What Are The Pros and Cons of Building a Custom CMS?

By Joshua Gross, 06 August, 2022

For many small businesses, free content management systems and low-cost SaaS CMS platforms make it possible to have a professional and well-designed site in no time.

However, for larger businesses or companies that are looking for advanced functionality, building a custom CMS is probably necessary.

When you build a custom CMS, you're no longer constrained by the existing frameworks of standard CMS platforms. At the same time, it also means that you're responsible for important details, including security, maintainability, design, and SEO.

To help you decide whether you should build a custom CMS or go with one of the standard options, let's take a look at the pros and cons of building a tailor-made CMS.

What Is a CMS and How Does It Work?

A content management system (CMS) is a software application that helps users build and manage the content on a website without having any coding skills or specialized technical knowledge.

A CMS offers a user-friendly interface through which you can create, modify, manage, and publish content. By purchasing or downloading extensions or templates, you can customize the functionality and design of your site.

In short, you can use a CMS to build a website without basic coding skills.

The type of system you choose, however, will determine the functionalities that your site can have. Let's take a look at the basic types of content management systems.


This is the best choice if you're looking for the simplest and most straightforward way to set up a website. A number of hosting companies offer SaaS (software as a service) CMS platforms that offer you a ready-made page.

Users typically pay a monthly, quarterly, or annual fee to use these services. While this is a popular choice for online store owners, it doesn't offer the user very much flexibility.

Open Source

Open source CMS solutions are maintained by a community of developers instead of being owned by one single company. The most popular open-source platform is WordPress, which includes the features of a template system and a plugin architecture.

While this can be a cost-effective method with several benefits, including flexibility, frequent updates, and plenty of online resources available, there can also be issues with limited support and security concerns.


A custom CMS is developed based on your desired specifications. Developed specifically for your needs, this can give your business access to tools that wouldn't be available through SaaS or open source CMS solutions.

Pros of Building a Custom CMS

Building a custom CMS can give you a result you simply couldn't achieve using a pre-built CMS. While they take more time to create and are typically much more expensive than the standard options, there are several reasons why your business might find it worth the time and expense to build a custom CMS.


A custom CMS is likely the right choice if security is essential for your site. Unfortunately, popular CMS applications are an appealing target for people looking to hack into valuable user data and private information. While using a custom CMS doesn't mean that it's inherently more secure, it does mean that there's less of a probability that bad actors will target it.

When using a standard CMS, you rely on the platform's provider for the necessary security features. This could mean that much is left to be desired when it comes to the level of protection you're receiving. When you have a custom CMS developed, you can express your specific security needs to ensure that your site has up-to-date and sufficient protection.

Of course, increased security doesn't automatically appear when you build a custom CMS. Instead, maintaining security over time and initially building securely becomes the responsibility of you and your developer.

Suits Your Specific Needs

Custom solutions can allow you to create a site that is easy for your users to navigate, even if your business and industry have complex and unique rules. Businesses with complicated structures might struggle to fit their organizational systems into existing CMS platforms, which can mean a difficult and un-intuitive user experience for your audience.

If you are starting a run-of-the-mill e-commerce store, maybe a traditional CMS app will work fine for you. The more specific and unique your needs are, the more likely you would benefit from building a custom CMS.


When you build a custom CMS, the only real limits to the outcome of your site are money and time. If there's something you want your site to do that isn't outside the bounds of what is possible, a qualified developer can make it happen for you.

This is definitely one of the most obvious benefits of building a custom CMS rather than selecting one of the more cookie-cutter options. Depending on your business and industry, you might find that you can't provide the user experience you require through standard platforms.

Complete Stylistic Control

While there are a number of standard CMS platforms that allow you to customize your site, they still tend to have a number of typical stylistic characteristics. When you build a custom CMS, you have absolute control over how your content is presented. This also means that your designers don't have to work around the constraints presented by an existing platform.

Support and Documentation

You can also expect that you will receive support and comprehensive documentation from the developer you hire to build your custom CMS. This means that you don't have to spend hours lost in internet forums about specific platforms– the developer should be able to help you understand the system and train you to use it optimally.

Custom Workflows

If you choose to use a classic CMS platform, your content team is going to be guided by the application rather than the other way around. If your team already has a workflow that works for them or has been working to create a framework for your company, a custom CMS allows you to build your site around the needs of your team.

