Custom Website vs CMS – What’s Best For You?

Whenever we take on a client, one of the first questions they always ask is, “I want a custom website, but do I need a CMS?”.

Many times, when it comes to web design and development, my clients don’t even know what a CMS is, or what the point of one is. Which is totally okay – most people don’t know what a CMS is (only us developers do! ;).

So, let’s take the guess work out of it.

“What exactly is a CMS?”

Content Management System (CMS)

A content management system allows you to do exactly that – manage the existing content on your website. This works perfectly for clients who need to update their website frequently. In fact, that’s one of the many questions I have when on-boarding new clients, when it comes to our process. Some examples of this may be e-commerce websites (product updates, pricing updates), blog-heavy websites (weekly / monthly updates to the company blog), and even news-based websites. Any sort of website that needs to be updated with fresh, unique content on a consistent basis (Google loves this, by the way!), generally needs an easy-to-use content management system.

The other great thing about popular CMS’ (the big ones being WordPress, Drupal and Joomla), is that these content management systems come with a plethora of amazing, well-supported and fluidly-built plugins. Plugins, in a nut-shell, essentially add whatever functionality you’d like to your website that you can dream up. Some of these plugins are free, some of these plugins are paid. As a developer, we can’t tell you how many times we’ve used plugins on clients sites, generally due to the fact that they’re extremely easy (most of the time!) to set up, configure, test and eventually integrate within a website.

Let’s quickly go over the pros and cons of having a CMS as your website:


  • Ability to add, change and delete the content of your existing website.
  • If you have more than one person accessing the website, you can create multiple accounts with multiple roles and restrictions as to what certain people can and cannot edit on the website
  • Content can be updated extremely quickly – turnaround time for your website, in terms of maintenance, is generally much faster with a CMS
  • Basic website modules such as header navigation, sidebars, and general content are updatable at your fingertips
  • Most CMS are actually preferred by search engines – in a nutshell, this means it’s much easier to rank high in Google for your industry if you use a content management system


  • Security. All CMS’ are vulnerable to hackers – however, as long as your site is secure, you shouldn’t have any issues.
  • Some pages where you have the ability to update your site, input content in a manner of WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) – on inner pages especially (excluding the home page), you have less control of how the content is laid out on a page
  • Functionality limitations – although you can use plugins to add value to your site in terms of functionality, a CMS cannot do everything you need it to do

So, we’ve covered the utmost basics of what a content management system is. What about a custom website?

“When you say a ‘custom website’… What do you mean?”

Custom Website

A custom website is a website that’s designed and built with custom code, tailored to your needs, based on the project goals that we’ve set up in our initial meeting. This website is not built on a content management system – it’s built using custom, semantic code.

Most companies that request custom designed and developed websites are those who simply do not have enough time to manage a website thereafter it’s launched, and would rather the web developer simply take care of updates. Or, maybe they simply do not care to learn how to use a content management system – thus leaving it in the hands of the developer to maintain, once again.

Let’s quickly go over the pros and cons of having a custom website:


  • There are no limitations when it comes to design and development. It will look, feel and function any way that you can dream up.
  • The custom design will reflect your branding
  • Generally it’s much faster than a CMS
  • You don’t have to worry about maintenance, as the web developer would do it for you


  • It can be pricey, especially if a web developer needs to maintain the site for you after the fact
  • Changes may take time – instead of completing the changes at your finger tips, you may have to wait some time for the changes to be completed by the developer

You may be asking yourself at this point, “what’s the best option for my company?”

The answer? It depends.

It all depends on your company and personal goals, and of course your budget. You can also combine these two options – a custom designed content management system. This may be on the more pricier side, but in the long run the value it offers is second to none. A platform that you can easily update, that’s custom designed to your brand.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

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