Custom vs. Pre-Built Content Management System

May 18, 2015

Reading time about 5 minutes

A content management system is usually an integral part when creating a website, especially if the website is set to operate in the e-commerce industry or if the site is content-oriented. In such a scenario, it can be quite confusing to decide what type of content management systems to use. Should you use a pre-built system or should you instead go for a customized version? Then again, there are a number of other factors to consider as well, say for example the functionality of the site, featured content or future upgrades.

One of the most pertinent questions in this regard is whether your site is going to implement a pre-built CMS (Expression Engine, Kentico, Magento, WordPress, etc.) or a customized CMS. As with any other system, both these options have their set of pros and cons that will depend on the requirements of the project. This blog post will deal with determining the various factors that ascertain the usability of both custom and pre-built CMSs.

  • Core Functionality: The first and most important step to determining what type of CMS to implement into a client website is to determine their requirements. By pinpointing the requirements of the project, the steps to short-listing a suitable type of CMS becomes a whole lot easier.
  • Editor: Most systems usually have a WYSIWYG editor to edit and upgrade content on a CMS-powered website. However, there is a catch to the usability of an editor. If the system administrator needs to update content to the web CMS on a regular basis, and which involves uploading pictures and videos, besides text formatting a rich-text editor would be favorable. Usually, an editor is customizable in some systems while there are some limitations in others. Kentico is one pre-built CMS that comes with a built-in browser editor that makes editing effortless for even a non-technical person.
  • Asset Management: The main reason behind implementing a CMS is to effectively and efficiently manage content on a website. For this, businesses need to determine approximately, if not entirely, the amount of data they would need to process and present on a daily basis.
  • Interactivity: A content management system makes it a whole lot easier to manage data and media on a website – without usually compromising on the interactivity or user experience. The CMS that a business intends to implement should enable them to ensure that interactivity on the site is not compromised.
  • Multiple Website Support: It might so happen that there are multiple websites for your brand, all of which are rich in content and related media. Managing multiple websites can be a hassle for site managers if they have to access each site individually to update content. Determine the business requirements before proceeding with the short listing and implementation.
  • Multilingual Support: There is an increasingly global audience for a website, which implies that any user from any part of the world who speaks diverse languages can access the websites. To effectively cater to such diverse users, your website needs to integrate support for multiple languages as well.
  • Budget: The budget that you are willing to set aside for your website also has a key role to play while shorting the type of CMS to implement. There are pre-built content management systems that are open-source as well as proprietary or there is always the option to design a custom CMS. At the end, everything comes down to the budget you are willing to spare for your web CMS project.

Pre-built Vs. Custom CMS:


  • The initial cost of implementation of a pre-built CMS may be a lot less as compared to designing a custom content management system.
  • A pre-built CMS will inevitably have more system updates rolling out, on a regular basis, to ensure that the existing features are constantly upgraded/ enhanced.
  • A customized CMS implies that you get too build your website conforming to your exact specifications or requirements whereas the customizability of a pre-built CMS depends entirely on the extensibility offered by the platform.
  • Prebuilt systems often have pre-installed functionalities to collect user feedback as well as tools that ensure ease of consumer communications.


  • Developing as well as operating a custom CMS requires both users and developers to be trained in the intricacies of the new CMS. The costs related to training can be enormous and at most times neither employees nor writers would be thrilled about learning an entirely new system.
  • The flexibility offered by a custom CMS can be rather limited when it comes to integrating third-party custom functionalities like a Disqus comments system or a cloud CDN, into a custom CMS.
  • The development of a custom CMS is invariably is higher as compared to a pre-built or open source CMS and the development process also tends to stretch out a little longer than necessary.
  • Although, at the onset, a custom-built CMS can be viewed as an effective system that seamlessly incorporates all the requirements of the project, but over time scaling the site can get tiresome.

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