Open Source aka “WordPress” Vs. a Customized Website.

So You Think You Need A Website

The first place you look, if you are just starting out with your website today and you are doing it yourself, is often an Open Source application like a WordPress, Joomla or Drupal or a “hosted” Site Generator, one of which I hear often about is Wix.  Open source is a program you can download and load onto your hosting space that is freely distributed.   Open Source code can be loaded already for you by your hosting company like a Godaddy.  Or alternatively you can use a hybrid solution like (You get WordPress, but WordPress manages it for you).  Either way, you are using a freely available system that you spend time learning and working on.  Trust me the advocates for each of the top three will give me 10 reasons why theirs is better than the rest, but essentially each one is better at some doing certain things and others has some negative features (like the editor on WordPress is for the birds).

Why You Are Interested

Why would you be spending time reviewing and looking at these applications?  Well, if you want to save some cash outlay, doing it yourself, creating a website with WordPress is like building your own Heath Kit (I am dating myself because I actually remember Heath Kits as a kid) or creating your own PC.  Not sure how many reading this plugged boards in and made their own PC like I did several times in the late 80s and 90s.  Basically sites like WordPress are easy to set up if you read the docs and watch all the YouTube videos and are pretty much free, at least to get started.  What I want to discuss in this blog post is the concept that what you are getting or working with is conceptually free.  But is it all really free?  There are hidden costs and some direct costs.  Also, Open Source has just been loaned to you temporarily under conditions that you must adhere to.  So, theoretically with Open Source you don’t own any code unless you write your own plugin, and if you release that plugin under the rules, you may not own that plugin.   So next time you tell people you own a website, and you are using Open Source, you may want to not use the word’s Own but really I have a website.

Free Is Not Really Free

So if you have set up your own WordPress site, let’s just say that the average time it takes me to set up one, like the one I am writing a blog article right now, takes me at least 2 hours to set up, at least 3 hours if there is a design template involved, but let’s add 40 hours it took me to really learn WordPress, and that’s being kind.  So, let’s think about that.  45 hours goes into learning, configuring and setting this stuff up.  And the learning never stops.  Let’s say that I was a $100 an hour guy, and I am.  So really what I did is spent $4,500 on my first website.  We have to manage our time, because our time is not free.  If you go out and ask a WordPress shop to set up a WordPress site for you, with a nice template from, they will quote you anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500 or higher.  That’s because there are going to be graphics involved and fonts and decisions and knowledge of HTML.  Anyway, it is still cheaper than $4500 to pay someone else who has the experience.

What Is A Custom Website And How Does That Compare?

Now let’s compare a WordPress, Joomla or Drupal site with a fully customized site.  When I say customized, I mean a full web software application (like another WordPress) that you own and deploy.  Why would you do this?  Well, if you have a customized back-end for your business it is a smart move to build exactly what you need and leave the Open Source behind.   With your own site, you and your programmer(s) know how it works, why it works and what is different about your system.  But whether or not you need a custom site depends on what you want to do.  For instance if you are a Painter, Pool Guy or Lawyer who wants to blog, and I know a few, you don’t need to own an application or customized solution, you are just needing brochure ware.  That is perfect for WordPress.  If you are creating a simple site for your friends to leave comments that may be great in Drupal or Joomla (but for those apps I do recommend a programmer most of the time).  But let’s say you wanted to create an online business, a social network, a unique market place (like eBay) or something completely different and unique, then Open Source and other apps may seems like the a good way to go, but in the end, they can present a problem long term.

If you want to create an application that can one day be acquired by a big company then having Open Source can be a burden.  You may need to own your own IP (Intellectual Property) or code.  You need to own the code in order to have ownership of your application.  So, if you are not a software developer and you want to create a serious and unique system online (those are the kinds of things that separate your app from the pack), you sometimes need to build a customized site.

How Can Custom Software Be Comparable In Price To Open Source?

Well, because software has become easier to develop and because of outsourcing to third parties, some of which are overseas,  you can build solutions at comparable costs.  You just need to put a value on your time and energy and a value to what you are building and not come in with the theory that Open Source is free.  Trust me, each of those apps like WordPress have had 1,000 developers and possibly $100 million worth of code involved.  What you will find if you use WordPress or Drupal or Joomla is the price of making code changes, adding plugins, rewriting and changing the core can be comparable to building applications from scratch.  I have my recommended team of customized application developers you can contact me about.  But what I am trying to say is the price in the end may actually be cheaper to customize, if you really compare apples to oranges, especially if you need to be unique and different in this world.  Trust me I have pieced together both WordPress and Joomla plugins and add-ons trying to get these systems to do what I need them to do.  But in the end, you can end up with a Frankenstein Monster and quite frankly after that, most entrepreneurs realize they need to start from scratch.