as you’re no longer bound by predefined frameworks. However, it also means taking responsibility for critical elements of the platform, including security, scalability, user experience and maintainability. Let’s explore the factors businesses should consider when deciding between a prebuilt CMS or custom CMS development.

What is custom CMS development?

A content management system (CMS) is a software application which allows users to create, modify and publish content on a website, without any specialised technical knowledge. If a CMS is custom – as opposed to open-source, like Wordpress, or SaaS, like Wix or Shopify – it has been built specifically to the user’s requirements, taking into consideration the unique functionality and design of their website.

The key advantages of a custom CMS

Developed specifically for your needs, a custom CMS can give your business access to tools that wouldn’t be available through open source or SaaS CMS solutions. Much like a bespoke theme for your website, a custom CMS offers a number of benefits, particularly when it comes to page speed and security.

Flexibility to suit your needs

One of the most obvious advantages of building a custom CMS is that it allows you to address your organisation’s particular needs and goals. Unlike generic CMS platforms with predefined limitations, anything is possible if you have the budget and timeline. A professional CMS web development company can build you a platform to achieve whatever functionality your website requires. This flexibility is key for complex or unique business structures that struggle to fit into rigid off-the-shelf systems, resulting in counterintuitive user experiences. While traditional CMS software may work for simple e-commerce stores, the more tailored your requirements, the more useful a custom CMS can be for your internal teams and your clients.

Enhanced website speed

Another significant benefit of custom CMSs is that they load faster. By avoiding the unnecessary plugins and bloated code that pre-built CMSs rely on, a custom option is streamlined to provide optimal performance – crucial for retaining visitors and improving search engine rankings. On the contrary, CMS solutions made with a website builder not only depend on plugins, but often surprise you with updates when you least expect them. All these elements can slow down your website. With a bespoke CMS, updates are introduced only when absolutely necessary and with plenty of prior planning.

Tight security measures

With cyber threats on the rise, well-known CMS platforms are often prime targets for hackers seeking private user information. While custom builds don’t guarantee better security inherently, they do minimise the risk of being targeted through common vulnerabilities in widespread systems. A skilled CMS development company can implement robust security features tailored to your site. Therefore, for organisations where data protection is paramount, the heightened security a custom CMS offers is a wise choice.

More stylistic control

Although generic CMS platforms like WordPress do allow a certain degree of customisation, a prebuilt theme still has noticeable stylistic characteristics. Though there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, originality in design and functionality are key in setting your business apart from the competition. A custom CMS allows for unique web designs and greater control over how your content is presented, ensuring that your site stands out amongst the multitude of template-based websites. This distinctiveness is vital in building a strong brand identity and attracting more customers.

Ongoing technical support

When you hire a CMS development company to build you a custom solution, you receive personalised attention and technical support. A professional developer should train you on how to understand and use your new CMS optimally, often providing you with comprehensive documentation and tutorials to help you. This means any issues can be resolved quickly and your website remains up-to-date with the latest technologies.

The main disadvantages of custom CMS development

While custom CMSs provide a host of benefits, there are some challenges to consider, particularly when it comes to your company’s budget and the availability of after-launch support.

Higher upfront costs

With the amount of time and effort that goes into custom CMS development services, the most obvious downside can be price. It requires significant initial investment to develop a quality CMS from the ground up. Not only are extensive programming hours needed to build core infrastructure, but rigorous planning, testing and designing interfaces adds more time and budget on top. So, if you have the budget for it, it’s worth the investment, but if your business is not quite at that stage yet, you might prefer a more economical, pre-built option instead.

Ongoing reliance on developer time

Well-known CMSs have wide support options online and handle all system upgrades, bug fixes, and feature improvements for you. On the other hand, with a bespoke CMS, any ongoing maintenance tasks are done by the development team you hire. If, for whatever reason, the relationship with your digital agency turns sour, this could create a risky form of vendor lock-in and threaten your business continuity. Therefore, when deciding to go for a custom build, make sure that clear contracts and intellectual property (IP) ownership are established upfront.

What’s the difference between a custom CMS and a headless CMS?

For projects that require a higher degree of flexibility and scalability, as well as delivery across various channels, you might consider a headless CMS like Strapi. Unlike traditional CMSs where the backend and frontend are tightly connected, a headless CMS separates these two, allowing for greater flexibility in how and where the content is displayed. Developers can use any technology or framework to build the frontend, retrieving content from the headless CMS via API calls. This makes it ideal for multi-channel content delivery across websites, mobile apps and IoT devices.

Choosing the right CMS development services for your business

Selecting the right CMS development services is crucial for your business’ success. If you decide to go ahead with a custom build, it’s important to find a digital agency that understands exactly what you require and has a proven track record in CMS software development. If you’re not ready for a completely custom CMS, but still need certain tailored features, a professional developer can build completely bespoke integrations into pre-existing automation. For example, by sculpting the architecture to connect your online shop to your POS system or marketing email list. The possibilities are endless.

Wrapping up

Deciding whether a custom CMS is the right choice for you depends on various factors. For many small businesses that are just getting started, a pre-built CMS like WordPress might be perfectly enough. However, a custom solution might be the best option for larger or more complex businesses that need more advanced features and functionality.

If you are considering custom CMS development for your business, contact today to discuss how our expert team can help you build a CMS that’s not just a platform, but a cornerstone for your digital success.

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About the author

Ainsley Clark Photo
Ainsley Clark

CEO & Director, Designer & Software Engineer

Ainsley Clark is a senior full-stack software engineer and web developer. As the company's founder, he is in charge of each key stage of our website and software builds and is our clients' reliable point of contact from start to finish of every project. During his extensive experience in the industry, Ainsley has helped numerous clients enhance their brand identity and increase their ROI with his custom designed websites, as well as constructed and deployed a vast array of highly scalable, tested and maintainable software applications, including SEO tools and APIs.

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