Don't get tricked into using a custom content management system (CMS)

When you’re first starting out as a business, especially if you have no website design knowledge, it can be tempting to be lured by all those shiny sales messages from web design agencies of ‘bespoke CMS sites’, custom built to your specifications. How good does that sound? That copy reads as if you can have everything you ever dreamed of in a site if only you invest in X Company’s own CMS, and it is sales copy so, of course, it doesn’t mention the downside of these systems or offer another option.

That sort of copy is even tempting to large companies, because who doesn’t want something specifically tailored to do whatever you want, especially when you have the large budget to pay for it?

But before you hand over your hard-earned cash, let’s consider that downside and look at the alternative.

What exactly is wrong with a custom CMS, hosted by your website agency?

1. It’s not in your control

A site built on a custom CMS would be hosted by your website agency and only they would know the hosting specification. So what happens to your carefully built site and the information if the design agency goes out of business?

If all your information is in a custom CMS in a custom format, what happens if you just decide you want to go elsewhere and move your data? Can you do that at all or, if you can do it, is it easy and inexpensive, or even free? If you do want to move your data, can you export it from the old company in a compatible format that will let you easily import it into your new site?

Quite often the answer to most of those questions is a big, fat, scary ‘No!’

And then you’ve got a problem that’s likely to cost you even more lumps of cash to fix than it cost you to have the CMS built in the first place.

2. You can’t actually have what you want

Well, you can. At a price. Yes, they’ll tweak your site for you. They’ll add this function and that function. But the operative word here is ‘they’. You are completely reliant on that company to do everything, and with a bespoke CMS, only they can help you. No-one else can do a thing if you have a problem.

The last thing you need is your site, and therefore your business and your income, held hostage by another company.

3. Their development can’t keep up with the alternatives

There are hundreds of open-source CMSs out there, many of which have been around for years and have had teams of developers and coders working on their many, many versions, refining the code, working out bugs, doing updates, adding extra functionality…

If your website agency consists of Fred and Bob trying to keep up with their own client design work, and develop your CMS at the same time, how quickly do you think your ‘bespoke, custom, tailored’ CMS will get the latest function that all the open-source alternatives have had for months? This year? Maybe. Or maybe not.

Face it, Bob and Fred run a business too, and they make their main money by building new websites for clients, not by adding tweaks for you.

4. Poor support and quality

Continuing the theme above, Fred and Bob simply can’t compete with the amount of people who have been involved in developing an open-source CMS. With a professional team of developers and a large community of users to give feedback and find bugs, a huge database of support documentation and forums to find help, plus endless possibilities for real customisation via templates, plug-ins and extensions, it’s clear that a ‘custom’ CMS simply can’t give you any of that.

The alternative

So now we’ve (hopefully) got you to consider not going down the custom content management system route, what do you do instead?

We’d like to introduce you to Umbraco, the open source CMS on the Microsoft .NET framework. We provide websites based on this incredibly easy-to-use and intuitive system, and have built sites for the likes of Kawasaki, McLaren, Calvin Klein and Telefonica.

If you’re looking for a web solution that’s flexible, scalable and built to be future-proof, which has massive support, with no limit on the possible look and feel of your site, then look no further. It’s easy to learn and equally easy to transfer your data into the system, and out of it, too - though why you’d want to once you’ve tried it, we can’t imagine!

If you’d like to explore Umbraco’s possibilities, why not give us a call and see where you can take your business?