The fight for open source versus proprietary web development has created design and development divides which has fundamentally changed the way websites are built. Examining which platform suits your needs is one of the very first steps to determine how a revamped website is going to look and act. Part of the process is knowing the abilities and needs of your web team and understanding the advantages and drawbacks of each platform. Below is a brief or basic overview of how open source and proprietary content management systems (CMS), and how each fit into your next website revamp:

  1. Design: A consistent and secure brand is key to a beautiful and engaging website but being able to build it requires flexibility. Proprietary CMS platforms typically are built with a very specific look that fits the needs of the user at the time of development, but in 2-3 years it may lack the functionality of new technology. On the other hand, open source technology provides access and easy programming for templates, modules, and plug-ins to keep your site engaging and modern.

    Advantage: Open Source

  2. User Experience: Let’s face it, most back-end CMS platforms are terrible. They may not require coding, but the template and styles of a CMS almost always feel clunky (except WordPress!) and require odd workarounds. Because of the flexibility needed for open source platforms to meet a variety of user needs, the platforms remain light on the initial set-up before being developed into the needs of a specific user. With proprietary software, you could design and develop your own CMS that is easily understandable to your content team. Developing and designing your own process for inputting content may take extra steps, but it could be worth it in the long run, especially if you’re moving content over from scratch.

    Advantage: Proprietary

  3. Security: With sites of all sizes becoming targets of hackers, security continues to be a paramount aspect of web development, including CMSs. Because you own the code in proprietary software, you decide your security measures and keep it in-house and away from potential intruders. While the solution works in the short-term, the quickly changing landscape of tech security means your website could easily become vulnerable depending on the language you use. Not having to deal with updates, bugs, and security issues is great for a bit, but eventually hackers find a way. With an open source platform, you will be responsible for security management but also be part of a community that is working together to provide support. However, opening up your code to other developers for help carries reasonable risk as well.

    Advantage: Tie

  4. Cost: The typical myth of open source software is that you get what you paid for. But the assumption falls flat when you realize the capabilities of specific platforms when it comes to updates and features. While a proprietary system is totally yours, the cost of ownership and maintenance can be a full-time job for a few employees. Plus, the cost of just focusing on updates and security can heavily outweigh digital innovation. When using open source platforms, however, the affordable start-up costs and a vast library of plugins and modules allow for easy integration. As noted, a community is ready to help with bugs, patches, and other flaws that arise and your internal team just needs to test and confirm, instead of starting with basic development.

    Advantage: Open Source

  5. Logistics: Depending on how often you plan to move hosting services, the logistics and portability of your site matter. Plenty of proprietary content management systems come together with a hosting service which often makes it difficult, or in some instances, impossible to move a website to another host. Websites that have been developed with an open source CMS, however, are much easier to move from one web host to another. In a proprietary system, you don’t always get to extract data and files out of your system and easily port it into a new hosting service.

    Advantage: Open Source

Scoreboard Check:
Open Source: 3
Proprietary: 1
Tie: 1

Using an open source content management system does have drawbacks but the overall benefits of a flexible design, affordable costs, and ease-of-use are why institutions are looking at platforms like WordPress for web solutions. According to BuiltWith, WordPress is used on nearly 51% of the top million sites on the Web; nearly three times as much as Joomla and Drupal combined. And if you are looking for more web development needs, EFK Group offers a robust creative and digital strategy that matches your brand needs. Contact us today for more information!