Using a website builder versus custom development / when to choose each!

Kelvin Graddick · 2 minute read ·     
I’ve been developing websites for companies/businesses/clients for a number of years now, and here’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned:


It is very important to choose the right development approach for the job!
Here are my main two approaches and why I’d choose one over the other…

Website Builders / Content Management Systems (CMS)

ℹ️ Powerful tools, themes, and pre-made backends for building websites fast
Examples: WordPress, Weebly, Squarespace, Wix

  • Contains pre-made themes and backend systems; allows you to focus more on the pages/content
  • Often drag-and-drop interface for building the pages/UI; little to no code
  • Database storage and retrieval already setup
  • Plug-ins; easy ways to extend functionality
  • Admin panel is available so that the customer can edit the site on their own
  • Con: Less flexibility; the tools often don’t allow for much deep customization outside of what they initially offer
  • Con: Unique business logic is harder to implement

I’d choose this option for static or simple sites with only common use cases (home page, about page, contact page, etc.)
I can create the site fast and still provide a top-notch design (if the client is willing to start from a theme)
No need to reinvent the wheel and take weeks/months to build what can be done with a tool and get the same or better result.
Are you really going to build your own admin console for the client? (Don’t; trust me, I’ve done it)

Fully custom website and web app development

ℹ️ Build the site from scratch, using a framework, development tools, etc.
Examples: pure HTML/CSS/HTML, React, Vue.js, MySQL/Mongo database, Node/.Net API

  • Can develop a fully custom UI that matches the clients designs
  • Can implement the specific business logic that the client needs (i.e. storing/loading specific data)
  • Develop interactive UIs that contain state and can actively change based on the state
  • Develop single page apps (SPAs) like social media sites, service dashboards, etc.
  • Cons: requires more technical logic and can take longer to develop
  • Cons: if you are not strong in design if may not look as good as pre-made templates that a CMS has

I’d choose this option for dynamic websites and web apps that have logic specific to the business/client.
Websites that require a lot of UI interaction and state for the user.
You can still save lots of time here by using JavaScript frameworks, CSS frameworks, backend frameworks, etc.
A “Headless” CMS can still be used to get the benefits of a pre-built back-end

⁉️ Any other opinions? How do you guys choose which option to choose when developing websites / web apps?

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