I am in the process of having our corporate site redeveloped. My problem is do I choose a bespoke CMS or open source solution?

We have used a bespoke CMS in the past and it can be very limiting in terms of adding functionality and making (even very minor) changes.

Ours is a relatively large company in an industry that comes with an exacting standard (private, passenger and cargo air charters) meaning an insecure site is absolutely out of the question.

We have over 10 language variations on our site.

Does anyone have any unbiased opinions on which would be a better solution?


I can definitively tell you that it's not a good idea to use a custom CMS.

I've worked in a web agency in the past (late in 2006) where we've build a custom cms that we deploy for many client. From the beginning it was a really good idea because current developper really know the cms, we can do every thing we want in every way we want.

But, time passing, some developpers leaved, new one comes and we need to train them to our custom cms. We didn't open source it so new developper have to be very patient to learn it.

And it was really a lose time to train new developper. Also, each time we built a new feature, we need to write docs for new developper. And the cms started to be very huge, hard to maintain, provide doc, etc ..

At the end, all developpers from the first version had left the company. So basically, the company should rely on a CMS that nobody really knows. Ouch!

So we decide to switch to ezPublish.

In an other way, if you choose an open source CMS, you are almost sure that you're not the only one to know how it works. And you will have more developper than you ever dreamed to work on this project. It will also be more easy to find new developper that know the CMS. And you won't have to lose your time be training them.

A good example is Dailymotion. They started the company by create a custom framework. Few years later, they made the same statement I described above: maintain the framework was a pain in the ass. So they decide to migrate to Symfony 2 to have something more robust, etc ..

Over time, they started to feel the pain of maintaining their own framework: the maintenance of the framework itself started to take way too much time: adding new features, documenting them, training new developers, keep everything coherent, etc...

By choosing an Open-Source framework with a large community, they free themselves from everything other than their business.

You might also read this post.


I'm biased by my current employment with a CMS company, but can offer some product-agnostic lessons from when I've evaluated Web content management (WCM) systems.

  • Look for the best-fitted, rather than just "the best" or cheapest solution.
  • Do consider maintenance costs--custom or bespoke need an appropriate level of people, process, and technology in terms of skills, training, and documentation.

When evaluating vendors, don't hesitate to have them compete with each other--you'll want to highlight their strengths to find that better fit.

In terms of your business requirements, consider:

  • A revenue-generating corporate site may warrant a more expensive solution, wheras an informational site that doesn't generate leads, sales, or other measurable value may have a hard time justifying large capital expenses.
  • If you're concerned about security and have development staff on hand, consider a solution that integrates with, rather than taking over your site.
  • A CMS project really should start with your business goals, objectives, and opportunities. First consider what your content means to your business, then see how you can measure and improve against those goals.

Good luck!

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