WordPress CMS vs Custom Development: How to Choose the Best Solution for Your Business Needs

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10 min

last updated

May 2020

WordPress CMS vs Custom Development: How to Choose the Best Solution for Your Business Needs

There are many pros and cons to both WordPress and custom sites. Most businesses, entrepreneurs and start-ups are confused as to which path is best suited to their individual goals and needs. In this article, you will learn the differences and ultimately which option is best for taking your business to the next level!

table of contents

WordPress

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.

1. WordPress themes

Initially, WordPress was a tool for people to set up their own blogs. But its user-friendly CMS made it a really popular platform for all kinds of web development. WordPress does not require any coding to produce a website! As it grew in popularity, the number of themes available to users increased. The extensive collection of themes allows for many ideas to come to life online. Not just simple blogs but advanced eCommerce sites, news sites, real estate and hotel bookings, to name a few!

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 WordPress powers 35% of all websites around the world!

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. Other developers usually create those plugins and, again, make them 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.

Some landing page template options with our favourite WordPress page builder plugin, Elementor:

2. Custom WordPress Themes

If there isn’t a suitable theme that suits your business, fear not! Many agencies can build you a completely bespoke WordPress theme. This will include any branding your company has, with each section of each page entirely tailored to your own specific needs and goals. Additionally, the exact functionality you need, such as eCommerce, bookings, blogs will be included. This way, you get the benefit of a custom coded site, but with the user friendly CMS that will allow you to easily update your site without the assistance of a developer!

All of our WordPress offers include the pro version of iThemes Security, and we only install plugins with hundreds of thousands of users that are updated frequently, so you don’t need to worry about security. Additionally, we only install the plugins you absolutely need, which work seamlessly together, to avoid unnecessary size to your site and potential conflicts.

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 isn’t a problem with our service however, as we offer custom design as a separate service to WordPress development, so you can achieve an entirely unique site that is unrecognisable as WordPress.

See below for some websites we've designed and developed with a custom design stage:

The above projects used these services:

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 editor.

1. Security

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). The primary advantage of a custom built site is security. Without multiple plugins and themes, clean coded sites are less vulnerable than open-source WordPress. However, this is a compromise many are happy to make for the benefits of WordPress. You just have to make sure you stay on top of any updates!

2. SEO

A common misconception is that custom sites are better for SEO. Although there is no technical difference between the two options, you have to consider that Google loves content. With WordPress being the OG of blogging, its hard to compete! Custom sites are infinitely more difficult for the average person to keep up to date with new quality content and blogs.

3. Performance

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. However, there are many performance plugins for WordPress, such as WP Rocket and NitroPack that vastly improve speed. 

4. Bug fixing

Should there be technical problems, your developer will be able to help address any issues; with WordPress finding the source of issues can be a bit trickier. You may need to wait for specific plugin updates and support to solve issues.

Of course, if it were easy to build and update fantastic websites from scratch, everyone would do it. But there are limitations to this process. The first is the cost: if you build a website because of the technical know-how, it is much more expensive. Web developers are likely to charge a lot more for custom development than they are for building WordPress pages.

We typically only recommend custom sites for very advanced design needs or functionality. For example, if your website needs cutting edge CSS and JavaScript effects, like those seen on awwwards. Please note however that these websites are more for show than achieving specific business goals. Additionally, if your website needs multiple types of user accounts (think freelancing platforms) that have advanced interactions with each other, WordPress would not be a stable long-term solution.

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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 that performs well for SEO, allows you to educate users about your services, sell products (to just name a few!) then WordPress is more than suitable. But if you want a site that includes cutting-edge technology with web app like functionality requirements, then custom development can offer an interesting opportunity. 

So to summarise, we think custom WordPress sites are the golden middle. They will cover more than enough for the majority of any businesses needs. You have the benefits of a bespoke website, along with the ease of adding that rich content Google loves. Although custom WordPress sites may be more expensive than simply using an existing WP theme, 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.

Do you have any questions about how to choose the best strategy for your business? Get in touch with our team!

General FAQ

What does CMS mean?

A content management system (CMS) is a software that allows the user to create, edit, organise and publish their content. WordPress, Squarespace and Wix are all types of CMS that facilitate the publication of this content onto the web. 

What is custom development?

Custom development refers to coding something from scratch, usually with HTML /CSS / JS for most websites

Is WordPress popular?

WordPress is easy to use and rather professional-looking, even large organisations such as the New Yorker, Sony Music and Mercedes-Benz use it. It is estimated that 35% of all websites around the world are powered by WordPress! 

Can I custom develop my own website?

Unless you are willing to dedicate hours of time and patience learning to become a full-stack developer, you will need to find a professional programmer to help you build a custom website. If you can’t afford to hire such a developer, then going with a pre-built CMS like WordPress will be a better option.

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