Insights

Why you shouldn’t build your own CMS.

Previously, we found that managing projects can be challenging without the right tools. After trialing various team management solutions/systems (TMS), we eventually reached the point whereby we’d decided we could build our own better team management solution. Thus, Bloo was born.

We fondly tell of our successes building Bloo, and how it outshines many competitors (particularly on price). It’s taken us a few years, and we know we’ll still be evolving our software further...but it’s absolutely been one of the best decisions made at Mäd. We use Bloo daily, and it keeps our projects hyper-efficient.

Yet, the do-it-yourself approach isn’t always advisable.

Aside from a ‘TMS’, most businesses should be familiar with the acronym ‘CMS’. A ‘Content Management System’ is at the core of web design, and choosing your CMS can be a particularly significant decision.

There are many choices on the market, from WordPress, Webflow, Ghost, through to Joomla, Wix, and Magento. Each choice comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. And, as every web project varies, selecting the right CMS for your project can be a difficult decision.

There’s been many occasions whereby we’ve wanted to take features from one CMS into another, while wishing we could ditch particularly clunky interfaces or debilitating drawbacks.  The thought of creating our own CMS has crossed our mind a few times...but we have good reasons for not doing so—and also the rationale as to why you shouldn’t either.

Bear with us.

Why you might want to build your own CMS.

Let’s kick things off with various reasons why building your own CMS may seem like a good idea.  It’s worth mentioning that our advice for not building a custom CMS is for the many, and we’re sure a few will ignore us and do it anyway (and to you, we wish you good luck!).

Often, listing your frustrations with CMS choices can help narrow down the best choice available—or at least which choices to definitely avoid.  

One of the most common issues that web developers and project managers have is based on control:

Lack of control over features and functionality.

This is fairly obvious, but when you use someone else’s software, you’re tied in to their functionality. If the CMS provider has set up their platform in a certain way, then you’re obliged to follow it.

There can be many disagreements about the best way to organise a UI or some annoyance at seemingly core features either being ‘premium’ or simply not available.  If a developer has an advanced set of requirements, it can be tiresome to find a pre-existing solution able to handle every detail sufficiently.

Another consideration could be for clients or in-house teams. It’s desirable for websites to become marketing-owned, whereby the internal marketing team is able to access, update, and change information on your website whenever necessary. For this to happen, the CMS needs to be simple enough for non-web professionals to handle.  Some solutions, such as WebFlow, do a great job at providing simple front-end editors that can be intuitively handled...but finding the right CMS for each client can certainly be a headache.

So here’s the consideration, if you were to build your own CMS...you could include all the necessary features and set up the platform in a sensible way—with the added benefit of making bespoke adjustments to suit client needs. Sounds ideal, right?

Anchoring Clients.

This consideration is perhaps more dubious than other reasons. If you create your own system, then competing web designers may not be able to access your back-end editors. As such, clients will be forced to return to you for any technical changes, giving you long term business.

In a way, you’re binding clients to you because no one else will be able to work with your solution...and the idea of having to redo the entire website on a new platform might seem time consuming and costly.

We don’t support this reason, as we believe that clients will stick with quality—rather than sticking with a provider out of lack of other option. By offering transparency, choice, and quality, you’ll build up trust that will keep clients coming back no matter which CMS is used.

Dislike for existing choice(s).

Over 40% of the internet is built on WordPress. This impressive stat is often enough to convince project managers to pick WordPress as their CMS, but there are many web developers that strongly dislike the platform.

WordPress started out as a blogging tool, and many developers still view it as such…

Whilst this thinking is flawed, it’s still a powerful motivator to create a new choice purely to avoid the alternative(s). There’s also some minor snobbery whereby companies might view WordPress as a primitive solution that could be done in-house by the intern, the same could be said about Wix or Squarespace websites. We applaud the ease at which some CMS allow intuitive website building without professional experience or qualifications, but we’d also highlight that giving the same tools to talented professionals will lead to brilliant results.