Integration With Other Systems

It isn't uncommon for standard CMS platforms to offer integration with other major systems, but they might not offer integration with the systems that would be most useful to you. If you build a custom system, on the other hand, it can be specifically built to interact with any system you need it to.

This means that you don't have to partner with the major vendors available but can choose the partners best suited for your business needs.

Cons of Building a Custom CMS

While there are definitely advantages to building a custom CMS for many large companies or those that require advanced functionalities, starting from scratch isn't always the best choice. Here are some of the disadvantages of building a custom CMS rather than using one of the available pre-built options.

Higher Costs

Building a custom CMS will be quite a bit more expensive than using one of the other available options. Exactly how much it costs is going to depend on a number of different factors, including your required features and functionalities as well as who you hire to get the job done.

That being said, you might find that building a custom CMS is well worth the costs when considering the benefits it will provide your organization.

When hiring a software developer, it can be hard to know how much a fair price is for their services. This article takes a look at how to know if your software developer is overcharging you.

Execution Time

When you use a SaaS CMS model or an open source model, you could have your site built the same day you create your account. If you choose to go the route of building a custom CMS, on the other hand, the entire process will take quite a bit longer.

Using one of the standard CMS platforms means that a bunch of the work has already been done for you. With a custom CMS, the entire framework is being built from scratch. This means that developers will have many more projects to take on to create your site.

On-Going Cooperation With the Developer

When you build a custom CMS, you will likely continue to work with the developer that created your site. Whenever you need to make a modification, they'll be who you call. You might find that you are thoroughly pleased with the ongoing interactions you have with the developer, but it's also possible that you will find that the attention they give you after the site is launched doesn't quite meet your needs.

If this is the case, you might choose to hire a new developer to deal with modifications and management of your site. Your new developer will need to take time to learn the existing framework, which will likely cost even more money.

Are you wondering what it would entail to switch app developers mid-project? Take a look at our ultimate guide to learn how to change developers when necessary.

No Free Updates

If you build a custom CMS, you'll probably have to pay for most of the modifications you make to your site. Of course, the specifics of what you have to pay for will be found in your contract with your developer.

On the other hand, modifications can usually be made to sites created using open source CMS apps by using free plugins. Even if you have to make a purchase to implement the change you're looking for, it will likely be much less costly than it is when you're using a custom CMS.

SEO Considerations

You'll want to make sure that your custom CMS is designed with SEO in mind if driving traffic to your site is important to you. While existing CMS platforms aren't always perfect when it comes to SEO, they are already built with SEO considerations in mind. If you're building a CMS from scratch, you'll have to factor in your SEO needs in order to get the results you're looking for.

Requires a Range of Technical Expertise

In order to build a good CMS, a wide range of technical expertise is required. You'll want your CMS to be efficient and fast, which means that you need highly-skilled back-end developers. At the same time, you want your site to be compatible with several different end user environments, requiring skilled front-end developers.

On top of that, you'll want the designers creating your CMS to be able to create the best possible user experience.

There are plenty of development teams out there that can help you create what you're looking for out of a CMS. However, if you're hobbling together a team to try and create a custom CMS on a budget, it's important to understand how much technical skill is required to create a solid end product. If you don't have the resources necessary to create a CMS that genuinely meets your needs, you'll probably want to go with a classic CMS.

Are you looking to hire developers but aren't sure how to know whether they have the necessary technical skills to get the job done? Check out this article on how to test your developer's skills before hiring.

Building a Custom CMS: Final Thoughts

Whether building a custom CMS is the right choice for you depends on a number of different factors. For many small businesses, a pre-built CMS platform like Drupal or WordPress might be perfectly suitable. Building a custom CMS might be the best option for others that require more advanced functionalities.

At Planetary, we specialize in helping clients bring great ideas to life. We've worked with the likes of General Electric, Buzzfeed, and Hermès to build apps, websites, interactive event installations, and other custom digital products.

Even though we've worked with some heavy-hitters, our team of experts would love to hear about your product, whether you're a Fortune 500 company or a brand new startup. If you have a new idea you're working on and you're looking for the right team to partner with, drop us a line and tell us about your project.