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Standard CMS or Custom Web Development - Standard CMS or Custom Web Development?

Having a website is simply a must if you want to build a relationship with your customers, market your brand, and showcase products. When was the last time you bought something without researching it online and Googling it first? Would you even trust a brand that has no website?

One of the first questions that pop into your mind is probably this one: “Should I choose standard CMS, or do I need a custom-made website?”.

Answering this question isn’t going to be easy. Each company has different needs and goals, so there is no universal answer. To get to the bottom of this, let’s examine the differences between standard CMS and custom web development.

Source: Unsplash

  • Standard CMS and Custom Web Development 101

A standard content management system is software or a platform that allows you to create, manage, and modify content on a website without having to know how to code. If you wanted to create a website using a CMS, you would simply pick one of the available themes and designs, customize it to fit your needs, and voila – you got yourself a website!

There are open-source, proprietary, and SaaS CMS. WordPress is probably the most popular open-source CMS platform, but there are also other platforms like Joomla and Drupal that offer a lot of plugins that can meet different brands’ needs.

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Most of these content management systems are pretty flexible, which means that you can use them to create different types of websites, such as static websites, blogs, eCommerce stores, forums, online courses, etc.

You can also purchase a proprietary CMS such as Telerik Sitefinity and ExpressionEngine. These are built and managed by a single company. Using them means you’d have to pay a license fee to use the software and a monthly or annual fee for updates and support.

Unlike standard CMS, custom web development means that you or the website developer you hire has to create and manage a website from scratch. Knowing how to code is essential if you want to have a custom-made website so hiring a web developer is a must if you’re not an expert in website development yourself.

  • What are the differences?

There are multiple differences between standard CMS and custom web development. Though content management systems offer a variety of options and customization, they also have some limitations.

Without further ado, let’s explore their differences.

  • Price 

Since custom web development requires knowledge of different coding languages, it’s pricier than CMS. Even though web developers have access to numerous libraries, frameworks, and reusable code pieces, they still have to build the website architecture from scratch, which takes time and skill.

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CMS, on the other hand, is much more affordable. Keep in mind that most CMS platforms and software are user-friendly, so you should be able to customize the website on your own and save some money. So, if you’re on a tight budget and you don’t need a website with a lot of unique and specific features, CMS is a better choice.

If you, however, need a website that fits your needs to a T, you can’t rely on a standard CMS. In that case, we advise you to reach out to a web development agency that is skilled in web design and website development.

  • Development time

Now, the website development process is no joke. Standard content management systems offer their users a plethora of templates that can be tweaked and adjusted to fit the user’s needs. You can also install plugins that can take your website to the next level in no time. With CMS, adding a new feature can be just a click away.

On the flip side, custom web development takes time. A developer first has to create a sitemap and a wireframe, which is basically a sketch of the website. After the wireframe is done, a web designer will design the entire look of the website and the developer will turn it into a code.

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If you thought that’s it, you were wrong. They also need to test the website before launching it in case of any bugs.

As you can tell, standard CMS is a much quicker option than custom web development.

  • Performance

If your website is simple and without too many complex features, you should be able to get away with a standard CMS. However, that’s not always an option. Maybe you have a complex website concept in mind that involves different features, widgets, and loads of different content types.

In cases like these, you need to hire people that know what they’re doing and have extensive experience in web development. You don’t want to end up with a slow-loading website and a poor user experience.

  • Aesthetics and features

Content management systems like WordPress offer a variety of themes you can choose from. Some of them are completely free, while other, premium ones, can be purchased. These themes are great if you’re just starting and your budget is tight.

If you’re really keen on aesthetics and want to integrate some specific and unique features, it’s best to contact a web developer. A skilled developer will be able to create a website that looks exactly the way you want to, without facing CMS restrictions.

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Keep in mind that you can also purchase a custom WordPress theme for your business or personal website. Depending on the features, these custom-made themes can cost you anywhere between $1,500 and $10,000.

  • Security

All websites are, unfortunately, open to different security threats. Cyberattacks can threaten your authority and reputation, especially if the privacy of your customers’ personal data is affected.

Many CMS platforms offer security plugins that should help you keep your data and your customer’s data safe. However, most of them don’t allow users to handle all the plugins’ utilities, which means your hands are tied. You’re limited to the plugins available for purchase, and that’s just it.

For instance, WordPress as the most popular CMS is also, coincidentally, the most hacked. Frequent WordPress issues involve unauthorized logins, outdated core software, malware, SQL Injections, SEO spam, phishing, etc.

You can, of course, take some practical steps to secure your CMS website, but custom web development is a much better choice in terms of security – custom code is less accessible to hackers.

  • Modifications and maintenance

You’ll most likely want to modify your website at some point. Maybe you’ll notice that certain elements are not as user-friendly as you thought they would be, or the call-to-action button should look differently.

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After all, if your website has a blog, you’ll want to update content on the website frequently if you want to rate better on the search engine results page (SERP).

Updating and maintaining a website built by a content management system is a breeze. A click here and there, and you’re done. Your new blog post is on, and that button you wanted to reposition is now right where you want it.

If you decide to have your website custom-made, a developer may have to go through each page and make the change manually. These modifications can sometimes be costly and take a lot of time, especially if we’re talking about making drastic changes.

  • Branding

While some people still think that a brand is just about the company’s name and logo, it’s much more than that. Branding is, aside from the company’s visual identity, a process of identifying, creating, and shaping the perception of a company in the consumers’ minds.

Though many aspects of branding can’t be achieved solely through the website, things are different in terms of the brand’s visual representation. This is where custom web development has the upper hand.

With standard CMS, your options are limited. Sure, you can change colors and put the logo at the top of the page, but you’ll still have to start with an existing template that will most likely look similar to someone else’s website.

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Custom web development, on the other hand, allows you to create and implement unique visuals the way you want to.

  • Ranking on the SERP

How a website ranks on the search engine results page (SERP) depends on different factors, such as the website’s crawlability, mobile-friendliness, page load-time, keywords, SEO, etc.

For instance, if your website’s load-time is too long, Google won’t allow you to reach the top of its SERP. Not only will Google “punish” you, but users will also abandon your website in search of something faster and better.

According to top Los Angeles SEO companies, platforms like WordPress are very SEO friendly. Multiple plugins allow you to look into the website metrics, improve page speed, and find organic keywords. Most of the time, you’ll be able to keep things in check using a standard CMS.

If you’re, however, thinking about custom web development and SEO, fear not because custom web development allows you to make more tweaks that will get you to the top of the SERP.

  • So, which one should you choose?

Custom web development is the go-to if you want a website with complex features, impeccable design, and short load-time.

You can take your time and discuss your options with multiple web developer agencies or a freelancer. They should be able to give you an estimate on the costs and the development time.

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If you’re, however, aiming to create a simple blog or a website that doesn’t have too many landing pages, you should think about standard CMS. This is especially the case if you’re budget is tight, or you need to roll out a website in a very short time.


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