In my last post, I defined Drupal and Joomla as DIY content management platforms and explained how they help website owners maintain their content. In this post, we’ll tackle some reasons you might consider custom CMS rather than a DIY content management platform.
A custom content management system (CMS) is a web application that has been created specifically for you and the way you do business. Custom CMS can be written from the ground up, or may be a customization of existing code that your web developer created for other clients. While it’s true that a website with a custom CMS often costs more than a website created for a DIY web platform, here are some reasons you might want to go custom:
1. Design matters to you.
Because modules are interchangeable, many DIY sites have a boxy look, as in “Here’s a box for the calendar, and here’s a box for the news, and here’s a box for the main content.” Because of this limitation, it’s harder to create artwork that looks really special. That’s not something that matters to everyone, but if it matters to you, custom CMS is a better option. In addition, keep in mind that any given module was created, not just for you, but for a broad range of users, so you may find you can’t control every single background and line color and font to your liking.
What can custom CMS do for you? Because the code is created around your precise requirements, modules can be integrated into the design seamlessly. Do you want your art to overlap? These two things need to line up? You want a drop shadow there? All these little touches add up and contribute to the feeling your visitors get when they come to your site. They help you be different.
2. You need it to be easy. Really easy.
One of the key tenets of programming is that the harder the programmer works, the easier it is for the user. When developing a custom CMS, your programmer should master how you work and what your strengths and weaknesses are as a user. Custom CMS can also be created with an eye toward minimizing the amount of skill required to manage the site after launch. That way, you can assign routine tasks to minimally technical people, saving time and money.
DIY web platforms require a little more skill to manage well. Familiarity with the control panels goes a long way toward minimizing frustration. And say you have a super-user within your organization managing your site. What happens when that person moves on? Now you’ve got to train a new person to do the job.
For years, I supported a CMS that I wrote for a church in Baltimore. The administrative assistant at the church happened to be my dad, who is a competent dude, but had never touched a computer before. I knew if I didn’t make my CMS super easy to use, I would be on the phone with him every single day. I think I pulled it off. And if my dad can do it, you can too.
3. You can’t mess it up.
There is such a thing as too much freedom to change things.
If you’ve devoted enough time to planning your site, then content management is simply about updating what’s there. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel all the time. Who has time for that?
A custom content management system can be built with specific controls that help you change what you need to change, but protect what you want to keep. This helps you maintain a consistent look and feel throughout your site, at least until your next major update, and prevents technical catastrophes that can crash your site for days on end.
So why use DIY Content Management?
There are plenty of good reasons to use an open source content management platform like Drupal or Joomla. For moderately skilled users who like lots of bells and whistles, aren’t so worried about spectacular design, and want to limit their costs, these options are a good fit. Custom CMS isn’t for everyone. It can get expensive and time consuming to develop. But for the right client, custom CMS is just what they need to get the job done.