It’s time to redesign your website. You start Googling for ideas and looking for options. That’s when you see it – a custom back-end, hosting, and a visual editor. Sounds perfect, right? Not so fast, that proprietary CMS you’re looking at isn’t worth the trouble.

A proprietary CMS is a content management system developed and managed by an individual or agency. It is not open source–meaning in most cases if you use it, you can’t change it or access the code. Proprietary CMS offers come in two flavors: sites you build yourself with a visual editor, or sites developed by an agency that uses their own custom back end.

While these options may seem attractive at first, they involve a variety of pitfalls. If you work with an open source CMS instead of a private system, you’ll benefit in the long run.

proprietary CMS

We asked our team of developers to chime in on why you should think twice before investing in a proprietary CMS. Here’s what they said.

Limited Customizations

A proprietary CMS can be a great option – if you need nothing more and nothing less than it provides. Our Web Application Developer, Chris Lagasse explains. “The moment you need something that goes beyond what they ever expected to provide, you hit a lot of tangles, and you end up modifying the core of the CMS, which defeats the purpose of using an ever evolving and updated CMS system.”

With proprietary CMS you’re unable to access the source code (or even see if before you purchase) and therefore unable to make the same customizations that you might be able to with an open source CMS. You’re limited by what the company’s developers are able – and willing – to do for you.

Slow Updates

It’s not just customizations that will be hard to find. If you need an update to your software you might have to wait around for that. “You’re at the mercy of developers that may be slow to put out releases, patches, and plugins,” shares Daryn St. Pierre, Front End Developer.

While a good proprietary CMS company should be putting out updates frequently, there’s no guarantee of what you’ll run into or what solutions you might end up needing in the future.

High Price Tag

Considering the limited customizations and updates, it may be hard to spend the high price tag many of the options require. St. Pierre shares his experience, “The biggest gripe I’ve heard directly from the mouths of clients is the price tag. Some proprietary CMS tools come with a yearly price tag that will make you cringe, especially when you look at how poorly-implemented such a tool can be.”

The cost not only includes a high hosting fee, but the templates you have to purchase can be outrageously priced, and any free options can be extremely limiting.

Too Much Reliance on Company

While all the previous points are very important to keep your site running smoothly, there’s an even bigger problem.

If the company goes under, say goodbye to your website.

This is, of course, something you hopefully never have to deal with, and choosing a strong and reputable company is one way to ensure peace of mind.

It brings up an important point though – your site is still very much the property of the proprietary CMS company. You are affected by any changes they make, and essentially at their mercy.

Why Open Souce Works

Open source PHP-based content management systems like ExpressionEngine, Drupal, and Craft power websites without the potential headache of custom code. More often than not, we build sites powered by WordPress. We’re not alone in this. Fifty-four percent of CMS users are on WordPress.

“There’s a reason WordPress holds the largest market share by far, but the largest sticking point to me is end user ease-of-use. Sure, a custom CMS can be slimmer, more efficient, and more extensible. But at what cost?” says UI/UX Designer Adam Kuhn. “With regards to defaulting to WordPress, it’s not a simple case of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’ It’s more so that WordPress continues to evolve, it’s approved and supported by a community of highly respected developers, and guess what? It’s also FREE.”

WordPress is supported by a collective of tens of thousands plugins, a continually updated software, and developers the world over who can help.

With an open source tool like WordPress, there is no ceiling to extensibility and the success of such a tool is heavily dependent on a huge array of developers that contribute consistently,” says St. Pierre.

Need a website powered by a robust CMS? Contact us and we’ll help you out.