Reinvent the CMS Wheel? Not Right Now, Thanks.

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Upanup has explicity chosen to work with open-source content management systems (CMS's), such as Drupal, WordPress and Joomla as our preferred solution platforms. This decision was made with our client's best interest in mind, but were we faced with the same question 3-5 years ago we may not have come to the same conclusion, which is testament to the demand and respect for open-source systems these days.

My last blog post looked at the remarkable usage stats of Drupal, WordPress and Joomla. In this entry I'd like to explore three reasons why companies should be wary of custom and licensed CMS's, which in turn can help explain the momentum behind open-source usage.

3 reasons why you should consider an open-source CMS before using a proprietary or custom solution

1.  Cost to you (and us!)

Web agencies may choose to sell proprietary CMSs because they have the in-house capabilities and because they can justify selling a custom solution at a higher price-point than by delivering the equivalent product using an open-source platform. This increases the project cost for clients.

On the flip-side, the ongoing maintenance, support and documentation costs shouldered entirely by the web firm can be crippling if not properly structured and recouped.

2. Risk

Tying your company website to a proprietary CMS is risky. What happens if you'd like to explore working with other web firms?

Most agencies will openly shy away from inheriting an unfamiliar commercial or custom CMS solution because they may not have the confidence to work within the framework in a profitable manner. Instead, they will likely push at the first opportunity to have your site rebuilt on a platform with which they're more comfortable. What does this mean? You are potentially choosing from a narrow pool of agencies willing to work with your licensed CMS who will likely at some point try to sell you an (all else equal) unnecessary rebuild.

Alternatively, I've never heard of a skilled web agency turn down the opportunity to inherit a website built on one of the prominent open-source platforms, even if they aren't readily familiar with it. Having a site built on an open-source CMS will give your company or organization agency-shopping freedom and peace-of-mind, knowing that your website is not (for all intents and purposes) locked-in with one particular digital firm.

3. Usability and support

Open-source CMS's have been touched by millions of users and developers. Savvy feedback from a vast community of avid users and developers drives the momentum behind open-source improvements and enhancements. And should a question ever arise regarding the usability of an open-source CMS, one quick google search will likely return a multitude of helpful resources to help answer your exact question.

On the other hand, proprietary CMSs cannot boast such large usability testing sample sizes, and they generally rely entirely on internally produced support documentation. Don't get me wrong, it is not my intention here to suggest that licensed CMSs cannot achieve a usable interface with adequate support resources. I would suggest, however, that in my experience commercial CMSs can be less intuitive and user-friendly than their open-source counterparts, which can lead to administrator headaches that are not easily solved by a quick google search. In this case, a simple usability issue or question will generally have to be directed back to the vendor, which can mean additional fees and can involve lagging response times.

While I have been involved in proprietary CMS development in the past which did result in many joys, I much prefer the open-source spirit of collaboration. These CMS's are no longer industry "lightweights;" they are stable, scalable and free to upgrade!

Thanks to robust open-source CMS solutions, Upanup sees the proverbial wheel right before our eyes. So why push to reinvent it and create unnecessary project costs?

By Richard Hammond
Partner & Lead Developer
February 9th, 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.
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