The State of Website Design
Written by: Ryan Flannagan

In order to understand the development process of your B2B website design, it is important to have substantial knowledge of how websites work. We have broken up the basics into the following 3 pages which should give you enough knowledge to determine what is real and what is not. Basically, websites are broken into two main categories: pre-built content management systems and hand-coded systems. There is much depending on which type of system is used, including maintenance, easy of use, search engine optimization, the ease of third party software integration and overall cost.


Content Management Systems

Content Management System: A system used to manage the content of a website. A CMS allows the content manager or author, who may not know Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), to manage the creation, modification, and removal of content from a website without needing the expertise of a webmaster.

Content management systems break into two fundamental categories, open source, and proprietary, which represent over 38% of the websites on the internet. Some popular examples of CMS’s are WordPress, Drupal, Squarespace, Joomla, Wix etc.


Open Sourced CMS:

A system used to manage the content of a website that is available to all to use, copy, edit, and redistributes. These systems are open to public iterations, meaning that anyone can develop and manipulate the system in any way that they like. These systems receive input from hundreds of thousands of people, which results in an improved and diverse system.

The open source movement has been alive and well since ‘97. WordPress is the juggernaut of open source CMS representing over 23.2% of all websites on the internet, with over 34 thousand plugins*, 774 million downloads, and hundreds of active developers. Other notable open source CMS are Joomla and Drupal with 3% and 1.9% of the website market share, respectively.

* A plugin is similar to an application which you can install on your phone. It enables additional functionality for your website such as calendars, forms, etc.

The primary benefit of using an open source CMS is that there is an active community working on it, so it evolves as the internet evolves. This enables companies utilizing these CMS’s to integrate advanced functionality, customize/optimize their websites and reduce costs by leveraging the work that the open source community has already completed. Additionally, the open source nature of these systems means that they are battle-hardened, and since anyone can see their source code they cannot use any “tricks” to enhance or pad their security – their systems must be completely sound and secure at all points.


  • More Cost Effective
  • Easier to Customize
  • Integrates with 3rd Party Systems
  • Evolves as Internet evolves
  • Advanced Functionality

Open source CMS’s do have their drawbacks. They are free like a free puppy. Yes, the puppy is free, but you have to train it, feed it and make sure it is taken care of. This is one of the side effects of a system constantly evolving. Your website needs to be updated at least every 6 months. Typically, updating the website is a simple process; however, if the theme or plugins that you are using aren’t being maintained this can cause problems.

This leads to the next problem: agencies that advertise themselves as CMS experts when they are clearly not. If they do not have all of this imperative CMS knowledge, then the final product that they produce could potentially be insecure and ineffective.


  • Upkeep
  • Expertise level highly varies. Easy to chose the wrong company.
  • Security

Open source CMS’s work well for all styles and sizes of businesses and are built to grow your company.  By using an open source CMS, companies empower themselves with the flexibility for the future as one can easily change systems or add functionality while maximizing the present impact of their website.

Our Recommendation: We recommend WordPress. WordPress has the largest development community, which translates to flexibility for your project including features, third party integration, stunning design, and customization.  Additionally, WordPress adoption rate is 7 times larger than its closest open source CMS competitor and 45 times larger than any proprietary CMS.


Do you think your project is too big for WordPress?

Think again, there are many Fortune 500 companies that take advantage WordPress.  If something were to happen to WordPress 1 out of every 5 companies on the internet would be affected. WordPress is here to stay.

Proprietary CMS:

A system used to manage the content of a website that is built on a code owned privately so that only the owner of the code can maintain and distribute it. This type of CMS is generally developed by an agency to be used specifically for their own clients. The owner of the agency can charge monthly fees in order to provide maintenance on the website.

Proprietary CMS’s typically fall into one of three categories: budget solution, low competition or vertical specific. Some proprietary CMS examples are Squarespace 0.5%, SimpleView, Weebly 0.4%, Blackbaud and Wix 0.3%


  • Ease of setup;
  • Basic initial features;
  • Decreases initial cost of setup;
  • Decreases time to market;
  • No need to work with an outside agency;*
  • Streamlined for your industry;**
  • Unique features of your industry.**
  • Budget Solution/Low Competition:

The budget solution or low competition business owner is looking for more of a billboard than a website. The primary benefit to the Proprietary CMS is that it is very easy to setup without working with an outside agency: this reduces the cost to a monthly subscription, offers great initial features, and decreases time to market.

Sidenote: Be wary of any agency charging over $5,000 for setup of a Squarespace or any similar website. We have heard of some agencies hiring interns to develop these websites for clients. The bottom line is if you just want your website to act as a billboard, this is a good way to go.  Just don’t spend too much money on it.

  • Vertical Specific:

There are many design agencies which have aligned themselves with a particular industry vertical. The primary benefit to the vertical specific CMS model is that it identifies unique features for your industry, streamlines the development process, and typically integrates with leading industry CMS’s.

*Budget/Low Competition

**Vertical CMS

If a proprietary system is made for your industry or is very easy to setup then there is a high likelihood that your competitors are using the same system. This can lead to a competitive standstill or a competitive disadvantage if the competition invests more heavily.


  • May not work with third party systems;
  • Slower to evolve;
  • Locked into system;
  • Costs;**
  • Lack of competitive advantage.

*Budget/Low Competition

**Vertical CMS

Proprietary CMS’s are primarily made for three types of business: new companies, companies with little online competition or industry specific solution.  For companies with little competition or are on a budget, the do it yourself option is a great first move. It will reduce costs in the short run and let you continue with your core business. However, it can cost in the long run via a competitive standstill or disadvantage.

Our Recommendation: If you are a small business, a do it yourselfer, or in a non-competitive online market looking for a billboard website that will simply represent your business online without advanced functionality, then a proprietary CMS could be the way to go.  There may some drawbacks, but it is an easy more inexpensive solution.

As for our vertical CMS recommendation, consult with a credible digital agency before making a decision. There is a lot of variation in the vertical CMS market and you need to assess the pros and cons on a case by case basis.


Hand Coded or Built From Scratch Websites

Built from scratch systems represents the other 62% of websites on the internet. These systems range from custom HTML-only websites built by high school students, to very complex systems built by financial giants. In this guide we will not cover built from scratch websites on an in-depth level, as 98% of the time, we do not recommend using this type of system.  It is possible that your business is part of that 2% that needs a built from scratch website if you are looking for very customized functionality.

The reason we generally advise against built from scratch systems is it that they can be risky. When your website is built from scratch you are normally locked in and dependent on the digital agency that built your code for as long as your website is up and running. Unfortunately, there is no set standard for the company who is coding the original project and therefore, any subsequent company who works on the project must research and learn the previous company’s coding style. Typically, the new company will say that they need to start the project from scratch.

There is also the potential for there to be problems with the SEO capabilities of the site. Search engines prefer when websites adhere to WC3 standards. Unfortunately, built from scratch websites don’t always follow these standards and if they do you may have to pay for it. Estimate the costs of your re-imagined website using our Website Cost Calculator.

Our Recommendation: Contact your desired digital design agency if you have any questions regarding whether or not you would need a website built from scratch or a CMS. Nuanced Media is an experienced Phoenix web design agency, and we are always here to answer any of your website design and development questions. 


Ryan Flannagan
Ryan Flannagan

Ryan Flannagan is the Founder & CEO of Nuanced Media, an international eCommerce marketing agency specializing in Amazon. Nuanced has sold $100s of Millions online and Ryan has built a client base representing a total revenue of over 1.5 billion dollars. Ryan is a published author and has been quoted by a number of media sources such as BuzzFeed, CNBC, and Modern Retail.

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