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Website Design Companies and Using Self-Hosted Open-Source Solutions

Sep 25 2014

One thing that I strive for is transparency in the website design process. Open-source content management systems and working closely with clients are a couple of ways that Nashville Interactive achieves this transparency in website design. Clients love it. I love it. Everyone’s happier in the end. It’s a win-win. Just to clear things up, Open Source software is basically free to use and the actual code is readily available to view, customize and even distribute. On the other end of the spectrum are proprietary and custom software solutions. Proprietary software typically can not be re-distributed or customized in any way and you would rarely have access to the source code. Custom built solutions may have different licenses regarding usage and you may have access to the source code though documentation is rarely found which makes customization difficult at best. Nashville Interactive uses open-source solutions almost exclusively. Here are a couple of reasons why…

Open source sites can be hosted (and moved) nearly anywhere.

Here’s a scenario… A company who built your site on a proprietary content management system (CMS) and hosts your site on their hosting servers goes out of business. At this point, they’re not going to let you have the custom CMS that they built just so you can keep your site up. Basically you’re out of luck. At best you’ll get a backup of some of your web files and perhaps an export of some data but that can’t just be dropped into a new website platform.

If your site is built on an open-source CMS, you stand a much better chance of getting a full export of files and the database which can then be transferred to a new hosting server of your choice.

The above scenario also highlights another problem that we’ve run into many times. If you become dissatisfied with your web design agency and they’re hosting your website, there are potentially issues that arise where getting full backups and moving a site is prohibited due to “policy”, etc. If you control your own hosting account, that issue is virtually eliminated and managing a hosting account on a day to day basis is actually fairly simple once things are set up.

Finding providers who can work on your open-source website is generally easy.

While there are some conveniences afforded with having an agency host a proprietary platform, there are also advantages to hosting your own website. One primary advantage is the flexibility in service providers. You can screen and contract with your own designers, developers and content managers on terms that suit your specific needs. While this does indeed add a bit more “project management” work to your plate, many people feel that the extra control over the final product is greatly desirable.

If you’re using a popular platform such as WordPress, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a developer who can work on your site. With proprietary there’s virtually no chance of this and with custom CMSs, there’s always a huge learning curve that can cost you much more money as a developer will have to become familiar with the new system. Open source solutions more often than not, have large communities of developers who are happy to answer questions.

It’s FREE!

And by “free” I mean that most of the time there aren’t any recurring licensing fees for use. That being said, an agency may charge for maintenance or updates but the software itself is generally free of charge to use. With many systems there are also paid plugins and add-ons that enhance functionality. Proprietary systems almost always have some sort of fees associated with them though those fees may be built in to your monthly bills.

The bottom line…

So to summarize, open-source software is typically more flexible where customization is concerned as well as having more options for service providers. Open-source is if nothing else much less expensive than custom or proprietary solutions. If you hadn’t guessed from reading this, Nashville Interactive loves open-source solutions for website development. If you’re interested in getting a quote on your (open-source!) project, contact Chris via phone at 615.521.1890 or via email at cbradshaw@nashvilleinteractive.com