Bespoke vs. Open Source Websites

You may have heard the words "bespoke" and "open source" before, but what do they actually mean when dealing with the design of a website?

Well, you may have heard the word bespoke before, for example when fitting a new kitchen, it's kind of the same thing when it comes to websites. When you have a bespoke kitchen design, it's a brand new design tailored to you right? It's the same with a website, a bespoke website is a brand new design, with a functionality tailored to your requirements.

If we run with the Kitchen metaphor, an open source website would be a kitchen that is not tailored to you, a design that thousands of other people have, installed in the same way with the same layout and same functionality. That's what an open source website is, open source CMS (content management systems) like Joomla, Wordpress, Drupal etc. allow people to easily design and develop a functional website that is low cost and easy to run. However, it's likely to look like hundreds of other open source websites out there and have functionality that is hard to adapt. There are advantages and disadvantages to both sides, but who would come out victorious in a head to head battle, let us see shall we.


Cost is a major factor when considering any business decision; you want the best price for the best service. When it comes to the cost of building a website they can vary massively depending on the agency, functionality, location etc. (you'd typically pay more for London agencies, but let's not get into the north south debate now (we all know the north is better)), so we will use averages. The industry average for a basic bespoke website build would be around £3,000-£5,000, for an open source website build, with a basic template you would expect to pay around the £500 mark as an average, however I have seen companies and freelancers charge a lot less, you then have to question the service you are getting for that price. A bespoke website is written from scratch to work to your specification, so a lot of work goes into the design and build (typically around 40-50 hours), whereas open source is off the shelf template designs and plug-ins that take a few hours to install.

However, if we are going strictly on price, a basic open source website build is cheaper.

Bespoke 0-1 Open Source


Another major factor of any website build, a creative website design can be imperative in influencing consumers buying decisions, it grabs the attention of your consumer and reassures them that this is a company that is worth their hard-earned money. Not only this, but a good website design can convey your companies ethos and values all without saying a single word. So it goes without saying that the design is essential and should have a fair few hours allocated towards it. This is where a bespoke build comes out on top, a designer spends 15-20 hours learning about your company and conveying this in a design that you feel represents your company. With an open source build, you can expect 1-2 hours on the design, which will essentially be a modified template that hundreds of other companies have used before.

Therefore, a bespoke website build brings it level on design.

Bespoke 1-1 Open Source


How your website functions is probably one of the most important factors when you're considering a new website, you want it to adapt to you (not the other way round), you want it to be reliable, easy to use, engaging , rank high in search engines etc. it needs to do a lot of things and do them well. 

There are a couple of problems with open source websites when it comes to functionality, let me elaborate. Firstly, Open Source websites utilise plug-ins to add functionality,  the best way to describe plug-ins are pieces of programming you can add to an open source website to achieve certain features or functions. The problem with plug-ins is the majority of time they are not written by the developer building your site, they are written by third party developers that the person building your site figuratively plugs in (as the name suggests). Where's the problem I hear you ask, the problem is that if these problems malfunction the person who has built your site has no control over fixing the problem, they have to wait until the third party developer  updates the plug-in. Not only this, but plug-ins can conflict with each other, and as they make up the majority of your website, this could cause a big problem and could compromise the functionality of your website possibly losing you customers. 

Secondly, as I may have touched on earlier, with open source websites you have to work to adapt to particular restrictions, this shouldn't be the case, the website should adapt to fulfil your needs.  Again this is where a bespoke built website will come out on top, they are built from the ground up to meet your needs, there are no plug-ins to worry about as functionality is applied through code, which is written by the developer building your website,  if anything goes wrong they know how to fix it! Not only this, the only restriction is your imagination; most good developers will be able to give you the functionality you need.

The bespoke website wins on functionality, taking bespoke into the lead.

Bespoke 2-1 Open Source


Security is important for any website; there is a lot of important, confidential information locked away in websites that you don't want to be revealed. We have touched on security issues with open source websites on previous blogs, specifically Wordpress websites.

The problem with open source websites is what also makes them great, it's software is used by a lot of websites, thus when there is a security breach it may affect a lot of websites. If a chink can be found in one open source website, it is likely that that chink could be found in a lot of websites that use the same framework. This has happened recently with a lot of Wordpress websites. Google blocked 11,000 malware affected Wordpress domains, with over 100,000 websites being affected. A malware campaign launched by SoakSoak found a vulnerability in Wordpress plugin called RevSlider, SoakSoak modify a file in a site's Wordpress installation and loads Javascript malware. As we mentioned in the functionality section, if a plug-in goes wrong it's hard to fix. Many website owners had this issue with this particular malware attack, as they didn't even know they had this RevSlider plug-in installed on their site as it was incorporated into themes, therefore they did not know they had to install an update to prevent a malware attack.

It is a lot harder to compromise the security of a bespoke website as there are no plug-ins to attack, the testing regime is thorough, there are no third parties involved that could compromise security etc.  The more something is coded bespokely the more secure it will be, if everyone has access to a plug-in, a theme etc, the easier it will be to attack.

A Bespoke website wins on the security front as well, putting some daylight between the scores.

Bespoke 3-1 Open Source


SEO to those not familiar, is marketing speak for Search Engine Optimisation, the art of improving your rankings in Google. This is important for every website, if you rank highly for a keyword or phrase that is frequently searched then your website is going to get a lot of traffic. SEO is important for any website, what's the point in having a shop if no one knows you're there? Open source websites do have plug-ins that manage your SEO, for example Wordpress has Yoast, the plugin's do work very well. A bespoke CMS does give you a bit more control over fine tuning your website to adapt to algorithmic changes, but they are both as good as each other.  The time your website takes to load is a key factor in what Google determines to be a good website (usability has been determined a key factor by Google in how well your website ranks). With that in mind, because open source websites use a lot of plug-ins to add functionality this may slow your website down through bloated code or conflicting plug-ins. 

If I'm being fair, SEO can be well optimised for a bespoke and open source CMS, for this reason SEO is a draw.

Bespoke 4-2 Open Source


This has been brought up with us a few times from potential clients burnt by other bespoke agencies. The fact of the matter is that a lot of other bespoke agencies don't actually let you own your website, thus tying you in to that agency until you decide to leave and spend more money on another website. Open source websites do allow you to have ownership of your website, so if you wanted you could take it to another agency. However, Keane aren't like other bespoke agencies, when your site is developed, you have full ownership of it, you could take it to another agency the next day. Obviously, we would like you to stay with us, but we don't tie you in with a contract.

For this reason, ownership is tied.

Leaving the score at Bespoke 5-3 Open source


Don't get me wrong an open source solution may be ideal for you, you may want something cheap that needs going up quickly, if so this is the absolute direction to take. However, if you want a website that is built around you with meticulous detail put into the design and development of your site then bespoke is always the way to go. In addition, yes, many bespoke web design agencies do put a clause in your contract that says that you don't own the website, tying you to that agency until you decide to build a new website. However, we don't, once your website is built you can do what you want with it, it's your intellectual property and is yours to take away having no contractual obligation to speak to us again, although we hope you don't do that (we're nice people).

Working With

  • KLC Employment Law
  • ORB Recruitment
  • AGW
  • HD Forwarding
  • MPM
  • LMF
  • We Can Grow