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CMS or Bespoke web site builds?

Something I have been pondering over for a while now is the choice of how to build a web site.

Do you always go for a CMS solution and build from there or do you just build from scratch using any code you have used before as a library or do you mix and match?

More recently I have been more focused on developing on existing platforms such as WordPress or a commercial CMS but is that a good thing? Using WordPress does allow you to easily integrate other code or scripts quite easily, in fact if you wish you can develop WordPress plugins to integrate into WordPress so that the user doesn’t even know there is bespoke code inserted into the site.

So on the surface it would seem developing on an existing platform is the way forward, however using a commercial CMS I find this more difficult. What I mean by a commercial CMS is using a hosted CMS which you would pay a license to use. Most of the time you wouldn’t have access to write bespoke code into the site,  so you can be a bit limited with what you can do.  There are many upsides to using a commercial CMS though such as support and many supply the developer with API’s to play with which can achieve the results you want.

Is it worth looking at developing bespoke sites with an administration panel which is unique to that site? In the past this is what I would have done but I have found users expect a certain level of tools such as WYSIWYG editors, news feeds (RSS feeds), ability to upload images and even video.

Do you develop your own or use an existing platform?
Wordpress or Joomla for example both have the ability to upload images and video, have RSS feeds and WYSIWYG editors all as default or by installing a plugin.

The downside is that the open source software needs updating and in the case of WordPress this can be a lot. Again though is this good or bad? Ok so you have run a few updates but at least the code is free and is being updated, providing you with new tools and further features to make sites.

If you make a bespoke web site then you are left to develop this yourself. There is an upside to bespoke sites and that is that you have control over the site and how it will be used. You get to build your own funky scripts that no other site will have and make it different from anything else you have seen. Clients can be willing to pay the extra to get the new feature or maybe they are requesting it in the first place so you get to create it.

As a developer what do you do? If you were a would be client what would you prefer?

3 Comments (Add Yours)

  1. It’s a good question. Personally I think it depends on the client’s needs and budget. In the short term, WordPress can provide a good quick solution along with a few custom written plugins to enhance it, but as you say, it still needs an upgrade every so often (not that often really. Before 2.6, the last version out was April, so about 10 weeks, that’s not too bad, at least they’re on the ball!).

    With a bespoke solution, yes you can make it unique, you can design the admin to fit in with the site (although you can do your own CSS for the WP admin too), but generally an update isn’t necessarily needed every couple of months. However if you base the admin and the whole site on a pre-existing CMS, which most developers do after a while, using a standard framework and build on that, then as you find bugs and issues yourself theoretically all the sites using your bespoke CMS need upgrading.

    So at the end of the day either option should be kept up to date, and the OS solution at least has some of the best developers working on it, bugs are found pretty quickly and enhancements are always being made. With a bespoke solution, you’re limited to yourself / your team, and bugs are easier to miss when only a couple of dozen people are using it. Plus you need to charge more for it which can put off some clients.

    So if I can, I use WordPress, simply due to its flexibility and capabilities, plus I can extend it with plugins easily. Otherwise it’s bespoke solutions, providing the client’s budget will stretch to it!

  2. Nice post, yes, I am all the way Open Source because it is scalable and you have control over it vs a paid version of a CMS. I have used many, including WP, Joomla and some not so known CMS and they all seem to fit my customer’s requirements.

    Yes, updating can be a drag because of security issues but if you take few hours and learn on how to update your CMS to the current version you would see that it is not that difficult.

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  3. Thank you for your comments.
    Do you think using a Open Source solution is good for a commercial company? Should they be developing their own or does it not matter where you work? I know not so long ago IBM started using Drupal so i guess more are taking the step into Open Source.