At Clique Studios, we’ve been designing and building digital platforms (websites, web applications, mobile apps, etc.) for over 11 years. We’ve always believed that open source platforms offer the best value proposition to our clients, regardless of industry or size. Over the years we have found that our municipal clients typically don’t have open-source at the top of their minds, but it can provide many of the same advantages in the public space that it does in the private sector.
Unlike proprietary platforms, which are often inflexible, open-source solutions allow you and your web partner to design and build a site-specific to your needs. Typical platform limitations such as predefined navigation structures, inelegant calendar implementations, and difficulty integrating with 3rd party tools simply don’t exist in the customized open source world. With open-source, everything can be designed and built from scratch to meet your specific goals.
No Contract Anxiety
A proprietary platform usually comes with a contract, and when that contract expires, so does your website. This can cause stress and anxiety when the time comes for a new site on a new platform. This extra source of stress sometimes prevents clients from giving themselves the time they need to develop and execute a strategy first approach and website design. Open source platforms are free, and these potential contract complexities are non-existent. So, if for some reason we went away, your site would not go away, nor would the ability for another provider to work on it.
You’ll probably have one or more people that are already familiar with an open-source platform, which makes it easier to quickly get up to speed on how to use your new website. One of our favorite open-source platforms, WordPress, powers over 25% of the websites in the world, so in addition to the CMS training included with your project, chances are you’ll have someone on staff who has used it in the past!
Accessibility on the web has always been important, and thankfully it’s now getting the spotlight that it deserves. With an open-source solution, you are not beholden to the accessibility capabilities of a specific platform, and can instead approach your website redesign with your unique accessibility requirements. Together, you can work with your web partner on meeting those goals so your site can be a valuable tool for all of your citizens.
There’s no question that open source platforms are more “battle-tested” than their proprietary counterparts. Due to their popularization across the internet, open-source tools have the advantage of user testing from millions and millions of users. With years of collective learning, open-source leads the way for intuitive, easy-to-manage admin experiences.
Put simply… Proprietary = paid subscription, Open Source = free to use!
Security is a favorite talking point of salespeople working at the proprietary platforms. They like to throw out red herring stats about open source and its vulnerability. Yes, it is true, more total WordPress websites have been hacked than a single proprietary platform. WordPress, however, makes up over 25% of all websites on the internet, so… math. Also, the “total websites hacked” numbers include all WordPress installs—those done by novices, bloggers, kids and everyone in between. An enterprise-level implementation will be built to be secure with proper hosting configuration, SSH keys, custom login URLs (not /admin), brute-force prevention, etc. It will also come with training to help your team be more secure. 16% of all WordPress hacks are a result of password theft—not something unique to open source. Using a unique username and password goes a long way no matter the platform you are on.
You can have the greatest website in the world, but if people can’t find it, it won’t deliver an ounce of value to your citizens. Thanks to their intuitive admin implementations and great plugin extensions, open-source platforms make it easy for your team to do the SEO work required to make your site as discoverable as possible through meta-tagging, page titles, alt text, etc.
Different Partner Attitude
Web partners that focus exclusively on open source usually have a different attitude and approach to strategy and execution. The realities of the open-source world—where anything is possible and there are lots of people who can build on the platforms—attract organizations who focus on constant improvement and thrive in challenging environments: they have to push themselves to stay ahead of the curve. Due to the inherent limitations in their systems, proprietary platform partners, are typically less helpful on the problem-solving front and can take longer to respond to requests.
As you consider your future website platform, consider the type of experience you want for your taxpayers, and the type of experience you want to have in delivering it to them. Stale solutions don’t deliver the biggest impacts for you or your citizens. You have unique challenges. Challenges that deserve fresh takes and active problem-solving. Challenges that deserve open source.
A Word of Caution
Not all open-source implementations are the same. A reputable provider will take you and your team’s “users experience” into account and create a platform that is easy to use. They will also deliver a platform with bulletproof security. Your friend’s niece working out of their parent’s basement might not deliver that ( if you’ve seen more amateur implementations, you know what I’m talking about). Know there is a difference and be sure to hire an agency with a strong reputation.