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Your new website: Open-source or build it from scratch?

Oct 15th 2013

So you’re looking to build a new website, but do you use something off the shelf or build a bespoke site from the ground up? We look at the pros and cons of either approach…

Your Website: Open-source or build it from scratch?

Having built both websites from the ground up and using off-the-shelf content management tools, we’ve seen the best and worst of each method over the years.

Bespoke Website

  • You can have the website built exactly as you want it
  • You have full ownership of the software (subject to the contractual terms with the developer)
  • You can edit any part of the website’s source code and are in full control of the changes


  • You’ll be writing from scratch basics that most sites have out of the box, menu management, version control, image management, HTML editing, RSS feeds
  • It can be extremely costly. To match a well matured Content Management System in terms of functionality, you’d likely need a team of highly skilled developers working for at least 6 months. With the average PHP or .NET developer commanding £200-£300 per day, you can do the math yourself
  • You may end up using an off-the-shelf framework to bring in much of the functionality. Here lies similar problems if the framework becomes obsolete or another developer has little or no knowledge of the framework
  • You’re 100% reliant on your supplier actually being good at building a Content Management System and websites. Websites are often very creative driven and CMS development is a highly technical specialist area.
    Not many agencies are strong on both feet, so be careful. Should your relationship end with you developer, it’s often extremely difficult to find an alternative to take over.

Open Source website

  • Quick to build as much of the functionality is in place
  • Custom functionality can often be added to sit alongside or over-ride what’s in the place
  • Often well supported with a large number of experienced developers internationally
  • Considerably cheaper than developing from scratch
  • Should your relationship end with you developer, it’s much easier to find someone else to take over


  • Sometimes fitting in with an existing architecture can be restrictive
  • Security can sometimes be an issue with poorly written add-ons
  • You don’t own the intellectual property rights to all the software, only what’s been custom designed and built for you

The fact is, there isn’t always a clear cut answer and there’s a compelling argument for using either approach, that said with off-the shelf website platforms become more advanced, there are becoming fewer situations where we see building a website from scratch the only way to go.