Should I build a custom CMS or use open source?


Is it advantageous to build a custom CMS (Content Management System) for my company’s new microstock audio site or should we utilize an open source CMS solution like Drupal or Joomla?


Naomi Kokubo

Naomi Kokubo

by Naomi Kokubo, Cofounder of Founders Space

This is a good question.  If your site requires a completely unique CMS (Content Management System) that is radically different from any of the leading open source solutions, then you’ll probably need to build a custom one from scratch.  Otherwise, you should definitely use open source.  You’ll gain an enormous amount by using open source.  Think of all the years of development time spent by the thousands of engineers who have crafted the leading open source CMS packages, like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.

Even if you have to customize open source, you’re still getting tens of thousands of hours of development for free.  Open source is the best thing that ever happened to entrepreneurs.  It’s a gift from the heavens, and you should take advantage of it.  If you don’t, your competitors surely will.   It can mean the difference between getting to market in 3 months vs. 9 months, and you’ll have a wealth of other features and plug-ins at your disposal.

My favorite CMS package is WordPress.  Nothing beats WordPress in terms of simplicity and ease of use.  You don’t even have to be an engineer to understand and tweak it.  Joomla is a bit harder to learn but more flexible.  I’d only use Joomla if WordPress doesn’t meet your needs.  Lastly, Drupal, which I’ve used, is very difficult unless you’re an experienced engineer.  I’d only use Drupal if you have the engineering resources available.   Remember, simple is better if it gets the job done.

I hope this helps!

Comments & Advice:
  1. Risks of using WordPress: Of course, there are disadvantages to using WordPress too. For example, using WordPress presents a data security risk due to the common source code. Furthermore, because WordPress was originally intended for blogging, features and functionality often become problematic when utilized for entire websites. And lastly, because the skill sets of WordPress developers varies, quality support can be inconsistent and not always professional. These reasons alone should make people pause and consider what they expect from a WordPress website. Check out this article to that also gives a great comparison..

  2. Paulo Carvalho says:

    Nothing beats wordpress?
    Well give concrete5 a try, and you will change that statement for sure:)

  3. Andrew Ly says:

    Custom. The idea and concept behind open source is great. But you’re limited to other developers tools. If you need something to fit your needs, the best way to go is Custom. Even though you can customize some parts of open source, you’ll spend more time figuring it out then just creating it. Lastly, custom is typically faster because there is less code. They have things to up the speed on WP, Drupal, etc, but ultimately, you can’t beat custom because it only has code that is needed.

  4. Jafar says:

    Use a customized cms because you can design a website that is better than your competition. With open source you will be limited to someone elses ideas. If youre on a budget tho beggars can’t be choosers.

    Also in the long run customized solutions are able to adapt quicker to changes or requirements that you might need.

  5. StaffordTechnologies says:

    Give Sitefinity a go. We offer this software to all our hosting clients along with both Drupal and Joomla and Sitefinity seems to be the favorite. It is easy to use and the free version is incredibly powerful.

  6. Robert Clawson says:

    I agree that open source is the way to go if the tool you find is close to what you need. Building from scratch is time and resource consuming, especially if done on a part of your product that is not a direct value-add.

    If you're going to customize an open source tool it's important to know the license terms on adding or extending the open source tool. You may have to contribute your changes back to the open source community or make them available to your customers. It's worth the effort to read the fine print so you don't end up with a legal tangle in the future.

  7. RJ D Johnston says:

    Open source it.

    WordPress = Simple, decent templates (nice looking)
    Joomla = More advanced, not as easy to add content, great templates (easiest to get up and running looking spectacular)
    Drupal = Very powerful, not for the non php programmer, custom template usually needed.
    Expression Engine = Simple interface, amazing back-end now powered by the php framework code igniter.

    Drupal or EE I would say, EE will be more custom programming using their CMS minimal and the power of the framework for most; Drupal a series of modules and some custom programming will likely do the trick. If you have more time make sure you research EE and CI. I've developed in all four, Drupal would get you quickest to market for what you need, EE/CI would be most powerful for custom application. IMHO

  8. I agree. Drupal is a very powerful open source CMS. But you do have to have be an experienced programmer to use it. It's not like WordPress, or even Joomla, which are much simpler to understand and tweak.

  9. I'd recommend an open source solution given the large communities out there for each of them. The basic rules are that if you need something basic and easy to manage, use WordPress. If you need to expand the functionality, use Drupal. Drupal is not a DIY CMS for most but it is ultimately more expandable. If you use a custom solution then you are tied into using custom code, which will cause problems if you ever have to switch developers.

    I'm not exactly sure what you're site will be used for but it sounds like you'll need Drupal's functionality.