Open source software is a great choice for businesses.
As developers, we use open source software for a number of reasons.
- With the source code being openly available, we can modify, improve or build on it as we need.
- Updates and patches are actively developed and released in a collaborative community.
- Open source software is well documented so we can always orient ourselves when we run into something new.
But most people that need a website built aren't developers. They need to know why they should go with open source from the perspective of a business decision. There are 4 key reasons that open source is a great choice:
You can easily see how active the development team behind a given piece of software is by checking how frequently it’s been updated. This lets you make more informed decisions about which software to use. You can avoid sinking your time into something that’s gonna wither on the vine. Even if something IS abandoned, since the source code is freely available and made to open standards, another developer can pick it up and continue working on it. You’re not automatically beholden to the initial creator for support.
The open source solutions we build for businesses are of high quality. How do you defend that claim? By testing it! Open source solutions are free to be reviewed by anyone, at any time. With 10,000 eyes on your source code, any mistakes or problems will quickly be revealed and pointed out. More often than not, they’ll also be fixed and contributed back. This is Linus’ Law in effect. Named after Linus Torvald, the inventor of Linux, it states:
“Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”
This also makes the security of open source platforms more verifiable, since the source code of Drupal, WordPress and other open source platforms is publicly reviewable.
When we make something using an open source platform like Drupal, or Wordpress, we are making something that our client OWNS. They are free to take that thing to another developer, work on it themselves, or whatever they'd like. With a proprietary system, you have to to go to the original creator for any changes or additions to your software. The original creator then has to decide if adding your feature (which will change the software for all current and future users) is cost-effective for them. With open source, you have complete flexibility and customizability. You’re not locked into using us as you would be with proprietary systems. We let our expertise and experience convince our clients to stick around, not vendor-lock.
Open source solutions also cost much less than proprietary systems. In fact, they're often flat out free. Without licensing fees, which can be a percentage of the initial cost paid every year, you’re free to go further and get more out of your site or use that budget elsewhere. You're also free to try out the software however and wherever you'd like. From a small microsite spun up to try a new layout to a full implementation, you're free to have whatever you want built. In proprietary systems, you're limited by a free trial (assuming one is even available) with a short time span and restricted features to decide if you want to shell out for the full version.
Some of our own contributions to open source
We’re very active in the Drupal community and have organized and sponsored coding events like MidCamp, had our folks speak at Drupalcons and more. Here are some of the modules we’ve developed and contributed back to the open source community:
Drupal’s core software already had a system in place for adding a contact form so visitors could send you messages through your website. But, a client wanted to give their visitors the ability to reach out to them from a form that appeared at the bottom of their blog posts - the core Drupal contact system was through a dedicated contact page. Albert, one of our developers, got to work on creating Contact Field Formatter, a module that lets you put that form anywhere you please.
A client of ours has a site that really needs to showcase their beautiful, high-resolution images. Visitors to their site were going to want to see details on each of the images, so we put in a mouseover zoom function. Since we wanted to make sure their mobile-friendly site STAYED mobile friendly, we also wanted that functionality for visitors on their phones or tablets as well as desktops. We created a module that added this zoom function on touch to partially zoom images with panning, to better highlight photo heavy product pages, then contributed the module back to the Drupal community.
Our Web Strategist, Jim Birch, created a module that merged bundles of Paragraphs functions into the Bootstrap framework. This improved page builder lets content managers very easily build pages with columns, images with parallax effects, accordions, popup modals, image carousels and more without coding a single thing. You can get more details from Jim's presentation.