Building your own CMS: Here’s what you should know

A Content Management System (CMS) is a software that enables you to create and manage digital content. It is a web application used to update pricing through its APIs, manage files, create content, manage images etc. to maintain your website or online portals . Examples of CMSes include Drupal, WordPress, Joomla and the like.

When should you consider building your own CMS?

Some consider building their own CMSes in the following cases:

  • For more control in terms of customisation & to fit your required purpose (as you cannot modify a code from WordPress or an existing CMS)
  • If the existing CMSes available do not have the functionality they’re looking for
  • For a CMS tailor-made to their businesses with features & functionalities they require
  • For greater security as many popular CMSs are open source. However, paid CMSs that are available but might not necessarily meet business needs.

While many companies & individual developers have opted to build their own CMS, it’s important to note that building one’s own CMS can be a difficult, time-consuming and not to mention, an expensive task. If at all none of the available CMS giants (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal) meet your needs, only then consider building your own.

How can you make money with your own CMS?

There are two ways a CMS can make you money:

  • Licensing
  • Support

Most CMS companies charge a licensing fee for usage and/or earn by providing technical support & custom development. If you choose to make your CMS open-source, then you can earn through support and possibly through premium themes & plugins.

There are benefits of open-source:

  • Code fixes submitted by others to rectify your CMS means you get free code
  • Could have more customers in open source
  • Customers risk little when they have more than just you to fix bugs/ issues

How to plan to build your own CMS

Building a CMS is a huge project and will require proper planning & execution. The SCRUM approach might be useful for:

  • Streamlining tasks
  • Assigning tasks to team members
  • Managing communication
  • Allocating resources
  • Setting deadlines & goals
  • Managing time

Here’s how you can start:

#1 Evaluate your Aim & your Resources

The first step in the planning process is to evaluate who your CMS is for – Is it for generic use or for a niche market? The answer to this question will help you decide on your feature list as well as evaluate your resources at hand. Resources include:

  • Developer team
  • Skillset
  • Time on hand
  • Budget

#2 Prepare a Feature List

It’s a good idea to evaluate why you need to build your own CMS. Do this by creating a feature list of what you want your CMS to do. Categorize this into Frontend & Backend.

Frontend could include:

  • Listing of products in a particular fashion
  • Building a robust search functionality
  • Homepage in a particular fashion or multiple themes for skinning
  • Plugins for functionality

Management panel would include:

  • Admin dashboard
  • Dashboard login/log out
  • List of products, pages
  • Add new products, pages
  • Edit existing files, dates, images, content
  • Delete existing files, data, images, content

The backend would include:

  • Database structure
  • Server requirements
  • Folder structure
  • Security settings
  • File permissions
  • Building modular architecture for functions that work independently of other functions on a basic core
    While at this step, find out what are the functionalities you want to build that no other currently available CMS will give you.

#3 Decide on a roadmap & milestones for each module

Now that you’ve created a feature list, you need to evaluate how much time you’re going to invest in building this CMS and if it’s worth the effort.

The few companies in the world who’ve built CMSes have spent a considerable amount of time doing so. A CMS could take years to build, depending on the team of developers, their skillset etc. I’ve come across far too many case studies of developers building their own product and recommending not doing so like this one.

However, if you do decide to go ahead and build a CMS, probably plan it phase wise. Figure out which features you want to roll out in Phase I, Phase II etc. This can enable you to launch your product early while still letting your customers know there’s more to expect.

How to Market a CMS?

The CMS you’ve built could be for your own use or to distribute commercially. If it is to distribute commercially, assess if your CMS is for a niche audience or for the generic audience. If it is for a niche audience, you will need a slightly different marketing approach:

  • Advertise on Search Engine Marketing (SEM) with banners targeted to the specific industry
  • Targeted Facebook ads to that industry
  • Email marketing to a mailing list of those in the niche industry

If you wish to distribute your CMS to a wide audience, you will need to target the pain points of existing CMSs that your CMS solves. The USP of your CMS should be clear. Here are some tips to get the word out:

  • Blog about it: A good way to get the word out about your squeaky new CMS is to blog about it. Set up a blog to share content about the features, pricing, why it’s different from other CMSs & more. A blog is an important channel to market your product. Additionally, it’s free.
  • Issue a press release: A press release is always a good way to get exposure for a new product, an event or a CMS. The key is to write a good, meaty press release that’s newsworthy.
  • Make use of forums: There are a bunch of forums and discussion groups online dedicated to web developers, designers, coders who would be interested in new CMSs. Also look for platforms where pain points of existing CMSs are discussed. Here are some I can recommend:
    • Quora (search for questions related to CMSs or even start a blog there)
    • Web Hosting Talk
    • Google Community
    • Web Dev Forums
  • Do the same with social media: Like forums, social media gives you a wide reach. Create a product page & give regular, relevant updates about your CMS – upgrades, added features etc. Invite your contacts to follow the page, engage with customers, answer queries about the product etc.
  • Use email marketing: Email marketing is another great way to target potential customers, especially if your CMS is for a niche audience. Your first step is to put together a mailing list with such customers. With email marketing, you can send updates, upgrades, product features etc.

Building a CMS is a mammoth task. Once a CMS owner, you will need to look at integrations with third parties, how to sustain your product, funding for the project, maintenance cost & compliance & a creating workable, evolving CMS solution.

If you’re considering building a CMS or currently are, we’d love to hear your thoughts & learnings in the comments section below.

Suggested Articles

Start building your website today!

Free Domain with Unlimited Hosting including Website Builder and Branded SSL

Only at $2.5/mo