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Open source versus enterprise content management systems

Anyone interested in an enterprise-level content management solution, delivering pages heavy with extraneous code, with clunky, complex out-of-the-box functionality and a humongous upfront licence fee?

Am I selling it?

Okay I’ll admit, I’m playing devil’s advocate – but it’s a question that those commissioning a new website juggle with daily before pinning their colours to a particular CMS platform.

In many instances the enterprise vs. open source argument (“I can’t get sacked for buying enterprise”) has been lost. All but those hemmed in by the complexity of switching out of a legacy enterprise model clocking up four and five figure maintenance licences have at the very least considered switching to open source, and for very good reasons.

The main benefit of using an open source CMS such as Umbraco is the accessibility of the code, providing the ability to write bespoke functionality in response to a client’s specific requirements.

Functionality contributing to a great user experience probably falls into three categories:

generic, the functionality found on most sites, contact forms, news, blog etc
sector specific, product demonstration, application processes among others
third party solutions, ideally integrated but occasionally accessed through iframes
Whatever the functionality, the open source option fares favourably in delivering the desired UX. Functionality, where there is the option to cost-effectively write bespoke code, is invariably shaped by the client’s knowledge of the visitors to their website and their business model. No matter how small the variations, each bespoke element is important to a client’s website user journey and access to an opensource API makes this process much easier.

Of course, when developing bespoke code that hooks into the Umbraco API the objective is to deliver exactly what the client needs, and critical to this is the technical and functional specification that provides the direction for the development team. Joint workshops involving all client stakeholders and the agency account team are a great way to air insight and requirements before distilling the outputs into an approved specification.

The 'out of the box' solution isn’t the monopoly of the big beasts of the enterprise solution world. The open source equivalent is the code created by the worldwide community of opensource developers. Thousands of virtual team members creating new templates and plugins provide input to enhance the platform.

So, in short, the cost benefits and client-specific bespoke functionality of a well speced, .NET open source CMS is now proving at least as valid a choice to SMEs and large corporates as the branded enterprise models.

As an agency many of our clients have been enjoying the benefits of licence fee free, bespoke functionality for several years. In our case, the Umbraco content management system is our CMS of choice. Get in touch to find out more.

Graeme Wilson, Headland

Published: 25 March 2020

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