Open-Source CMS vs Custom CMS

PushON | June 1st 2010

I’ve read a lot of debate in the past about the value of using open-source content management systems (CMS) compared with that of a custom-built CMS that is bespoke to the website in question. The truth is, there are advantages to both of them, depending on the requirements and system needed, so there is no definite answer to which is ‘best’.

If you approach a company (or one approaches you) regarding the development of a website, the chances are it is going to be involving a content management system. Practically nobody uses static web files anymore when building a website, due to the bad scalability and flexibiility, which is why the CMS became an ideal solution – but here are a couple of points to consider before saying ‘yes’ to a web company.


Having a website is great, and it’s even better if it’s your first one. Once the site is launched you may presume nothing else will need to be changed as you discussed the requirements fully with your developer – but that’s (almost) never true. Using a bespoke CMS means you are usually locked in with the web company should anything need to be changed, even for little things such as updating a home page image, so it is important to think ahead before proceeding with a project.

The value of an open-source content management system means that you can usually complete the changes yourself, and if not, there are hundreds of support forums and people available to help you along your way.


As mentioned with static websites, the biggest problem is often when you wish to improve the functionality or add additional components to an existing page or website, and this can often be a difficult aspect with bespoke systems.

As an example, you may decide that you wish to have a contact form on your website, that allows visiting users to send you an enquiry without having to email directly. With an open-source CMS, such as WordPress, the process of this is very fast, as it can be done efficiently and securely through the use of plugins. However, with a custom CMS you will often have to go back to the original web agency, who will then quote for the work, and come back to you with a date and price for completion – both of which you should want to avoid.


From experience, most web companies that develop using custom content management systems often try to get you involved in ongoing maintenance contracts, or simply don’t provide the client with the neccasary details to pass on to another company to use (such as FTP and CMS login details). This is bad for two reasons, firstly; you are tied to the original company for any changes to be made (as above), or worst still, you may lose contact with the company who developed the website and won’t be able to get any changes made at all in the future.

A large aspect of running a succesful business is being efficent with money, so you shouldn’t want to be paying ongoing contracts or one-off charges where they are simply not neccasary. If the worst comes to worst and you can’t count on the original company to make changes (or you don’t want to go back to them), this is potentially going to cost you a lot more money as the simplest solution for a new company would be to rebuild the website entirely (using an open-source content management system, I would hope).

Not all custom CMS are bad – as they may be needed in some cases where an open-source solution doesn’t do the job in hand. But for 5 or 10 page websites for a standard business, or websites without the need for bespoke solutions, there is simply no need to restrict somebody or cause potential issues in the future.

PushON develop search engine friendly websites with WordPress, Drupal and Magento – all of which are open-source content management systems with a whole heap of support online. We obviously would like our clients to come back to us should they need any further developments or help with their systems, but the option is there for them to control their website – as after all, it is their website.