5 capabilities of custom CMS that off-the-shelf solutions cannot offer

benefits of using a custom cms

By 2026, the content management system market is expected to generate $123.5 billion in revenue worldwide, which is unsurprising given the amount of work they do. CMS (content management systems) are programs that help create, edit, and organize content. The content can consist of texts, images, videos, multimedia documents on websites, and other forms of media.

Understanding what is custom CMS becomes crucial when businesses aim for a content management system that precisely fits their unique requirements and functionalities. The make-or-buy decision is an even more complex challenge.

Lightpoint can put your mind at rest! We drew on a wealth of experience from numerous success stories and case studies and advised and supported our customers during CMS implementation. Read this article to learn the hallmarks of custom CMSs and their features that standard solutions cannot surpass.

Understanding Custom CMS

A content management system (CMS) is a software system that helps users to create, edit, publish, and store any kind of digital content in the organization. It can usually be used without programming knowledge, as the majority of CMS programs offer a user-friendly, intuitive interface.

Features may vary across different CMS offerings, but core features include:

  • Storing digital assets. CMS facilitates the storage of digital assets by providing users with an organized and user-friendly platform to upload, categorize, and manage various types of digital content, such as images, videos, and documents. 
  • Content creation and publishing: A CMS enables users to effortlessly generate and publish digital content through an intuitive interface. This feature allows content to be updated and edited before and after publication. Users can choose predefined templates approved by an organization, wizards, and other content creation and modification tools. Revision control also tracks any changes individuals make to files.
  • Content analytics: CMS systems offer robust analytics features to track user engagement, page views, and other metrics, aiding in data-driven decision-making for content strategy.
  • Intuitive indexing, search, and recovery. These features index all data for easy access through search functions and allow users to search by attributes such as publication date, keywords, or author.
  • Scheduling: CMS allows for the automated scheduling of content publication, ensuring timely and consistent updates without manual intervention. 
  • SEO optimization: CMS platforms provide tools to optimize content for search engines, such as meta tag customization, keyword optimization, and the ability to create search engine-friendly URLs. CMS features may also generate sitemaps, which helps search engines crawl and index content more efficiently, thus improving rankings on results pages.

The benefits of using a custom CMS solution offer a personalized approach that aligns more closely with the intricacies of a business, providing a better fit than generic, one-size-fits-all alternatives. Let’s explore the features of custom systems that make them a better choice in the long run.

1. Business Integration Capabilities

Business-specific adaptability is an indispensable part of any CMS. It must fit seamlessly into your existing system landscape. Let’s compare custom CMS vs. off-the-shelf one regarding integration options and third-party compatibility.

Custom CMS:

  1. Tailored integrations: Can be seamlessly integrated with specific third-party applications or internal systems based on the business’s unique needs.
  2. API development: Offers the flexibility to develop and incorporate custom API integration, facilitating smooth integration with a wide range of tools.
  3. Scalability: A scalable architecture easily adapts to evolving integration requirements, supporting the business’s brand consistency and changing needs.

Off-the-Shelf CMS:

  1. Pre-built integrations: Typically comes with a set of pre-built integrations, often suitable for common use cases.
  2. Limited customization: Integration options may be limited, and customization might be constrained to the CMS provider’s offerings.
  3. Scalability constraints: May face challenges in scaling and accommodating unique integration demands as the business grows.

The choice between a custom-built CMS and a standard solution in terms of integration flexibility ultimately depends on the specific needs and objectives of the business. Businesses seeking quick deployment and standard integrations may find off-the-shelf CMS more suitable. Conversely, tailored solutions offer unparalleled flexibility and scalability for organizations with intricate and unique integration requirements, allowing tailored integrations that align with the strategic content workflows.

