In our previous article we explain how not understanding open source could be your most expensive mistake for businesses. As many of our clients will know, we only specialise in open source web design and development here at Opace. Back when we started in 2008, we believed we could offer something different to organisations and decided to specialise in open source because we believed (and still believe) in its principles as well as its projects and benefits.
Opace were one of the first agencies in the Midlands to specialise in and openly promote ourselves as an open source web design and marketing agency. We’ve since helped customers to deliver small, medium and large scale web development and e-commerce projects using some of the best globally supported open source solutions available, including Joomla,WordPress and Magento.
The problem businesses face when deciding on an open source website
These days, choosing a platform for your website or e-commerce store can be particularly difficult, not because there’s a limited choice but because there’s so many great platforms and options to chose from. For example:
- Do I need to build my site from scratch to meet my requirements?
- Do I need to pay for a technology or purchase a licence to get the best features?
- Can I find something for free that will do what I need and won’t break?
When we tell customers that option 3 above is nearly always possible (and often better) with open source, the reaction we get is “how”, “why” or “what’s open source”.
In the end, most business owners are likely to base their decision on recommendations or word of mouth, but just in case you haven’t made up your mind or know somebody in this position, we thought we’d share why choosing an open source website is a great choice for your business.
What is open source?
The term ‘open source’ means that a piece of software or application is publically accessible and the code can therefore be re-used, modified, customised and extended by anyone. Here are our top four reasons to consider open source:
#1 – It’s free to download and use
One of the main benefits of choosing open source software is that it’s free to download and use. For example, if you wanted to use one of the platforms we recommend (Magento, WordPress or Joomla), you can simply download them free of charge. The only things you’ll have to pay for are hosting and any development services you require if you don’t have the expertise in-house. You can even upgrade these platforms and very often extend them by adding new features (plugins or extensions), free of charge.
#2 – Protect your investment with no vendor lock-in
In some ways, an even greater benefit is that you can have confidence that the website is yours and you’re not going to get locked-in to a specific vendor or supplier who can charge you as much and as often as they wish, because it’s their code. To make matters worse, if you’re relationship with that supplier breaks down there’s often no way to protect your investment as you will be forced to start from fresh with a new supplier. With open source based websites, there is a global community who can support you and these days many local specialists, developers and agencies that can easily support your investment and take on future developments.
#3 – A global community supports it (for free)
If you are having trouble setting up or enhancing your website, you can simply ask the community of developers for help. Platforms like Magento, WordPress and Joomla all have their own communities of developers who work on improving them and providing support to others, often free of charge via forums or blogs. One of the benefits of choosing open source, especially if you have a good technical understanding or employ a techie, is that support is completely free.
#4 – Access to massive range of plugins, extensions and templates (for free)
A final benefit of choosing open source is that you will have access to a massive range of new features or functionality, normally known as plugins or extensions, which are very often free or low cost. As well as new features, you can also access thousands of pre-made and modern designs, fully coded to work with your website known as templates or themes. Again there are many freely available templates but you can access the very best fully responsive and mobile friendly designs for under £100 usually.
Which open source website platform is best?
With so many open source platforms to choose from, it can be hard knowing which is best. Much of the time it will come down to your own personal preference or what you’ve been recommended, but in a nutshell our opinion has always been:
- If you’re looking for a blog, a content publishing site or simplicity, then use WordPress – it’s incredibly flexible, easy-to-use and very popular;
- If you’re looking for a larger more complex website that needs lots of template/design variations and features, and you have some technical expertise in-house, then use Joomla or WordPress depending on your preference; and finally
- If you’re selling online, especially a store which is expecting to grow, then use Magento. Whereas the other two open source platforms started out life as content management systems and can offer e-commerce, Magento has always been an e-commerce platform and is now considered by many to be the world’s leading e-commerce solution, giving it a number of key advantages. For smaller e-commerce stores you could also consider Woocommerce for WordPress.
For more information about open source or any of these platforms, contact us on
[email protected] or 0845 017 7661.