Is your opensource CMS flexible enough to accommodate your custom design?

In a survey, by the Information Architecture Institute, 47.6% of people says “My CMS is not flexible enough to accommodate my design”, as a key issue they face with many Opensource CMSs available in the market. This made me  think about the truth behind this. What prevents them from making a great design for their CMS driven site? Is it the CMS they’ve chosen or the customization skills they lack?

Open Source CMS applications

When we offer consultation for Opensource CMS selection, it is not an easy job always. Building websites with the CMS our clients like and to make it work with our own custom design might become a nightmare if we aren’t considering and planning the UI design in advance.

We have customers who supply design for their web sites (as Photoshop source files – if they know Photoshop) since they have good sense of designing and they know how their site should look like. We can happily accept it and build HTML/XHTML and CSS based Static pages without any issues or provide a Custom written CMS easily. The real challenge starts when they want to make their site CMS enabled with an Opensource CMS framework such as Joomla, WordPress or Drupal.

Most of the opensource CMS applications strictly adopt some design standards, and they give clear instructions for UI designing. Your design will not work well with the CMS, if it does not obey their design rules. The primary reason for these strict rules is to help with the CMS applications for design-content separation and for easy user interface maintenance. You can easily change the design without changing the programming sections and vice versa. But can you easily fit your custom design which is created as your mind wishes to an Opensource CMS application? Most of the good CMS applications does not allow you to create an unique site with your own custom design, custom graphics and custom XHTML.

Simply configuring an Opensource CMS application along with a template design (meant for that CMS application) may ease your job, But it will not give your client an user interface, which is unique for them. It will look like one another site made with that particular CMS. I have seen several Ecommerce sites with similar structures; I can easily identify them as “made with osCommerce without added efforts”.

So, how do we deal with this situation?

Take the case of WordPress. If you start designing a site without keeping WordPress in mind, and wanted to enable WordPress CMS at later stage, I am sure you need much experience in XHTML coding  you may have to give up WordPress in order to keep your look  unchanged.

Few months earlier, we did an Ecommerce web site design with Cubecart; with the help of Programmers and good HTML scripter, we were able to make the user interface which is very unique and no template look. Yes, good PHP and HTML programmers will have to give hands to change the way the application works and to fit your custom design with the CMS. If you need a decent design which does not offer you a standard template based site look, you need an experienced team’s support to make it possible.

Cost is one key factor why people like to use opensource applications and in most of the cases we almost get a free solution. Installing Drupal or Joomla with a pre-existing design, will only help you to offer a cheaper solution, But to give a unique look and feel to your site, you must be ready to invest in application customization too. Your CMS theme or template will need your programmer’s support to provide coherent CMS driven website, which is exclusive for the customer.

Opensource CMS applications are excellent tools for professional web solutions. No objections!. Opensource CMS applications will not cut the cost of custom development completely and making a design which has an exclusive and aesthetic look to your customer will need the time/cost of your developers and designers.  Don’t leave the CMS application to decide your site user interface by cutting the customization efforts.