However, if someone doesn’t like a particular tool, their work may suffer. It can be beneficial to find the best tools to fit your available talent, but we don’t think that it justifies the dramatic choice of starting your own solution instead of picking one of the many great options.

Pricing.

Some CMS platforms demand high monthly costs for their services, especially when you add in various additional plugins and fancy features. In the short-term, it’s extremely time consuming and costly to build your own CMS, but if you have long-term vision then it’s understandable that you could forecast huge savings by building your own solution.

This was a big factor for the inception of Bloo. We saw an opportunity to not only create a viable product, but to offer it at a much more affordable and reasonable price point. As such, thousands of businesses benefit from saving thousands of dollars yearly (against competitor solutions) while still getting necessary features and a great, intuitive UI.  

The problem with pricing for various CMS options, is that there are many free options available. Unless your solution can offer something unique, you’re unlikely to be able to make much profit on the software itself...and the time taken to build a custom CMS will undoubtedly cause large setbacks to your project(s). Additionally, you’ll need to retain high quality talent to maintain your software and be dedicated to keeping everything running smoothly.

Security.

Most of the most popular CMS choices have had various security breaches, which can unnerve many companies.

Online security can be tough to assure, especially with the sophisticated technology that hackers have available. However, many examples of website security breaches come from outdated protection. By having an active webmaster, you can ensure all related website software is kept up-to-date and therefore as secure as possible.

Lack of Features.

This gripe might be one of the most poorly thought through.

Imagine you find an ideal CMS for your web project, but there is one missing feature. What do you do? Do you find another option, or do you build an entirely new CMS from scratch?

There’s a third, smarter option. Simply work with the CMS to implement your missing feature. It’s must easier to create one plugin, widget, or extra module than it is to create an entire software from nothing. Almost every CMS on the market has options for extending their functionality, and it would be in their best interest to work with developers to implement new features rather than ostrichize them by denying new developments.

This may also be true for trying to connect a particular system or tool with a CMS platform. If the most ideal platform doesn’t support one particular tool (like SalesForce, for example), then reach out to the developers to see if it can be made possible, it’s likely going to be mutually beneficial and much less complicated and time-consuming than building a whole new system.

Drawbacks of building your own CMS.

To further reiterate why you shouldn’t build your own CMS, let’s now look at clear disadvantages.

There are two main factors here, namely Time and Money.

Time.

Firstly, it’s undoubtedly time consuming to build your own CMS, and even more time consuming to build something that is truly of quality. Even with extra team resources (such as hiring whole suites of developments) there is still inevitably going to be lots of development, testing, refining, and general lengthy processes to follow.  

The longer you spend building something new, the longer you’ll be waiting for your website project to actually begin...and the longer your brand won’t be capitalising on a new website geared towards intelligent goals.

There’s also the consideration that custom CMS won’t have any external support. If you build it, then you’re solely responsible for maintaining it. This can prove to be extremely time consuming, and if you aren’t able to do this yourself then you’d need to factor in the time to train various experts in your solution to handle any bugs or improvements. If you’re planning to build your own CMS then it should really be for the long-term, and it’ll likely take up a large part of your professional career...a commitment not every developer can make.

Money.

Next, we should investigate potential costs for building a custom CMS.

If you’re the developer, you need to figure out how you’ll be paid for it. If you’re self funded, then it could be a huge chunk of unpaid labour at first. Perhaps the long-term result will allow you to sell a robust platform to a large amount of clients, but to get to that stage you need to have put in hundreds or thousands of hours of hard graft.

If you’re the project manager, you’ll have to calculate how many developers and how much time the build will take. If time isn’t an issue, then be prepared for a considerable team to be paid for a lengthy amount of time before the CMS is ready to use. If time is of the essence, then you’ll need to throw a huge budget towards lots of team members of extremely high quality.

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