Web design: embracing open source

Why ditching in-house tools for an open-source approach could be the best decision you ever made

There’s a term you hear a lot from digital agencies when platforms are being pitched to clients: in-house. Maybe it’s an in-house CMS, for example, honed over the years to provide the perfect experience and functionality for a client. Of course, using said CMS requires serious training, and you’ll probably need to enlist the help of the agency to keep it up-to-date and secure. And what about e-commerce? That’s where an in-house solution is critical, yes? With agencies boasting a client list of high street brands as long as your arm, you can trust a bespoke e-commerce solution – though incredibly expensive, and often a model of esoterica – to provide you with everything you need to trade both efficiently and safely online.

However, a growing number of agencies are shunning this approach, embracing open-source tools and stealing a serious march over the competition, as clients become more selective. For today’s savvier client, the first question isn’t which agency they’ll use, it’s often which platform they’ll use. They’ve done their research and they know they want their site powered by an open-source behemoth such as Drupal, WordPress or Magento. The next step for them is finding an agency that specialises in that area, and if you and your clients are locked into using in-house tools, then that agency isn’t yours.

A number of open-source companies have now put partner schemes in place – borrowing from the likes of Facebook’s preferred developer list – and the e-commerce tool Magento is a perfect example of the competitive advantage you can gain by joining such a programme.

Focusing on open source isn’t right for everyone, but, even if you don’t put it at the centre of what you do, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.