Open Source CMS Solutions Kick the Butt of Proprietary and Custom CMS Solutions.


Proprietary content management systems are bad for clients. Ninety-nine percent of the time an open source content management system (CMS) is a superior solution, and you should really do your homework if you think you are in the one percent where a custom-built or a proprietary CMS makes sense.

Open source CMS superiority is true for all sorts of online solutions, from corporate websites, to microsites, to government sites, and on and on. It can even be true for solutions that aren't being distributed widely on the open Internet such as Intranets and display screens. The flexibility of custom style sheets (CSS) and javascript means open source solutions can deliver full-screen presentations that can even replace Flash and PowerPoint if used right.

To be clear, open source shouldn't be confused for do-it-yourself. Just because we can all use a hammer and a drill doesn't mean we should all build our own houses. Just like in construction, for digital solutions you makes sense to look for providers or employees with specialized expertise and experience in strategy development, planning, design, web development and programming. On this note, for any company or organization of a significant size, a custom design should be implemented on an open source platform in order to build your brand and have your website interface optimized for your target audience and doing exactly what it needs to do.

As for the instances where a proprietary or custom-built online solution makes more sense, you'd need to be developing a highly specialized enterprise solution. This would be the case for solutions that are going to deal with immense (millions) of database entries, complex accounts management, connections with internal software systems and other intricate requirements. You may think this describes your requirements, but don't jump too fast as it is relatively rare in the giant world of the web.

Open source CMS platforms have come so far in the past five years that they can handle an amazing number of needs and requirements, far surpassing proprietary solutions in terms of scalability and flexibility. In addition, as a client you don't have the risk associated with only having one provider to support your site. While I believe in long-term ongoing client and service provider relationships, these relations should be by choice. A service provider relationships should be based on a good fit, smart strategy and excellent service.

The three big open source CMS platforms in order of instances of use are Wordpress, Drupal and Joomla. Each one has its advantages. Like many developers, our team seems to be using Wordpress and Drupal most frequently. There are a few key big picture differentiators we notice between these two CMS platforms. A full comparison is something we'll provide in another post, but here's a quick summary:

For its part, Wordpress seems to have trouble knocking its reputation as a blogging tool and an entry-level platform. As a solutions provider we sometimes feel like we need to defend Wordpress when we present it as being the best solution for a client, just because they think it might be too basic. In fact, over recent years Wordpress's capabilities have grown considerably and it is a robust platform that can support all sorts of custom designs, functionality and interactive uses.

We find that Drupal solutions are often easier and faster for our developers to implement when it comes to websites with a great deal of database driven content, but the resulting sites can be a little less user-friendly than Wordpress for our clients to administer for their updates thereafter. As such, clients may have a lower initial cost for a Drupal build-out, but a higher ongoing cost because of the updates they might need support implementing.

To close off, I have written this post because of all the instances I see of companies that have been sucked into using a proprietary or custom solution when it isn't necessary and it is locking them into something they will most certainly regret later. Don't let this be you.

By Peter Knapp
CEO & Lead Strategist
May 19th, 2012
Disclaimer: Our team members contribute to this blog in their own voices. As such, opinions expressed in this post are not necessarily shared by Upanup. If you are curious or concerned, please contact us.