The Process of Choosing Open-Source CMS: Pros and Cons

September 13, 2018
by Andriy Bordun

Open-Source CMS or Content Management System is what allows a reliable and straightforward way to publish content onto the website. Whether it be a blog or a news website, or anything else that includes text content (alongside videos and images), it needs a proper CMS to simplify the process of publishing, editing and moderating. Open source website builders are among the most used ones due to an array of reasons that we'll discuss later on in the article.

What is CMS website?

Long story short, a Open-Source CMS website is built using any given content management system and through this allows to publish any content onto the site. These systems have evolved much over the decade and now offer thousands of templates, functions and so on, covering a good chunk of work that was previously required to be done by a skilled full stack web developer.

CMS allows anyone to build at least a basic website and manage it without any prior knowledge. Simple interface and an advanced number of functions only support that.

What is an Open-Source CMS?

Open-source software means that anyone has access to the source code and can modify it for personal needs. CMS that qualify for this description are WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, and a few more.

While these systems offer a vast number of pre-built themes and templates for use, anyone can change the code to fit in particular functions or unique design solutions. The plugins for CMS are found everywhere and can be created by your software programmers.

Open-source content management systems are a widespread thing to use by the companies. About 75% of CMS users choose the open-source option over closed-source. We shall take a look at the most significant advantage and disadvantages of this approach right below.

Open-Source CMS Advantages

An impressive record of 75% of websites built on open-source CMS and WordPress having 59% share of that market suggests that these systems are indeed offering a high level of service. We will try to cover the biggest pros of it and explain the details behind the scenes for more clear understanding. Let’s see what people love so much about open-source CMS.

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  1. Free to use. Open-source systems do not charge for their services. At least, the basic package. For example, WordPress allows using thousands of templates for free. You can adjust them to your needs, set various colors and you're good to go. Simple, reliable, free. It gets tricky once your needs are more complicated, but we'll get to that later.
  2. A collective effort towards developing open-source CMS. Open-source means that thousands of skilled enthusiasts around the globe can build on top of the system and come up with more and more plugins for specific use. Before hiring a programmer to make a custom plugin, you should search the web for a while - in 90% of the cases, someone had already created precisely what you need.
  3. Constant, free updates. Systems like WordPress are updated all the time. The open-source structure allows quicker bug detection and fixing, thus supplying more stable versions every time, while adding new customization options. It is a form of a lifetime subscription that you don't have to pay for. While on a tight budget, this can be a game-changer.
  4. High customization potential. Open-Source CMS is a highly flexible structure that allows being modified in almost every way. The basic package may be pretty limited and, in some cases, primitive. For more advanced user interface and better user experience, some changes are a must. And CMS is open to that. You can bend it, rebuild it and make it look just the way you want it to - and that's the biggest brilliance of the open-source systems.
  5. No need for day-to-day maintenance. If you've ever built a website, you know that the hardest part is not to make it, but to keep it stable at all times. CMS will allow you to forget about that pain (in most cases). Every plugin and theme supported by the system is maintained by it all the time, leaving you nothing to worry about concerning compatibility and wellbeing of your site.
  6. High mobility of the source code. When you and your team work remotely and the programmers are as far as in another country, it may be challenging to exchange the code between people. Gigabytes of download information, constant checking-up and other goodies of remote work. Since these CMSs have an open-source code, every part of it is available anywhere in the world for anyone. Thus, the collaboration time is reduced, and efficiency is increased - a lovely sight for everyone involved.

These are just a few of a vast number of benefits that open-source CMS is ready to offer. This may look as these systems are the only rational way to go, but that is only partially true. You have to consider the budgets that you have, the complexity of the project you want to build and your willingness to take risks. Yes, you heard that right.

Open-source is an excellent way to start, but it is indeed not a flawless software solution suitable for everyone. Let's take a look at the cons of this approach.

Open-Source CMS Disadvantages

  1. High level of customization opportunities come with a price. As we've already explained, open-source systems allow to change them in any desirable way to fit your needs. And that's wonderful! But for that to succeed, you'll need to learn how to code or hire a skilled programmer to do the customization for you. Both ways are expensive, either demanding a tremendous amount of time or substantial payments to your workers. Projects with tight budgets may not like this at all.
  2. Average visuals. You don't get to use a permanently free product with beautiful interface too often, do you? Basic designs that do not require professional editing them are effortless to do on your own, but the quality of it will be at the same, basic, level. It concerns both the forms and blocks on the pages and the layout of the content as well.
  3. Questionable usability. You want your website to look good and to be easy to understand. But open-source CMS often will allow neither of those without groundbreaking customization efforts. The interfaces may be too sloppy, and your casual users will get lost, or the navigation system is way off the charts, which might deal a heavy blow to search engine rankings. It is still manageable though, but don't expect a high level of usability from do-it-yourself WordPress forms, for example.
  4. Lack of features. The uncustomized version of any CMS-built website will not experience an abundance of features. Deal with it, get over it: you have to tweak stuff manually to make your site competitive regarding functions. Plugins can solve a whole lot of problems, but there will be times when you'll have to spend some money to attract a specialist to help you out.
  5. A juicy target for hackers. Open-source CMS code is available for everyone, and that includes people with a negative attitude. These websites and services are attacked way more often just because all the defense mechanisms are published online, and the hackers will have everything to plan a successful attack. You'll have to trust your developers to make everything safe and secure and hope for the best. With that being said, moving on to the next disadvantage.
  6. Difficulty in finding competent CMS developers. This one is up for debate, but since it is relatively easy to learn how to code for content management systems, there are a lot of developers on the market with reasonably low skill. One mistake and you can put your website in colossal danger by possibly allowing security breaches or inoperable interface. All because of a guy who knows little about coding that you hired
  7. Need to install new updates. One of the pros of open-source systems is that the creators publish updates frequently. The only downside is that you still have to install them manually. It is relatively easy to do if your CMS-built website uses only basic functionality, but things get far more complicated when you do even the slightest customization of the original site.

Open-Source CMS: Yay Or Nay?

We're in a middle of a tricky situation since the lists of pros and cons are relatively similar. This, however, offers a balance and does not neglect the fact that almost entire internet is built using CMS and… it seems to be working!

Open-source CMS systems allow to cut the costs and built a website with little effort. As your needs to customize scale, so does the production cost and that is entirely normal. One of the most important tips will be .to choose the programmer carefully if you decide to go for custom designs and functions. This will cut off a huge chunk of possible problems (UI, UX, security, etc.) and will still save you tons of money compared to using closed-source paid systems.


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