Why an open-source CMS is the right choice for your new website

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One of the most critical decisions to make when scoping a new website is what type of content management system (CMS) is the right fit for your organisation’s needs.

These questions will help you identify and choose the right solution:

  1. Does the CMS provide the type of features and functionality we need now, and as our needs grow?

  2. Is it easy to use for content managers and communications teams?

  3. Will it still be supported in a few years time?

  4. Is it secure and are developers available to support its continued growth and stability?

  5. How much will it cost to deploy and maintain?

  6. Should I choose an open-source or commercial CMS?

Open-source vs commercial CMS

The open-source vs commercial CMS question is often a great starting point – especially if flexibility and ongoing operating costs are a factor.

The term ‘open-source’ refers to a product that can be modified or shared because its underlying codebase is publicly accessible. For example, if you’re reading this article via the Chrome, Safari, Firefox or Edge browser you’re using a product that’s been built on open-source technologies or components.

Developers generally choose open-source frameworks because they’re super flexible and supported by a community of like-minded engineers. By not being tied to the commercial limitations of a CMS, they’re free to modify and build on work already undertaken by thousands of others. For example, you might be frustrated by the way the Microsoft Word interface is laid out but you have no way of changing it because it’s proprietary software that’s owned by a company – not a community. With open-source comes the ability to customise without limitation.

Who uses open-source CMSs?

Many governments trust open-source products such as Drupal to build their own managed services. In Australia, the Department of Finance created GovCMS — a whole-of government website management platform that Icon specialises in. GovCMS is developed off the back of Drupal, and Drupal is widely used by the UK and US governments for secure web publishing.

Drupal is also popular in the education, health and commercial sectors due to its flexibility, extendability, longevity and cost savings. Even Tesla.com and nasa.gov trust it to run their websites.

Key reasons we recommend Drupal CMS for your next website:

1. Cost effectiveness – One of the biggest bonuses of open-source CMSs is that they are free to use and have no vendor lock in. There’s also no purchase cost or annual licence fees – just a minimal amount of time needed to apply patches when updates are released.

2. Support – Open-source has a lower entry barrier for developers and is developed on industry standard code. So when you’re looking for developers they will be easier to find and at a competitive price compared to commercial CMSs. Centralised management and developer communities are readily available to answer questions and assist with trouble-shooting.

3. Quality – With thousands of developers supporting a product you can be sure it's of the highest possible quality. Every aspect, component and module of Drupal is carefully vetted and tested to ensure its stability and security when released. If an issue arises it’s quickly patched and the developer community is notified.

4. Longevity – Drupal has a predictable road map, with upgrade pathways for versions 7, 8 and 9 all currently supported. The size of the developer community also means the product is constantly evolving and improving over time.

5. Security – Drupal’s 24/7 security team, supported by a passionate community, are continually monitoring for exploits and releasing patches when needed. They also advise on how to create secure code and maintain secure infrastructure.

6. Popularity – Based on the ‘Built with’ trends report, Drupal ranks as 2nd most popular in the Top 10k sites in their open-source category – with over 1.6 million active websites using the CMS.

Next steps

At Icon, we’ve been using open-source frameworks for over a decade to build modern, innovative and secure websites that are as easy to use as they are to maintain.

If you’re considering Drupal, WordPress or Magento, or would like some advice on the best CMS for your website, we’re here to assist. With projects delivered for the Department of Defence, Air Force, NDIS, Artbank, Mondelez, Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, and numerous Commissions (to name a few) your project will be in safe hands.

Here are some handy resources to get you started:

> Download a guided reverse brief to help scope your project
> Read case studies of projects Icon has delivered
> Read more about Icon’s UX, content and web development services
> Read more about Icon’s digital transformation for government service

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