2. Security and Compliance

Security gaps in the core of free CMS are generally closed swiftly due to the extensive developer community. However, the core is seldom the issue; the major security vulnerabilities often stem from plugins (sometimes from questionable sources) or custom adaptations malicious actors exploit to gain system access. Despite swift patch deployment, numerous companies release updates days or even weeks later, leaving them vulnerable to attackers during this period. Due to database access, they have a larger attack surface than custom systems.

The three most frequently used open-source CMS vulnerabilities include:

  1. WordPress: Vulnerable to plugin exploits, such as outdated or poorly coded plugins that attackers can manipulate. One notable security breach occurred with the widely used plugin, «Yoast SEO,» in 2015. Attackers exploited a vulnerability in an older plugin version, allowing them to modify websites’ titles and descriptions — which no one website owner ever wants to happen.
  2. Joomla: Susceptible to security breaches through third-party extensions and plugins. In 2016, Joomla faced a significant security breach when attackers exploited a vulnerability in the widely used component, «JCE Editor.» The flaw allowed unauthorized users to upload and execute malicious PHP code on affected websites. This incident underscored the need for vigilance in monitoring and updating third-party extensions to maintain the security of Joomla-based platforms.
  3. Drupal: Vulnerabilities can arise from misconfigurations, outdated modules, or poorly maintained custom code. In 2014, a major security incident affected Drupal websites globally when attackers exploited a vulnerability dubbed «Drupalgeddon.» The flaw was found in the Drupal core’s SQL injection handling, enabling unauthorized website access. This incident emphasized the critical importance of promptly updating Drupal installations to mitigate risks associated with vulnerabilities in the core code.

Contrastingly, custom-built CMS, developed by dedicated teams, minimizes the risk of third-party identification of security gaps, thus ensuring long-term cost efficiency.

There are three distinct advantages to opting for a custom CMS in terms ofsecurity:

  • Custom security measures. With a custom CMS, you have complete control over the security measures, allowing you to tailor them to your specific needs.
  • Tailored functionality. A custom CMS can be designed to precisely meet the requirements of your business, avoiding unnecessary features and potential security loopholes.
  • Rapid response to threats. With a dedicated development team, security patches and updates can be implemented swiftly, reducing the window of vulnerability.

By using Lightpoint’s IT infrastructure consulting services, companies can evaluate their CMS security, detect vulnerabilities long before attackers even think about hacking into the system, and take action in time.

3. Full Control Over User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX)

Using a CMS, users can create and publish content across the organization regardless of skill level. A personalized content management system makes it easy to upload content to websites and update it via a content editor. Multi-accessibility stipulates that the system should be user-friendly and understandable to users throughout the organization. By comparing custom CMS vs. off-the-shelf, we can examine their differences according to certain criteria.

UI/UX Design Freedom

1. Flexibility in design customization

Custom CMS: Offers unparalleled UI/UX design freedom for customization, allowing businesses to tailor the user interface and experience precisely to their target audience’s specific needs and preferences.

Off-the-Shelf CMS: Limited in design customization options, often relying on predefined templates and themes that may not fully align with the unique requirements of a specific audience.

2. User-centric features and functionalities

Custom CMS: Enables the user navigation optimization tailored to the preferences and behaviors of the specific audience, providing a more personalized and engaging experience.

Off-the-Shelf CMS: Offers standard features that cater to general user needs but may lack the specificity required to fully meet the unique demands of a particular audience.

3. Scalability for evolving audience demands

Custom CMS: Designed for scalability, it allows for timely system updates as the audience evolves or expands, ensuring a consistent and optimized experience.

Off-the-Shelf CMS: Might face challenges in scaling UI/UX features to accommodate evolving audience demands, potentially leading to limitations in meeting the dynamic requirements of a growing user base.

While off-the-shelf CMS solutions provide convenience, they may fail to deliver the depth of customization required to fully optimize UI/UX for specific audience needs. For businesses prioritizing a user-centric approach that precisely meetsthe needs of their specific audience, a custom CMS emerges as the superior choice. Lightpoint provides bespoke UI and UX design services, ensuring that each digital interface is meticulously crafted to meet our client’s unique needs and preferences.

