Barry Goffett

Barry Goffett

Bespoke CMS Vs Open Source CMS

Post by Barry Goffett on

Bespoke CMS Vs Open Source Solution

I have often toyed with the idea of creating my own CMS, compared to using an open source, out of the box CMS.

As with anything I’m torn between, I tend to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages for each, after all,  this gives a good foundation for which is best.

Rather than comparing potential features and appearance.  I’ll focus on the core benefits. As essentially, a bespoke CMS can be anything you want it to be (with enough dedication). Let’s try and keep this focused on the “Why use a bespoke CMS, or open source CMS?”


Bespoke CMS – Advantages & Disadvantages

I’ve previously helped build and develop a in-house CMS, and currently use another on a regular basis. In each instance, both CMS are completely different, and serve their own purpose, and target their own audience.


  • You know the inner workings – As its your own CMS, you know exactly what has gone into it.  Meaning, you know there isn’t any malicious code from third party plugins, and are more likely to know how to fix any issues, should they arise.
  • It can be built exactly for what the client wants. Meaning there shouldn’t be any bloated coding (coding features that won’t be used or needed).
  • You can develop it when and, how you see fit. No unexpected updates or upgrade issues.
  • A bespoke CMS could also possible be linked to office systems. Meaning a powerful CMS can not only run the CMS, but handle users, payments, and act like a CRM.
  • Could become a product, that can be re-sold to multiple clients.


  • It is only updated when you work on it – an obvious one right?, well of course it is. A good CMS development should have constant changes in the pipeline, if it doesn’t, it will fall behind, and quickly.
  • It will be slower creating your own solution. Although you know every inch of your own code, it will be a longer process than downloading an using an open source CMS.
  • Regardless of the features your bespoke CMS has, people usual have had some experience with a existing open source solution, which then leads to the inevitable question “Does it not have [insert feature] like [insert CMS name] has?”. Once people get used to a certain ability, such as drag and drop and ajax search (to name a few) people begin to expect them as standard.


Open Source CMS – Advantages & Disadvantages

I have used a variety of Open Source CMS’s, such as ModX, e107 and more recently WordPress. Each have their own interfaces and approaches to how a CMS should work.


  • Easy to setup and get going. Many hosting companies even provide a one-click install of popular CMS.
  • Templates. Although this is a personal pet peeves of mine, there are thousands of templates out there, that you can simply download and use. Although I don’t agree with this, it’s an option that people use.
  • Plugins – The are thousands of plugins available for certain CMS (WordPress, i’m looking at you).
  • Constant development – WordPress’s latest release (3.1) had over 140 contributions to make that version. They will already be working on the next release too, always looking to improve and add new functionality.
  • It’s open source – Meaning you can add/change anything you like.
  • Depending on the CMS, it can be free.
  • Online documentation – WordPress has a large community, which means there is plenty of support available.


  • Plugins could have malicious code. Not everyone has good intentions when making a plugin.
  • Popular CMS solutions are often targeted by Hackers.
  • If you make changes / edits to the source file, it can be an issue when a new update available.
  • Bloated code – The CMS will come with features that you might not even need. Meaning their taking up space for the sake of it.


I’ve often heard the phrase “Don’t re-invent the wheel” and in many cases its true. If your project requirements can be achieved with an open source CMS (do your research on this) then why not use one?. They are constantly being developed and improved, can you really keep up, or offer something unique?

Chances are, that functionality that isn’t available in a standard CMS solution, is probably available as a plugin. Even if it isn’t, there is online communities at hand to help with custom features too.

However, it really does depend on your project requirements. If you require a lot of bespoke features that aren’t easily covered by open source solutions, then maybe its worth going down the bespoke CMS route.