Which is Better: Custom Development or a Standard CMS?
When it comes to kicking off a new web development project, there are several points to take into consideration to determine whether you should carry it out using custom development or if you can get away with employing a standard CMS. Among the practical issues to consider are the business, marketing, systems requirements, and more. Once you have your needs clear, it's time to decide whether you should go for a custom system or if you're more inclined to use a preconfigured system using a standard CMS. Therefore, it's critical you understand what the benefits and drawbacks are for each of these options.
Custom website vs. Standard CMS
A standard CMS is a previously-designed software that has a predefined interface and some base functionalities. These CMS tend to allow for a certain degree of personalization for the user to adapt it to their needs. However, there are more significant limitations.
A custom CMS is one that's essentially built from scratch. We say "essentially" here because they are typically made using open-source frameworks (code libraries) that other professionals have created for others to use and optimize turnaround times. This way, the developer can create a custom website that's 100% adapted to every client’s core needs.
Is a custom website or a standard CMS better?
One of the questions that our clients tend to ask us when we present these options to our clients is: what’s better? The truth is that, in the case of WAM, we always opt for custom development since it offers excellent flexibility and is a scalable model; however, there are some cases where a standard CMS can be an appropriate solution.
In any case, so you can determine it for yourself, here's what it would entail should you opt for one or the other.
One of the main concerns any client has is price. It's true custom development is more expensive. Despite that, they tend to be more profitable over time. Why? These projects are geared towards the specific business's requirements, implying that they have a higher ROI and since they are customizable, they are more durable and more flexible and scalable when it comes to expanding and improving the platform. If what we’re after is to save time and go with a standard CMS it’s possible that, with time, when our business grows, we have other needs.
In this regard, developing with a standard CMS, we save a lot of time, since we have a plethora of plugins that allow us to add them into our project quickly. The fact that we can use preset templates lets us reduce the time it takes to develop them. On the other hand, custom development projects require previous work to reach an ideal structure and optimized design for the target audience in their industry. This process can increase the time it takes to develop the project.
ROI and conversion
To go more into depth in the subject of ROI, industry professionals who specialize in custom web development earn a higher ROI than those development projects created using standard templates. The motive is straightforward: when the website is designed with business objectives and the target audience in mind, conversions and sales multiply.
The image plays a visual role when it comes to attracting users and gaining sales. Logically, custom development has more possibilities to make a website visually attractive, easy-to-use, and efficient when it comes to creating a satisfactory user experience. We can end up anticipating users' expectations and, for example, adapt the purchasing process according to their needs.
Another of the reasons for going for a custom web is that it contributes to landing better SEO positioning on search engines since it's created from scratch, all the development stems from the primary search engines' preferences. We often overlook that web development and SEO go hand-in-hand.
Only you know what path your business is going to take, and you need a website that’s able to keep pace. Custom websites are highly scalable, and you can get to where you want to go; it only depends on you and your developer. However, standard CMS systems have a lot more restrictions, and you can find yourself with the surprise that the software you chose does not let you make the improvements your business needs and when these improvements can be made, the cost is much higher than it would have been with custom development.
This is something that frequently does not enter into the criteria because it's not visible, but having a clean code (code that's easy to understand and change) can make a lot of things easier for you in the future. And it's because, when you want to make changes to your website or touch it, if the developer can't decipher the original code there won't be anything to do. In this sense, custom development uses a clean code with the functionality the client needs. Standard CMS systems, in contrast, install a lot of unnecessary code that worsens performance and can cause hard-to-find errors.
Plugins and third-party extensions
Custom web development solutions use third-party libraries that need to adapt to the client's requirements. The plugins used in a standard CMS depend on the companies that developed them, implying that there is a high dependence on the company to come up with security updates that make sure they can't hack into our website.
There are higher security guarantees on a custom website in the face of possible cyber-attacks since generating custom code is less accessible to hackers. It also depends on you to include all the security levels to protect your content and customer data. In turn, in a custom CMS, this aspect is in the hands of the firm that developed the software of the plugins, and they do not always make all the necessary or available measures public.
A website’s performance improves the user experience and its usability; that’s why this is another critical aspect to consider. In custom web development we get better results since it only uses the necessary code to meet the project requirements. With a standard CMS, as we previously said, the code is less clean and negatively impacts the website’s performance.
The leading CMS systems have integrated software developed in them that let you transfer any data stored in these external systems to your CMS always when the API allows. On the other hand, in custom web development, they tend to develop personalized, adapted integration systems and adjust them to the corresponding API that connects the needed data and ensure the communication across platforms is as optimal as possible. In both cases, we'll need a programmer with expertise in CMS technology to properly implement the integrations.
When it comes to finding the best technological solution for our clients’ websites, we carry out a deep analysis where we evaluate the different CMS systems out there on the market. Here we’ve summarized the four that we think are the most popular or interesting:
In the case of WAM, the best solution is Symfony, a PHP framework that lets us create websites and applications agilely. Using this type of technology, while not necessary, helps us improve (structure development) and faster (reusing generic modules). This way, Symfony allows us to develop functionalities to integrate content using complementary and independent blocks and lets us create a web project's structure in an incredibly straightforward, quick, and complete personalized way.
How should you make a decision?
Although the custom CMS option is much more exciting, it doesn’t have to be the solution for everyone. If your requirements, for example, are not big and you have a limited budget and timeframe, perhaps you should go for a more standard choice. However, if that’s not the case, you should, without question, go ahead and move forward with custom development.
In summary: custom development will let you create an administrable website that adjusts to your needs and helps you sell more and position yourself better. Not only that; you’ll be able to grow and evolve with it, all while having the security guarantees. For all it provides, it’s worth it.