As the lead developer at Atilus I get asked to use all kinds of tools, and have built and used an array of tools to build a site, provide functionality, and get a job done. Occasionally clients come to use with their own tool(s) in mind, but more often than not they look to us for a solution, trusting we’ll combine our knowledge, experience, and understanding of their needs to present a solution.
WordPress Vs. Custom Content Management System
More than any other piece of software available out there today, WordPress is one of the tools we hear about most often. It makes sense too as, according to a 2015 survey, WordPress powers over 60% of the world’s websites. Why is WordPress such an often-utilized tool? Well I think it’s a combination of many factors:
- Open Source – Meaning the codebase is open, editable and the software is free.
- Large Plugin Database – There are a ton of tools you can easily add to your site to accomplish a lot with little knowledge, experience, or time.
- Easy-To-Use – Adding content and updating your site can be very easy via WordPress’ nice back-end.
However just like conventional software, out-of-the-box tools like WordPress can sometimes fall short.
Often times your company may need a website or software that performs a unique task. And although occasionally there is existing software that will do the job and other times you will find software that is close to what you need but falls short of expectations.
Developing a Custom CMS (Content Management System) for Your Website
Modifying existing software is similar to a new addition to your home.
If the existing software is exactly what you want and you are permitted to make changes then adding on to the software can be the best way to go. Other times you will discover that your needs far exceed any generic solution that is offered by existing software. These are the times when you will turn to a custom solution.
At Atilus we typically implement a stair-step approach to custom software. Based on individual clients’ needs and goals, we’ll typically start with some kind of existing solution, modifying that to accommodate their specific needs. We do this to speed up development time, provide the best support and security possible, and to keep costs lower. However, as you modify and extend software, more and more problems, issues, etc. can arise and eventually a completely custom CMS or system is ideal.
Is your website code of high-quality? Is your website secure or safe?
Programming, similar to many sub-sections of the construction industry is a trade. Like any trade the end quality will only be as good as the skill of the craftsman. Security holes, like a leaky roof, can be repaired but it is better to stop the problem before it starts by having an experienced professional perform the work.
Let’s jump back to Wordpress as an example. WordPress is one of the most used CMS on the market. It’s free, it’s easy to use and there’s a plethora of plugins.
But, is WordPress the best content management system on the market?
The short answer is NO, although it ALWAYS depends on your own needs. Again, it’s great in that it’s free and easy to install so you end up having a lot of people using it. However, if you want WordPress to be more than just a blog, and tool to update pages, you have to install tons of different types of custom plugins including but not limited to: contact form, social media, sharing, seo, cache, sliders, image galleries and the list goes on. All of this additional functionality, provided by a host of 3rd parties, all with varying levels of code-quality and protections opens up WordPress to attacks. And as much as WordPress is the most widely used CMS out there, wordpress is both the most hacked CMS as well as the most often attacked CMS. Meaning WordPress is both a massive target, and a massive target for a reason.
Is your companies private information worth a free cms?
WordPress Vs. Custom Content Management System What is Available?
More specific software poses other issues when trying to find an existing solution. For example, the more specific your software needs, the less available solutions will be out there. At this point you are at the mercy of the software provider, if you can find one to meet your needs. Many tools do not offer quality support or support at all.
What if you buy the software and then there are features that don’t work? Will the company update the software? If so will they be around years to come? For our clients when we build your software the answer to all of the preceding questions will be yes.
Unfortunately quality work comes from time and experience which is only learned from getting out there and creating software. The problem with this is many times the paid and free software that is available were written during this learning stage so it is really best to minimize the amount of external software that is used and either choose a solution that fully meets your companies needs otherwise contract an established reputable software company to build your custom solution for you.
Recently we had to provide a custom solution for the manufacturer of cables/seismic bracing equipment. They wanted a web-based form generator to aid them in providing their customers a final form that inspectors across the world could evaluate, use to sign off on permits, and also provide a work order with suggested parts.
To add to the complexity because every area of the world has different seismic activity, they would need the application to be able to look up a seismic multiplier and apply it to the data we were collecting from their customers. There just isn’t any software out there to do this so a custom program is the only route.
Balancing the Costs & Trade Offs
Custom software will always take longer to build, the cost will be higher, but the increased flexibility, ease-of-use, lack of downtime due to security issues and fit for a business can often times pay for itself very quickly. Much like a home, building, or remodel, the more you invest up front in expertise, and materials (generally) the higher value the final product.