Making the Most of Your Decision to Choose an Open Source CMS

So, you're looking to revamp your online presence and inevitably the question will arise: which Content Management System (CMS) shall we use? Right off the bat you might think, "Wordpress is easy to manage", or "our competitor is using OpenText". A large part of the equation will likely be cost - cost to license, cost to develop, cost to maintain. When it comes to licencing, you have two main options: choose to pay licensing fees for a proprietary CMS or choose a license-free open source solution. I'll spare the debate on which is the better camp, though there are plenty of solid articles discussing the merits and flaws of each.

I am a pretty big proponent of the Open Source CMS - the team at bits.co tend to work primarily with Drupal, Wordpress, and Concrete5 - mostly because we see the value in being able to maintain flexibility with your business' online presence. What I mean about flexibility is with regards to the sheer number of companies who specialize in the more popular open source solutions. If we ever break up (not something we ever hope for, but hey! it happens), we'll both sleep better knowing that you can take your website to any number of vendors and be in good hands. You won't need to start from scratch and rebuild in their tool of choice. Plus, having this thought in the back of a partner's head should almost always push them to work that much harder. 

The other key that I've encountered is that vendors specializing in the larger proprietary solutions tend to carry significantly higher hourly fees, and are far fewer in numbers. This isn't necessarily bad (to some extent, you get what you pay for), but you are often paying sky-high rates for junior folks to tackle your project. By working with an Open Source framework, we can keep our overhead low while still ensuring that we're always offering top talent. 

All told, with either scenario, finding the right partner is the first step toward a successful outcome. From there, finding the right tool for the job is what you and your tech partner need to determine, and to do so, you'll need to ensure that your partner has all of the facts, goals, measures of success. Does your project have a super simple roadmap? If so, Wordpress or a free solution such as SquareSpace may be the ticket -- a good partner will advise when you don't require a sledgehammer to work with a finished nail.

However, chances are that you probably didn't build your business by doing what every one else is and you'll require something more complicated than a cookie-cutter solution. More often than not, we look to a tool like Drupal to deliver a more complicated set of requirements. It's not quite as popular as Wordpress, but it is unbelievably flexible (heck, we've built some insanely complicated solutions with it over the years) and is a framework unto itself, meaning that this CMS has extendability built into its core. Similar to Wordpress, there exists a huge community of user, supporters, and developers of this CMS. This can be exemplified by the sheer number of contributed modules available to extend Drupal's core functionality:

Source: Drupal.org

27,929 modules - that's both exciting and terrifying! This is where the right partner comes in. Engaging the right expert will ensure that you're able to: a) strategically decide when to choose an off-the-shelf module; b) which module makes most sense to utilize for a given task; and c) when to build a custom module to ensure your needs are being met. Often, the right solution is a mix of the three.

A partner with your best interest in mind will not only have their eye on where the ball is, but also a sense of where the ball is going to be. How might this key piece of functionality need to evolve over time to ensure it continues to meet business requirements? At bits.co, we recognize that current budgets may constrain having tomorrow's solution built now, but anticipating future additions will make certain that your website is built to easily extend to handle said solution.

Any way you spin it, some of the Open Source powerhouses of the CMS world are enterprise-ready. Wordpress and Drupal alone serve up some of the world's biggest traffic sites, along with some very high-profile ones. These free-to-use options allow straight forward approaches to a beautifully unique and tailored look and feel without breaking the bank, and can be extended to do everything - and more - than the million dollar off-the-shelf solutions can offer. Find the right partner, and this is achievable at a fraction of the cost without the dreadful lock-in.

Creative Agency

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