Pre-built vs Custom CMS

Utilising a pre-built, off the shield, content management system VS building your own is a never ending debate in web development circles. It seems that most people are strongly in favor of one or the other.

On August 18th, 2007, a "geek Olympics", called Full Code Press was held between a team from Australia and a team from New Zealand. The contest was simple enough: build a fully operation website and content management system. Oh, and they had 24 hours to do it!

Team Australia elected to use the powerful pre-built CMS, Drupal, for the competition. Team New Zealand, called CodeBlacks decided to build a custom CMS. It would first appear as a suicide mission to build a full blown custom CMS in just 24 hours when you can utilise the power and versatility of a pre-built system like Drupal.

Surprisingly, the CodeBlacks won! One of the members of the Australian team told Sitepoint that they spent a lot of time overriding the default styles that come with Drupal. Whereas the Codeblacks felt that the client required a solution that was very easy and simple to use, and that that would only be achieved by building a custom system.

I am a coder who does use pre-built systems like Drupal and Wordpress, but also likes to build custom systems. I think the solution chosen does come down to the exact requirements of the client. Using a pre-built system may well be quick and easy, but when you need to build something unique, it can very quickly become a time consuming mission to customise a pre-built system. Whereas if you build a custom solution from scratch, you can build it the right way for the client and the end solution will end up leaner, sleeker, faster and easier to use.


Nice post, and it sums up nicely how even well-regarded systems have their limitations. I've recently taken a step back from Joomla for the same reasons, use Wordpress for simple content sites and go bespoke for anything more complex.

You know my love of some of the pre-built systems for affiliate work. For small budget, quick development (if you don't have CodeBlacks's skills!) they are great, but you always hit a compromise somewhere.

Just like a nice suit, bespoke is always the best, but not everyone's budget stretches all the way to Saville Row.
Nice to see these guys get a Kilgour site on a TKMaxx budget though.

Blair Wadman's picture

Thanks for the comment Stephen. I like the suit analogy. That does explain things very well!

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