Have you noticed how so much of the web looks and acts the same? Ever wonder why?
It's because of the proliferation (and we are choosing that word carefully) of off-the-shelf content management systems and the theming engines that come with them. The most popular systems today - WordPress and Drupal - have the ability to easily customize the base theme, or install themes that you buy off-the-shelf. These themes have an air of "sameness". And many "web developers" (and we use that term loosely) are simply taking themes off-the-shelf, changing colors and logos, and charging clients an exorbitant amount to do it.
"Custom Designed" Themes Do Exist
Some reputable design agencies can indeed design custom themes for your CMS system of choice. But even in that case, the designs seem to always match the cookie-cutter templates that are out there. The designer may not admit it, but it is usually due to a bias of understanding in the limitations of the platform. Regardless of what you hear or read, all off-the-shelf platforms have front-end limitations. It's just a matter of when you run into them. And, if you overcome them, beware that you may have pushed the platform past its limits.
How does a custom CMS differ?
We view a CMS as a very simple application: it adds, it edits, and it deletes "stuff". But, we only make those tools work around the design that was already created on the front-end. This means that our projects are always 100% design-centric. There is almost no front-end challenge that can't be met with a custom CMS platform on the backend.
The coolest part?
Customization isn't just for the user experience on the front-end. Can you imagine a user interface and an administrative workflow that is built specifically for you? Off-the-shelf platforms have user interfaces that are already preset. Some give you a minute amount of control over them. But a custom CMS solution allows you to build your management portal as you wish.