Choosing a CMS for your Website

By Erin Berkenmeier Website Development June 13, 2016

Quite often agencies or developers propose using a prebuilt/out of box CMS system such as WordPress to cut costs.  Aggressive pricing by a website developer often is based on the quick and easy advantage of WordPress templates. At first blush, an out of the box CMS website seems like a time and money saver. But before jumping at the apparent affordability of WordPress, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of out of these box solutions.

Buy, Plugin and Play

A prebuilt CMS like WordPress, can save time and money if using it out of the box without much customization. These systems are often chosen for budget-sensitive, smaller websites with predictable sets of functionality, such as: homepages, blogs, simple ecommerce shopping carts, and simple communities/message forums.  Templates can be purchased cheaply, and installation and implementation are cost-effective.  Many developers and freelancers make a decent living off of store-bought web solutions for their small-to-mid size clients.

The WordPress Pitfall

Brands looking for unique and personalized website interfaces and functionality soon find WordPress to be less plug in and play than they had hoped.  

As custom creative requirements, branding, functionality and dynamic features fill out the project plan, the out of box CMS often unearths constraints and unexpected headaches.   Once costly reverse engineering, hand coding, and overwriting rears its head, the out of the box CMS soon enough ends up costing more in modifications than a system built uniquely for your website specifications.

Out of the box solutions often tout the advantages of cheap templates and plug-ins for fast functionality.  WordPress has thousands that independent developers share with the community. This plug in and play functionality is very cool and it can save time and money.

However, the downside of an open template and plug-in community is quality control.  Many are poorly made or are not fully tested.  Best practices aren’t followed.  As a result, unanticipated development overages rear their ugly head to address code and plug-in conflicts and the need to modify plug-ins.  Your developer may even need to recruit a more expensive developer to go under the hood and tackle heady tasks like plug-in modification.  Thus the promise of efficiencies through templates and plug-ins can quickly evaporate.

Moreover, third party plugin functionality can also present security risks, as plug-in developers don’t always follow best practices.  Just one security incident alone can cost a brand revenue and trust with your customers.

WordPress undoubtedly has a place in the web development world.  For certain types of small-mid size templated sites, it can be the right solution.  But to assess the best CMS for your brand requirements, an experienced and transparent agency you can trust is essential. Customization and scalability that’s unique to your brand requirements need the right solution that is most cost-effective in the long run.

When interviewing an agency, it’s important to get clarification of how much customization can be done within the proposed budget, as well as the maintenance and scalability after launch. Service providers, whether freelancers or reputable agencies, are not always upfront or knowledgeable about those costs in the proposal phase.

Conclusion

Out of the box systems can save money for small-mid size template websites that don’t require much customization or scalability.  But creating truly unique and personalized experiences often can eat up those initial savings.  Before deciding on out-of-the box vs. a CMS designed specifically for your website, talk with an agency about scope, features and scalability. The cost savings of out of the box solutions may end up costing your brand more in the long run.

Erin Berkenmeier

Erin Berkenmeier

An avid explorer of internet culture, Erin has spent the past 6 years building successful digital experiences and creative campaigns for social media.