WordPress CMS vs Custom Development


read time

5 min


May 2020

WordPress CMS vs Custom Development


A content management system (CMS) is a software that allows the user to create, edit, organise and publish their content. WordPress is a type of CMS that facilitates the publication of this content onto the web. 

Initially, WordPress was created as a tool for people to set up their own blogs. But its user friendly interface – no coding is required to produce a website with WordPress – made it a really popular platform for all kinds of web development. As it grew in popularity, the number of themes available to users increased, and, although these themes are produced by web developers, the vast majority of them can be used for free. The extensive collection of themes allows for many ideas to be brought to life online – not just regular blogs but eCommerce sites, news sites, portfolios and so on. 

In fact, WordPress is so popular, easy to use and professional-looking that major organisations like the New Yorker, Sony Music and Mercedes-Benz even use it; it is estimated that 35% of all websites around the world are powered by WordPress! 

If you are looking to design and build a website, then, by choosing WordPress you are in good company, and if you do not feel confident going it alone, many web designers out there will help you build a beautiful website in a short amount of time and generally for a low cost. 

With many themes to choose from, you can choose one that you like the look of and then concentrate on its design and the content you want to include. In order to really develop the website into something more powerful than just a blog you will likely need to include plugins. These are made by other developers and, again, are often free to install onto your page. Some popular ones include WooCommerce for eCommerce capabilities, Yoast for improved search engine rankings, and Elementor for editing and design tools. 

WordPress is not without its limitations, however. Chief among them is concern around security. Because it is so widely used, it is a popular target for hackers. To avoid this, WordPress releases regular updates and patches. But this means that you as a user need to be on top of updating your site, and sometimes the update can conflict with your existing plugins or themes, which causes functionality problems. On the topic of plugins, having too many of them installed can bloat your site and make it slow to run; sometimes they clash with each other. You’re also relying on the developer to fix a plugin should it break, but they do not always stick around to offer maintenance when there are problems.

Finally, although there are many clean, professional and creative themes available on WordPress, it is not always possible to find a theme that will fulfill all of a user’s needs. You may have a really unique vision for your website that just hasn’t been designed as a WordPress theme yet. This is where custom development comes in… 

Custom Development

In contrast to WordPress, the process of building a custom website requires a strong grasp of coding and computer programming languages. Custom web page development refers to building a website from scratch. You are not starting with a theme downloaded from WordPress; you are starting from a blank text editor. 

Despite the myriad of website development software available online, there are advantages to going it alone (or hiring a web developer to do it for you). Namely, you will have full autonomy over the design of the website. It is possible to make a website more visually attractive, innovative and efficient when it is built from scratch instead of relying on a theme. A web developer is able to truly understand your businesses’ vision, strategy and needs, and create a user experience that matches that. Your website is part of your brand and your chance to make an impression upon a customer: having a truly unique website can be a powerful marketing tool. 

In addition to advantages when it comes to designing a page, custom development can offer technical superiority too. Firstly, webpages built from scratch tend to rank better in search engine results. A good SEO strategy is important to growing an online business, and a developer can build your website with this in mind more easily than if they are relying on a premade theme from WordPress. Secondly, it is easier to upscale your webpage when your business starts to grow, because you are not restricted by the limitations imposed by a CMS. Just contact your developer and they will be able to make changes for you. On that note, since the website has been developed from scratch, the code used in it is more likely to be ‘clean’ which leads to improved performance; CMS systems install a lot of code that can worsen capability and lead to hard-to-find errors. Should there be technical problems, your developer will be able to help you in a way that the third-party developer of a WordPress theme won’t. Finally, there is less likely to be security issues. Clean code has been used which is less accessible to hackers, and you are not running on a high-value target like WordPress. 

Of course, if it were easy to build fantastic websites from scratch, everyone would do it. But there are limitations to this process. The first is the cost: it is much more expensive to build a website specifically because of the technical know-how that is required. Web developers are likely to charge a lot more for custom development than they are for building WordPress pages. Secondly, it takes a lot more time to produce a website this way, and you will be relying on your developer’s time and availability to make changes and updates to your page for you. 

Choosing Between WordPress and Custom Development 

Like most business decisions, choosing between WordPress and Custom Development to build your website will depend on time and budget constraints. If you are  looking for a well-designed, easy-to-use platform and a relatively simple site (though this can include eCommerce projects) then WordPress is more than suitable. But if you want a page that is really unique, and bespoke to your business’ vision, then custom development can offer an exciting opportunity. Although this may be more expensive, it is worth remembering that the return on investment is likely to be higher because the project was built with the business’ specific needs in mind, and can be more customisable, scalable, and long-lasting over time.