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Open Source Vs Bespoke CMS Web Design: The Content Management System Conundrum

17 July, 2013

Clients often ask me about the pros and cons of using an open source website publishing platform as opposed to a bespoke content management system (CMS). Creative web design can be done on either. The former is created for free and open use, and anyone can build on it, while the latter is maintained and controlled by the agency that created it. More about CMS systems here.

Open source publishing = free of charge

Using an open source system like WordPress is free of charge, and there are many different templates to choose from to create your site. If you want to create a tailored look or branded version for your company, however, you may still need to pay a website design company or website developer to do this. But once you have set your website up, you are not tied to that developer as anyone can update the code and make changes to an open source

Bespoke CMS web design = cheaper to set up, expensive to maintain

Bespoke CMS systems can be initially tempting as they are usually a lot cheaper to set up (the system is already created so you are paying for an ‘off-the-shelf’ version. However, as they are designed and created by a single company, costs can quickly mount up as you have to pay that website design agency a fee every time you want to make an amend or update to the site.

Open source allows you to change your website hosting

With open source systems like WordPress, businesses are able to move easily onto different hosting platforms, which is quite often not the case for web agencies.

Bespoke = you are tied in as their client forever

Ultimately, the creators of bespoke systems are tying you in as a client. The content management system (CMS) they create is their own system and is via their IP address – so simply put you are stuck with them and the only way of moving is rebuilding the site.

I’ve heard many a story where businesses have been dealt a large financial blow when wanting to end their contract with a current web design supplier and had to start from scratch.

Open Source Vs Closed Source/Bespoke: regular updates?

Once a bespoke website design agency has designed the initial site for you and the bill has been paid – what guarantee is there that they will update their in-house CMS with the latest developments from your particular requests? And if they do, what’s the likelihood that it won’t cost cost you anything?…Exactly!

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve many years experience of web design and I am well versed in creating and maintaining an innovative website, but not all agencies can be relied upon to do so.  Another view on open Vs closed source here.

Open source: Is WordPress CMS design the best platform?

There are many different types of open source system, including Drupal and Concrete5 to name just two, but by far the most well known and commonly used is WordPress.

As more people use WordPress CMS design than other open source systems, it is always being developed and innovated via its millions of users every single day. This allows WordPress to evolve and be ever-changing, keeping up with the latest plugins and the wants and needs of the consumer.

It is the same as with iPhone apps Vs other phone apps – it isn’t necessarily better, but there are a lot more people creating iPhone apps, so there is more choice of great iPhone apps available, more functionality, and with more users, any issues with the apps get identified and fixed much more quickly.

My personal philosophy on website platforms and website design agencies

My personal philosophy is to not tie people in so that any developer can come on board and if a client wants to move on at any stage, it’s a simple process. I really believe in making it easier for the client and building a relationship on trust and transparency.

Bespoke CMS web design and Site Wide Links

This leads me onto one of my biggest bug bears… site wide links.

So, once you have your brand, spanking new website designed by a web agency, more often than not, you may find numerous links at the bottom of your web pages e.g. ‘website designed by Company A’, ‘SEO by Company A’ all containing anchor links to link back to your web designer’s own website. These are refereed to as site wide links and have one aim – of building links or ‘link juice’ back to their own company website.

You may think, well surely that’s acceptable, what harm can it do? The answer is that you may be helping build their link juice but at a cost to your own as you will inevitably lose page rank. As a client, ensure it’s in the T&Cs in your contract not to stand for this. Google also feel strongly about this and have been know to penalise those who deliberately seek to abuse building links, adversely affecting your SEO.

While I do believe that site wide links with numerous hyperlinks all linking back are very spammy, not the correct way to conduct business and something that should be avoided at all costs by any web designer with an ounce of integrity, I think that one link e.g. designed and developed by Company A is acceptable and don’t believe Google would or should penalise.

What do you think about site wide linking? Are you currently using a creative web design agency and thinking about changing but worried about the implications? Have you been using WordPress and are happy with it or not?

Do share your thoughts in the comments box below!

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