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Website builder, CMS or Custom Built?

I get asked this question a lot by prospective customers, friends and even family members. I always give the same answer. “…well, it depends” I say. They ask “on what”? I reply “On what you’re after”! I end up explaining that it bores down to the different needs of different people and that while a CMS may be great for one person set out to do one thing, a custom developed website may be more suitable for another. Let’s discuss further using the following example. 


Jack is a partner and a qualified dentist at a small dental practice. For four and a half years he and his team have developed a local dental practice servicing around 150 people each month. In the last two years the number of new customers has gone up by 20%. However, the area they operate in has been experiencing a period of sustained growth and development which has brought in plenty of new people and families into the area. Jack feels that they can win more customers and already knows that the practice is working way under capacity.


Jack decides to put some spend into marketing his business and as part of this, decides that a new website will be created and maintained at the smallest monthly cost possible. He will want it to support their brand, allow new patients to find the practice and sign up, and host lots of relevant information about the practice, their services and their people. He approaches a local web development agency as explains his requirements, expressing also that the information on the website will remain largely the same but that every now and then content on the website will be tweaked to stay up-to-date and news posts could be created on the website at any time. The agency asks if the content will be written by himself or someone else, to which Jack explains that he already has created it. Jack also explains that he would very much like to add new features in the future if possible by downloading or buying pre-made plugins instead of looking for developer to come in a do the work. 


Website Builder


In the early days of the web, developing a website was done by a specialist. This was someone who could code, someone that would spend quite a lot of time gathering content, designing, writing code, configuring DNS, uploading to host machines and so on. One thing was clear, you had to be a really technical person who knew what they were doing. These days there are tools and websites that allow anyone who knows how to use a screen, a keyboard and a mouse to build fantastic looking, content rich websites with ease. These are what we term Website Builders.


These tools boast of cool, easy to use features, capabilities for businesses, modern and aesthetically pleasing results and an affordable monthly subscription fee. For an individual or business setting out to create a personal blog or brand website, this is a very viable option. However whilst there are tonnes of features, business capabilities and a small impact on the wallet, you are only able to use features they provide – anything outside of this will not be possible. If you require a custom widget on your website that does something quite unique to your business, then this may require a specialist and an additional cost if it even is possible to do on the platform. If you want to link some other service to your website with some kind of integration then this will likely not be possible.




I like to think of CMS (or Content Management System) as a Website Builder that you host your self. All it really is, is a bundle of code that you download and run on a web server and it gives you access to a Graphical User Interface (GUI) which you’ll use to build your new website. CMS’ also come with many cool features, business capabilities and no monthly subscription. On top of that there is usually access to thousands of third-party plugins and widgets that can be used to build any desirable feature. CMS’ are plenty but the most popular include WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. This is more aimed at business which want a platform that they can run and manage with possibility of extending the capability of the website through downloadable extensions and widgets.


Custom Built


Then finally, we have websites that are custom built to some kind of specification. Usually these will be spec’d out, design and developed from scratch before being hosted somewhere. Updates to these systems may be made through the custom built CMS which may be present as part of the development or via new code changes which have to be pushed to the hosted website. This type is favourable to enterprises that want very specific features and capabilities, security, full control over the code and continuous delivery of changes and feature-adds.




Now that we’re done explaining the three options, let’s get back to Jack. Based on the details in his requirements which one should he be choosing?


1.) He’ll need content updates every now and then but the site will mostly remain the same.

2.) He wants to have lots of relevant info on the site – potential a number of different pages.

3.) He wants to be able to add features that do not previously exist by exploring a catalog of available features.

4.) He wants to spend very little each month to keep the website going.


All three options would satisfy points 1 and 2 but point 3 is satisfied by WB/CMS only because it would take a developer to add a new feature that didn’t previously exist to the website. Point 4 makes it clear that the business has a limited budget and wants a minimal monthly spend so hiring developers to build a custom website and maintain it will probably break the bank. The choices available are Website builder or CMS but the best option for Jack may be the CMS. The cost of WB vs CMS will be similar however the ability to buy and download extensions to do absolutely anything is most available to modern day CMS’ like WordPress. Furthermore should you not be able to find what you are looking for you can pay for someone to create it for you. 




If like jack you are looking for a beautiful website, full of features and capabilities with the option of further extending it with ease all at a low month cost? CMS is probably the best option. If you are a business or enterprise looking to build a multi-faceted and unlimited system which you aim to maintain for years to come then for more reasons than one, a custom build is probably the right option for you. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article. Please visit again soon for more great content.