Should You Build Your Own CMS?

build your own CMS?

I had a recent conversation with a developer at a web agency. He told me this, “We've been using Joomla, but we're not really satisfied with it. I think we might just make our own CMS.” I understand where they're coming from. As an agency, they are committed to providing their customers with high quality websites. They want their clients to be able to maintain those websites with ease. It would seem that making their own CMS might be a good choice. But is it really?

It's a great question. In fact, there are quite a few agencies, mid-sized firms, and other organizations that might want to make their own CMS. We're going to break the question down and submit a suggestion. The bottom line is this: you probably don't want to build your own CMS.

Here is our rationale.

Customize, don't innovate.

If you have the skills required to build your own CMS, you probably have the skills to modify an existing open-source CMS. Doing so would save the hundreds of hours that you would spend if you were to start from scratch. Plus, you would be able to ride upon the shared knowledge of millions of current users for help, insight, advice, and tips. Open source CMS are highly customizable. Take Joomla, for example. You can use Joomla as the basis for a souped-up and customized version that better meets your needs. WordPress allows for the same level of adaptation. When you build your own CMS, you're going to be all alone. Instead of a innovating a brand new CMS, customize an existing one. More power. Less work. Better ROI.

Survey the options before going it alone.

There are a myriad of CMS options that may do exactly what you want a CMS to do. “We can't find one that meets our needs” is a complaint of some potential DIYers. I'm skeptical. There are thousands of CMS, ranging from backyard brews to vast enterprise powerhouses. There are CMS that can mange your newsletters, track your Facebook ROI, autotweet blog updates, and just maybe serve you breakfast in bed. To claim that there isn't one that meets the need is to claim that you've surveyed and reviewed thousands of CMS. Keep looking. You may find that the ROI of finding and then paying for a big, powerful proprietary CMS is far better than the ROI of making your own.

Can you keep up with change?

Making a CMS isn't a one-and-done kind of thing. That CMS is your baby. You've got to take care of it. The digital world is constantly evolving. In order to be truly effective, your CMS must adapt to meet the changes.This is a process that requires a lot of time and effort. Many of the large CMS are on 2-year upgrade cycles. Is it worth your time to create a CMS that demands constant improvement? Adapting a CMS to meet the needs of a changing technology environment is tough work. Wouldn't it be better to buy a CMS or  to make changes to an existing open-source CMS? Most companies come to understand that the ROI of a roll your own CMS is pretty dismal.

Consider the cost.

As mentioned before, undertaking a CMS project is a big deal. You may create the world's next WordPress. But is that what you need to be doing right now? Before you make your own CMS, just count the cost and make sure it's worth it.

And if you do decide to make your own, please let us know. We'd love to check it out.