A recent trend in web development is the emergence of tack-on “Content Management Systems” provided with products such as customer relationship, membership or association management systems (CRMs).

While such solutions promise in-built integration and data management and can initially seem to be attractively priced, there are a number of downsides in selecting software that isn’t specifically designed for creating and managing websites and a supplier whose main focus is building CRMs.

Based on feedback from clients who have implemented these systems, here are five key issues with using an ‘add-on CMS’:

1. Highly restrictive template system

At Butterfly we love to push the boundaries of web design, using the latest technologies such as React.js to create beautiful, fast and unique websites, that are tailored to your organisations needs and those of your users. Often the templates that come with add-on systems are repetitive, simplistic and highly restrictive. We can often pick just by sight which websites have been developed on such systems. Finding out after sale exactly how restrictive and basic your new site “design” is going to be is a big let down and limits what you can do in future, for example, creating campaign pages that don’t fit a standard layout. Making simple changes becomes an expensive and frustrating exercise. Support for mobile and tablet devices may also be limited, slow to load and poorly designed.

2. No support beyond the first project

CRM companies and digital agencies are very different, and their focus’ are naturally going to be different. Websites are not set and forget, they are organic works that evolve over time. A website is online 24/7 and needs to be maintained, kept secure and supported. Great digital agencies will provide advice and knowledge that will make your website perform better over time. One client who came back to Butterfly after trying one of these systems, said in their experience, hosting was completely unmanaged, they couldn’t get any kind of help fixing issues on the site, and received no proactive service during their contract.

In addition, the companies offering all-in-one pieces of software do not have dedicated website specialists. They don’t have senior developers to do complicated work. They don’t have a team doing hosting and migrations. They can do simple things, but not complicated ones.

Unfortunately this is a common set of complaints when the core business is not delivering websites but CRMs.

3. Flexibility and functionality

Open Source and other CMS’ that have been developed over a long period of time typically have more plugins, components and compatible programs available to extend the functionality of your website. They’ve been tested and improved over years and you can find developers all over the world to support your system. Often, add-on systems have been recently developed, have limited functionality, are expensive to custom develop with, and could have the pin very quickly pulled if the product doesn’t work out, leaving you with no support, no ongoing updates and a very limited pool of people who can work on the system. And that’s if you can even get access to the code (that you paid for).


4. Lack of digital expertise

A CRM consultant is not a digital strategist, and these companies rarely offer real UX, design, and information architecture services. To deliver a great website experience, you need experts to work out user needs, negotiate the way through complex architecture requirements, and design something that works with your brand, not shoehorn content into a standard three column grid.

As a contrast, Butterfly know that by adding new services and improving our clients’ sites over time we keep customers happy and coming back for more, so we’re always training our staff, looking out for new products, and improving our standard of practice. By having one key focus (digital!) we can develop expertise that is more valuable to our clients than being a jack of all trades.

5. Software isn’t regularly updated

This affects everything from the page load speed, to the types of technology you can use, as well as security patches. When the primary focus of the organisation is a different piece of software, the other will receive less attention (and is easily abandoned). One CMS I know of that was packaged with a major CRM hasn’t been updated since 2012 and is still in use.

If the CMS is an afterthought of the original software, then support and ongoing maintenance for the CMS will be an afterthought too.

What to do instead

Choose a CMS that works for your business, and integrate (pass through) data where needed. Some clients build forms using their Salesforce system and simply link to a branded form directly from the website, which can be a great (and cheap) option. Many organisations find the road to integrating data streams is a long and complex one, and starting small has cost benefits as you learn what you do and don’t need.

Surround yourself with a team of experts that can support you long term with advice, and related services that are core to the business, not after-thoughts.

Note: CRM companies- we still love you. The service you perform is great and can be world-changing for organisations. But some things are better left to specialists.