Custom CMS vs WordPress?


I worked with a group recently who had to address the issue of moving forward in their business with regard to how to best work and service their clients. It seems that they were concerned about providing a level of work and they felt that only a custom CMS could do the job. Since I was asked about it, I told them what I thought. Now I'm a huge fan of WordPress and they knew that. Therefore you could imagine my response. To be fair it was not that easy. I do believe the right tool for the right job. To find out exactly what "the job" is, I had to start probing with questions.

I started asking them who their clients tended to be and how they work with them now. What I was really after is their reasoning for using the processes that they were currently using. I was told needs that clients would have and then the solution or solutions that would be implemented to meet those needs. I would listen and then they would eventually tell me that "WordPress would not be able to do that". The funny thing is, I did not hear anything that left me thinking WordPress could not do what needed to be done.

The issue seemed to be with the knowledge of the groups developers. They were under the impression that WordPress was not a true CMS and did not offer the functionality or flexibility that they needed. It seemed that one developer had dabbled with WordPress a few years ago. Now I know that the platform has matured quite a bit in that time so I took on the responsibility of letting them know just how WordPress could be leveraged to build great sites for their clients while also providing a standard that would not have to be built from scratch by their team.

We spoke about the dangers of having a close proprietary system that only a few developers work on from their team. It would be very difficult to scale that model for them and train others. Plus their is a tendency of small dev teams to create very biased software since they miss out on open source peer reviews. It's very easy to build things that is best from their point of view but not from the point of others. This can be dangerous and rarely do the best decisions get made. It's important in a project to not reinvent the wheel since it is costly and by building off of the work of others, you get to benefit from them.

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." - Issac Newton

Even Facebook does this. I once saw an interview with Mark Zuckerberg and he said how they look up to Google and benefit from learning from them. Translation? Let's see what they do that's good and bad and try to out-do the good things and not do the bad things at all. This is valuable. Example: if we need a way to create pages quickly for example, making pages in WordPress does not get too much simpler.

It's also important to reuse as much as you can. If I can bend custom post types to my will as a developer, I should since that saves time having me create that functionality with a custom build then chase down bugs within that. Who needs that? No one needs that and definitely not you or your team.

I can go on making cases to strengthen my point but I think you already get it. Henry Ford could not have built the company had he not learned to leverage what he had to create a smooth process for producing cars for the general public.

In the end, custom work can be valuable but it should be used only when necessary and quality code should be reused as long as it fits the job. Using WordPress is using quality code. I can build my custom solution on top of it and deploy a quality site without going over budget on time or money if I understand how to use it.

So next time you have that custom project come up, do yourself a favor and checkout WordPress. You won't regret it!

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Hey, I'm Jeff Freeman

A WordPress web developer from Peoria, IL who likes to travel, and enjoys coffee, craft beers, kung fu, biking and working on interesting projects.

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