Choosing between an open source CMS or custom development

Choosing between an open source CMS or custom development

When it comes down to creating your site, the question arises between developing the site with custom code, or choose an existing “Open Source” Content Management System (CMS). The fastest, simplest and often most cost-effective solution is clearly the open source CMS. But what a good stuff CMS brings to the project, and what are the disadvantages associated with it.

WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, SPIP, TYPO3, all share a common point, they are open source.

What is Open Source?

Open Source is software published under the Open Source Initiative licence (OSI). This licence gives the possibility to redistribute these freely, to freely access the source code, or to create derivative projects.

It is important not to confuse Open Source with free software, which license is usually published by the Free Software Foundation. Open Source might or might not be free; there is no real relationship.

Why are CMS published in Open Source?

The benefits of Open Source are numerous, thanks mainly to the openness to the Source Code.

1. The community:

An Open Source CMS has an active community working on its development, translation, maintenance, and so on. This community brings:


As those softwares have a large community of users and contributors, one of the main advantages is to benefit from powerful support, available at any time.

Users share their experiences, opinions, give their feedback, and ask questions that you might be asking yourself. This helps to find answers very quickly especially if they are recurrent.

Contributors provide feedback, solutions to problems, help improve code, propose new plugins, translate software, etc.

Maturity and evolution

Open Source CMS evolve quickly, and very quickly reaches maturity. The updates are numerous, and palliate the majority of the problems that one could meet with the CMS.

As they interact, Open Source projects also benefit from each other.

Open Source solutions are developed in a fast, efficient way, quickly integrating the new technologies of the Web, allowing you to readily take advantage of the latest developments.

2. Modularity

Because the community of contributors is important, it is also working to provide tools that makes your CMS more convenient to use. If you have specific needs, these optional tools might solve your problem. Between plugins, add-ons, themes, and more, you will easily find shoe to your feet.

Thus, maintaining and creating your shop, portfolio, etc., without having deep technical knowledge in this area becomes much easier.

3. Security

Maintenance being active, bugs and security flaws are usually quickly addressed. Patches are published to take advantage of a secure CMS, allowing you to sleep soundly.

4. Free stuff !

Although Open Source does not always rhyme with free, most open source CMS is available for free. However, many services, plugins and themes are premium and require payment to be fully functional, as their creators feel they deserve a retribution for their work. It's only fair, when they are top quality and allow you to be profitable by having a functional and attractive site for your customers.

What are the disadvantages of Open Source?

The benefits of open source are certainly numerous, but in this world, nothing is perfect. And so we often find some flaws.

1. Project maintenance

Given the free nature of many projects, open source software uses different methods to maintain their existence. Some like Drupal rely only on the generosity of contributors, others develop a more relevant business model, like WordPress.

But if the money runs out, project maintenance is often stopped, thus depriving you of security updates, and making your site de facto totally vulnerable. You’d have to rollback to custom patches, or move on with another solution.

2. The opening of the code

If opening the code can perform miracles, as seen above, it could be harmful if it ends up in the wrong hands. Thus, a malicious hacker could spot a flaw that others have not seen, and exploit it to access your data or make your site inaccessible. And if you are not quick enough to update your systems, you might be an easy target for them.

3. Many contributions

Too many contributions kill the contribution. The most important CMSs have a contribution integration methodology, and a well-oiled structure. However, many others do not have this, which makes the project unstable and vulnerable, although perfectly functional. This is what makes the choice of the CMS critical, and the right blend of modules/add-ons an expertise.

4. Updates

The release of updates is not constant, it does not always follow a set cycle. So fixing a bug requires waiting for this update or a patch. While proprietary CMSs have a dedicated team, open source CMS relies heavily on community contributions.

An active community can provide a solution relatively quickly. Otherwise, patches might take a while to come in. You need a developer at hand as these published flaws might bring in security issues.

In addition, updates sometimes hurt your site. In case of incompatibility with a theme or a plugin, you risk making your site inaccessible, non-functional, which could make you lose potential customers. We recommend to get your Wordpress and Drupal updates done by professionals. Because, when things break, you have to roll back and fix the problems quickly.


Open Source CMS provides a solution of choice for creating your website.

The most important thing is to choose your CMS carefully, to ensure that you find one with an active community and proven effectiveness.

Keep an Drupal or Wordpress developer at hand for maintenance and custom developments

Hoping this served you well, in any case we can help you with your web development... just contact 8P Design!

Have an amazing day!