4. Cost Efficiency and Total Ownership

When calculating the total ownership and ROI of a custom CMS vs. off-the-shelf to be implemented, business owners should ask themselves the following questions:

1. Where will the content be utilized later?

Suppose content needs to be tailored for specific audiences or channels (which is extremely important for e-commerce businesses). In that case, a custom CMS allows for optimizing content presentation based on the varied requirements of different platforms or regions.

2. How many digital channels do we have, and which ones?

Off-the-shelf CMS may struggle to integrate seamlessly with certain channel-specific features, as these platforms are designed to cater to a broad audience and might not provide deep customization options. A custom CMS allows for targeted optimization for each channel, ensuring a consistent yet tailored user experience across platforms.

3. Which backend systems will we connect to the CMS?

Consider an e-commerce business that relies on a complex inventory management system to keep track of stock levels, process orders, and manage product information. In this case, integration with specific backend systems is essential for seamless business operations. Benefits of using a custom CMS include the adaptability to connect efficiently with various internal systems, optimizing workflow, and data management.

4. Who will work with the CMS? A few or many authors, perhaps internationally, at different locations?

A CMS can be tailored to streamline collaboration, user roles, and permissions for businesses with dispersed authorship or international teams contributing to content. Multi-adaptability must deliver seamless updates and ensure a unified content strategy.

Considering these answers, a custom CMS emerges as a strategic choice when there is a need for tailored content presentation across diverse channels, integration with specific backend systems, industry standards compliance, and the availability of internal IT expertise for setup, development, and support. Outsourcing web development allows businesses to tap into a global talent pool and avoid overhead expenses associated with in-house development. 

5. The Speed of Development

Development speed

Business owners often weigh the benefits of a custom CMS vs. off-the-shelf when evaluating content management solutions, considering the speed of the system start-up. Balance is crucial in the make-or-buy decision as it refers to weighing many factors that may benefit the company most.

It is possible to customize standard solutions. Features can be added, or the software can be limited in its features. However, each of these options requires individual development. The development of custom CMS software can take more time than the purchase of standard software.

Although such systems are ready to use, standard CMS often come with various functions that are not always relevant or useful for every company. To make the software suitable, unwanted functions must first be deactivated or reconfigured. This process discourages agile development processes and can also unnecessarily increase the complexity of the software.

The first step towards rapid adaptation of CMS software is always the product vision. When choosing between comparatively short development time and full infrastructure control, think carefully about your decision.

  1. Set your goal. What is the purpose of implementing a CMS? What do you aim to achieve with it?
  2. Define quality requirements. What quality standards and features should the CMS meet to fulfill your business needs? Might it be specific security protocols or scalability to accommodate rapid growth?
  3. Calculate costs in comparison. What are the costs associated with both off-the-shelf and custom CMS solutions? Which option is more cost-effective in the long run?
  4. Count the time factor. How quickly do you need the CMS implemented, and how quickly can your staff get to work? Which option aligns better with your timeline – a standard CMS or a customized solution? Note that the training of employees and the adequate maintenance of a CMS can also result in expenses for supposedly free software, which also must be considered.
  5. Check non-quantifiable factors. Evaluate whether the chosen CMS solution aligns with your brand image and quality expectations. Assess the risks associated with an open-source structure.

By addressing these considerations in choosing a CMS, businesses can make well-informed decisions that align with their specific needs, goals, and long-term objectives. 


To find the right system for your company, consider the selection criteria mentioned above and compare the CMS with your individual requirements. In the future, custom systems will become increasingly important for businesses striving to win the competition. A custom CMS is not only capable of adapting to the current and long-term needs of the business but also contributes to its resilience through enhanced cybersecurity measures.

To choose the most cost-effective and scalable CMS option for your business, contact a Lightpoint expert for a consultation.