The Dangers of Switching from Joomla to a Custom CMS

The Marketing Manager of a large company called us today and told us that they were thinking of moving from Joomla to a custom, homemade CMS. He asked us about our opinion and whether we think they should go forward with the move or not. We told him that we highly recommend against this move, for many reasons, namely:

  • Joomla has been evolving and getting (mostly) better for nearly a decade now (even for more than a decade if you add the number of years before it forked out of Mambo) because of the feedback of a huge community. That’s not the same case for a custom CMS. A custom CMS may be infected with bugs and may be completely insecure. It’ll also take ages for that custom CMS to do what Joomla can do, simply because the group using that CMS will be relatively very small.
  • While Joomla is not the easiest CMS on the planet, it is still relatively easy considering the work that it does. On the other hand, an easy to use custom CMS is a far fetched dream. A custom CMS is usually extremely hard to learn and very restrictive, thus negatively affecting productivity and throwing lots of support work on the IT department.

  • Joomla has the JED (the Joomla Extensions Directory) where one can find extensions for virtually anything. You want a calendar? Easy peasy – just search the JED for calendars, download the one that you like most, install it on your website, and that’s it! You’ll have a calendar on your website in literally minutes. Now, if you’re running your own custom CMS, then it’ll be a totally different story. You’ll have to ask your IT department (or your relevant department, or the consulting company that built the CMS, if it wasn’t built internally) that you want feature X. You will then have to wait – sometimes for months – until the project starts. What’s even more disappointing is that, at many times, the end result wouldn’t even resemble what you initially asked for. (By the way, we are assuming that you have the authority to make financial decisions in your company, if not, then your request has to be first approved by your financial department before it is sent to IT or to the consulting company – and that’s a totally different story!)

  • Joomla is extremely stable – especially the 2.5 version. In its basic incarnation, Joomla works like a charm with no problems whatsoever (unless you have a very large website, in that case you’ll need to optimize it). A custom CMS is the complete opposite, stability issues are the norm rather than the exception, and its users are always treated as permanent beta testers.

  • In our experience, companies that use a custom CMS decide to revert to a mainstream CMS (such as Joomla) after a few years (or even months) of frustration. The problem is, migrating back to Joomla is not an automated process (in other words, it’s a lengthy, zero-fun, pure-pain process) – and it might take a lot of time (depending on the complexity of the CMS) to migrate back to Joomla.

  • Usually, a custom CMS is maintained by a 3rd party company or by a few consultants who might decide, on one Monday morning, that they no longer want to support it (this is an extremely common scenario), thus leaving the company stranded. The company will then be stuck with a CMS that no one can maintain (since its code will be encoded and/or barely readable). The company will then be forced either to develop another custom CMS (thus making the same mistake), or to make the right choice by migrating to Joomla (despite the hurdles and the obstacles associated with that migration).

  • Even if the custom CMS has been developed internally, then it may very well happen that the employees involved in developing and maintaining the CMS are no longer part of the company. This means that both the IT department and the marketing department will be subject to the wrath of anyone using the CMS, until the company hires some employees who are experienced enough to to do the job.

  • In 99.99% of the cases, the custom CMS does not have a template engine – which means that the company will be stuck with a hard coded template. So, if and when the executives decide that it’s time to overhaul the corporate identity, it’ll be extremely painful to apply the new corporate identity to the website. With Joomla, it’s just a matter of creating a new template out of the new design and then installing and activating the template.

We can think of many other reasons why a custom CMS (especially a homemade CMS) should be avoided. If you’re not convinced and you need more explanation on the subject, then feel free to contact us and we’ll be more than happy to help. If, by any chance, you are reading this post because you already are the victim of a custom CMS and you want to move to Joomla, then fear not, we can you help there as well: we will migrate your non-Joomla CMS to Joomla, in whatever language it’s written as long as we have access to your database. Oh, and by the way, our fees are super reasonable!

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