Is it better to pay more up front for a custom coded website, or go with open source CMS?


Is it better to pay more up front for a custom coded website, or go with open source CMS, which is a much more economical alternative. Specifically for this bootstrapped micro startup, there is one open source CMS with some paid add ons which will do exactly what is needed. The savings in cost would be huge.

The concern is that eventually a custom site will be required and converting everything at that point will be more difficult, and more costly. However with the CMS option, the initial savings will be crucial in relation to how quickly the business grows.

Bootstrapped Website Micro Startup

asked May 11 '11 at 03:15
509 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll
  • Thanks for the replies guys, you all make some really good points. Much appreciated! – Sam 13 years ago

3 Answers


When your company's business requirements have expanded beyond the scope of what many of the open source CMS platforms can provide you will have sufficient revenue to pay to have a custom solution done properly.

A open source CMS platform is a custom site. there are 1,000 of templates to choose from: as an end point or a beginning. There are thousands of extensions and modules to choose form: to augment and supplement.

Our production team uses Joomla for clients from $30k/yr to $50 million/year of gross revenue. We are able to leverage the underlying programming to create custom sales and marketing applications. We can bridge to and integrate almost any other online program. For many, like SugarCRM and QuickBooks there are pre-existing bridges -- and for other clients we are able to craft unique solutions, all while saving hundreds of thousands by leveraging the open-source CMS platform as the framework.

I know that teams that are proficient in drupal, and even Wordpress will report the same.

My recommendation is that you personalizing the out-of-the-box paid-addons which are "exactly what is needed" and put more money into marketing/advertising!

answered May 11 '11 at 05:11
Joseph Barisonzi
12,141 points
  • btw, I always wonder about CMS-based approaches. Why not just make the templates on your own and be in full control of layout and CSS? – Genadinik 13 years ago
  • @Genadinik Many people do that, but it is labor-intensive and not always a great investment. For, example, in the Drupal world we have some themes that are designed specifically as the basis for other themes (Zen and Fusion are good examples). They take out some of the work while leaving your an essentially blank slate to work with. – Hedge Mage 13 years ago
  • @Genadinik As with Drupal (a very powerful CMS) most quality CMSs have templates that can be structure to meet almost any visual structure you want. The boxes of "web 2.0" are not requirements of using a CMS. You can have full control over the layout and CSS while using a CMS. The power of the CMS is in the standardized integration of the database with the programming and template. This provides for plug-n-play functionality with a palette of mini-programs developed to solve problems and present information in a way congruent with your goals. I think they are powerful tools for startups. – Joseph Barisonzi 13 years ago


It really depends on the specifics of your website. If the site itself is the startup you might be well suited to spend the time on something custom.

However, I've personally found that for a basic corporate website for a new startup a CMS like WordPress, Drupal, or the like works fine. As your company grows, you'll find yourself redoing the website anyway due to changes in the product or your overall marketing message.

Using one of the standard CMSs is also nice because it is easy to have less technical members of the team actually go in and update material on the site.

In the beginning it is important to get something up on the web quickly and cheaply- using the excellent CMSs out there is a good way to do it.

answered May 11 '11 at 03:41
413 points


This question is presented as a binary choice but that isn't really how it is. You can use an open source CMS as your base platform and do custom code on top of it as needed. Chances are your needs are largely met "out of the box". The problems of content management that you face are the same as everyone else's. Systems like Drupal, Joomla and Wordpress have been very well designed to solve these common problems. Where your needs are unique or specific, custom code to address them. If you create plugins, you will generally be able to maintain upgradability so you don't find yourself having to fork the codebase.

answered May 11 '11 at 08:18
Kenneth Vogt
2,917 points

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