As brands launch their blog or websites, they’re often stuck deciding between content management systems. They have set goals for growing their customers, but they also have limited budgets, experience, and time before their site goes live.
As you evaluate your plans for your website launch or rebranding, learn the difference between open source systems and proprietary software — along with your options for each. This will ensure you make the best decision possible for your company and keep your development team happy.
What Is the Difference Between Open Source and Custom Systems?
Image via Flickr by whiteafrican
Before you can decide between open source and proprietary systems, you have to know the main differences between the two. Typically, marketers decide whether they want to use an open source system or not, and then start researching their options so they can choose the best company for their CMS.
The main difference between the two options is that open source systems are maintained and developed by large groups of people. WordPress is a great example. While the key founders and developers keep the system running, there are hundreds of programmers improving the code, catching bugs, and developing compatible widgets and plug-ins. This is one of the main benefits of open source software: If you want something, someone has probably developed it.
Meanwhile, proprietary software is developed by a set group of people at a single company. Customers pay to use the tools, and development is typically limited to what the company can make. While open source platforms are typically free (except for special add-ons and plug-ins), proprietary tools often require a license fee to use.
If the differences still seem confusing, think of open source software as if it were Amazon. Most of the items and brands aren’t created by Amazon itself but placed there by third parties. Meanwhile, custom systems are like a Ralph Lauren store. Everything sold in the store is created by and branded with Ralph Lauren.
What Are the Main Open Source CMS Platforms Available?
While there are hundreds of different custom systems to choose from, there are typically three main open source software platforms that marketers use: WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. While the systems have similarities, each one is different enough to meet the needs of various companies and industries.
WordPress is the most widely known and highly developed of all three open source systems. It receives more than 50 million monthly visits to its main site, has more than 1,300 themes, and boasts almost 15,000 plug-ins. Almost 15 percent of all websites are hosted on WordPress, including Time and The Wall Street Journal. Devious Media estimates the average monthly cost of maintaining a WordPress site is about $250. Given its ease of use and popularity, it’s not hard to find entry-level developers to help improve your website.
Compared to WordPress’ average 50 million monthly views, only 56,000 people visit Drupal. It has about 900 themes and 8,000 plugins. While this is still a substantial amount — especially for basic users — it is a significant drop from WordPress. Brands like The Economist and The White House use Drupal, though its estimated monthly maintenance tends to be highest. Drupal is the most complex open source platform. You can expect to pay around $1,500 per month to maintain it, and you will need to find advanced developers who know what they’re doing.
The third largest open CMS platform is Joomla. With its 7,000 plug-ins and monthly traffic that reaches 60,000, it’s about the same size as Drupal. This system also costs less to maintain, averaging $500 per month. A few popular names that use Joomla include the United Nations and Porsche.
Most companies will be able to choose WordPress for their content management systems, but if your business needs something specific or you find that WordPress doesn’t have the features you need, consider Drupal or Joomla. Between these three systems, you should be able to accomplish your goals before you consider custom proprietary systems.
How Should You Decide Which System to Pick?
Once you’re familiar with the systems out there, the next step is to decide which one is right for your company’s needs. Every company is different, which means there’s no one solution for everyone’s development strategy. However, you can review these criteria and base your decision on which platform checks off the most boxes.
- Ease of use: What existing skills does your team have? If you choose Drupal or Joomla, will you have to hire a developer or train your existing team on how to use it?
- Budget: Can you afford to license the software or buy all the plug-ins that you need? Can you afford the development and maintenance hours needed for some of the harder systems?
- Variety of features: Does the system have the features you want now as well as features you would like to have as you grow? Are you confident you can get whatever features you need?
- End goals: Do you want your CMS to engage customers and drive leads, or do you want to run an e-commerce page? Some systems are better suited for e-commerce websites.
- Design flexibility: Are you satisfied using existing themes like the ones WordPress offers, or do you want to create your own design?
- Support: Does the system you have offer developer support? Will they be able to tap into forums and ask experts for help if they need it?
As you can see, a low-budget lead generation website would have different goals and abilities than an enterprise e-commerce business. This is why there is no finite solution to which type of system you pick.
Choosing the right CMS platform can set your company up for success and make publishing a breeze, while an unsuitable CMS platform can lead to countless development and posting challenges for your team. This is why it’s so important to do the research and set goals beforehand. Opting for WordPress might seem like an easy decision at first but, in the future, you could regret not considering other tools.