Open-source vs proprietary CMS: Who wins?

Understanding the basics

A CMS (content management system) is a user-friendly interface that allows a website’s owner to house, manage and post content on a website—blogs, pictures, videos, memes, gifs, etc.

There are two main types of CMS platforms: open source and proprietary.

This is your website on an open-source CMS

Adding a new product or service? Create a new page, write some content, upload the images, connect it to your digital payment system and make it live!

An open-source CMS like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and others allows a website’s owner and designees to contribute or update as needed with very little coding or training. By its nature, open-source software fosters creativity and advancement, so a website built on one of these platforms can have access to highly advanced features and vast functionalities far beyond what a single person or team could develop. 

An open-source CMS gives owners control over their website’s content … which is good. This technology allows a business to truly define themselves in real-time, mostly independent of anyone else if they so choose. 

In short, CMS makes attractive and effective content creation possible for the IT-uninitiated.

So, what is a proprietary CMS, you may ask? A proprietary CMS is built from scratch by an agency or website developer and maintained by them. This model requires surrendering control of the creation and functionality of your website to someone outside of your company or business, potentially cutting off any access you might have to your website’s source code and editing functions. 

This is your website on Proprietary CMS

While a proprietary CMS may have some positive aspects, such as custom design, single point of access for support and fewer software updates and bug fixes, the many disadvantages put open source decidedly over the top.

Control. A proprietary CMS is like hiring a gatekeeper who doesn’t answer to you. Limiting the number of individuals who work on your site, often to one or even none from within your organization, makes updates, changes and customization difficult. You are buying a locked door to which you have no reliable key. You don’t have access to the back end of the site and you don’t have control of any design changes or alterations, updates or edits. 

Money. A proprietary CMS is built on proprietary software, which usually requires annual or monthly licensing fees, on top of the cost of hosting, which is usually required to be housed on the same server. Begin the financial pile on. 

Ownership. One more thing about the horrors of proprietary CMS. Read the fine print. In general, there is a question of who owns the site at the beginning of the process. It will allow you to maintain control if it exists, but you have to ask. If not, the company that built that site owns the site. You are just renting, essentially. 


Any questions?

At Rooted Web, we build our sites on an open-source CMS (WordPress, to be specific). We design your website (from scratch, mind you) and then hand it over. It’s yours. Take it. We’ll help down the road if you like. It’s up to you and we are happy to do it, but it is your choice. Want to know more? Let’s talk

Posted in

Cole Windler

Cole Windler is a copywriter and SEO expert. He uses his creative writing background to create fresh, compelling and customized content for Rooted Web clients.