For someone running their own small business, the constant issue is money. Couple that with even less time and you have a serious challenge when trying to succeed in the web world. You know it’s important to be found online, you want to put your best foot forward as, for you, it’s personal what the first impression of your company is, but how do you venture down that path without wasting the little time and money you have?
In the web development/management space there are basically 2 routes when it comes to using a Content Management System (CMS) to run your website: proprietary or open-source. Also put, paid vs. free.
Propriety means someone else owns the root system, keeps the software working great, stays on top of current technology trends, makes the interface as user-friendly/integrated as possible, all the while charging either a per-user or per-month fee (or sometimes both). There are some great benefits to this approach, but the primary issue for the small business is that you usually don’t have the money in your budget to afford these types of solutions. Beyond the monthly, if you want a unique design, major up-sell. If you want a functionality that isn’t offered, good luck getting that worked out without selling a child.
Enter open-source. In recent years the concept of free software has exploded on the scene. The thought behind it is along the “do unto others…” mantra in that we can all kick in and develop independently on a piece of software that we then all benefit from. So instead of an internal web team of 20 people managing a proprietary system, you have literally thousands of people developing, testing, combing the product to ensure it’s viability and policing it relentlessly.
At the end of the day, both propriety and open-source CMS platforms work to put you in control of your website. Within these systems you can update anything on your site (almost anything) and make the majority of the changes yourself/internally.
Why I like open-source (primarily WordPress, Joomla and Drupal) is that for the majority of small businesses, what is included in the root system is plenty to manage a great website. You still need someone (unless you take the time to really dig in) to help you set it up, but back to the massive community comment, there are TONS of freelance or other professional developers out there to help out. Depending on the system you are interested in there are some dominant players that can really help.
- Free Licensing
- Abundance of free/premium web design templates out there so you can install the CMS, upload the template and you’re 90% ready to launch your site.
- Tons of free add-ons/components/extensions to include into your site that have already been developed/tested. Need to integrate with MailChimp for your e-newsletter needs? No problem, someone already figured that out. Want to offer custom event registration within your organization’s website, done.
- Most open-source CMS platforms are built in a Linux environment, which just means that you don’t have to purchase Microsoft server hosting saving TONS of money each year on hosting costs. For roughly $5/month you can host your website. That turns out to be your total monthly cost as your licensing is free…
- Updates and patches are not automatic and need to be updated (typically by someone who knows what they’re doing in case something happens).
- The site is usually a little bit “pieced together” as some of the extensions/add-ons/components aren’t build in to the core of the system so sometimes the learning curve is a bit challenging. However, once you figure it out, it makes perfect sense.
In conclusion, save money as a small business owner. Go open-source. Find a good web guru to set you up and put out any fires, but in no time you’ll be up and running your own website, watching your saved pennies add up.