Read This Before You Choose An Open Source Content Management System

Given the number of choices, it is important to understand which CMS is right for your business and its growth plans.

By Mat Dave Jones  |  Updated: July 22, 2019  |  7 min read
Read This Before You Choose An Open Source Content Management System

When you visit a website, you are likely interacting with an open source content management system. Startups, media companies, publicly-traded corporations, and everyone in between leverage a content management system (CMS) to deliver cutting-edge user experiences.

Content management systems are behind-the-scenes infrastructure that allows organizations to upload, edit, and publish media of all types – including text, photos, and videos.

There is clear value in selecting a CMS, but understanding which vendor (and which specific offering) suits your business is a complicated and involved process.

In this post, we will summarize open source content management systems and provide the criteria you should use when evaluating a new solution.

Why Open Source?

In software development, open source refers to code that is available freely to the public. Anyone can use and edit open source software without needing to pay the original creator(s).

As of 2015, 78% of companies use open source software for their vital operations. Open source software is rapidly gaining popularity primarily due to its advantages for organizations of all sizes.

First, open source software is flexible. Developers and companies build on top of and extend the features of the base software, making them suitable to a variety of use cases.

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The open source movement also fosters transparency. Because the code is available in a public repository, your dev team can keep track of changes and ensure new code meets your internal privacy and security standards.

Further, open source projects usually have better documentation. Given that code is contributed from around the world, projects do a good job of clearly articulating their current features and plans for the future.

Using open source software also eliminates vendor lock-in. Instead of being owned by an individual company, open source projects are shared with the public. As a result, you have more control over your data.

Navigating Open Source Content Management System Options

There are numerous open source content management systems, each with their own set of pros and cons. This post will help you navigate the content management space and discover the right product and community based on your specific needs.

There are no “one-size-fits-all” content management systems. You should find a solution that accommodates your current needs and future growth, which will vary from organization to organization.

As an analogy: A Toyota Camry makes a great, economical car. It’s reliable, gets good gas mileage, and fits the needs of most. However, a Camry is not the right option for off-roading, towing, or hauling large loads. The second job is better suited by a Ford F150 pickup truck.

That’s not to say one is good and the other is bad. Rather, you need to find an open source content management system that matches your needs.

A Solution That Keeps You Ahead of the Competition

When investing in technology, you want to look to the future.

For a content management system, two goals need to be met. First, you have to select a solution that works for your current needs. Then, your solution should keep you one step ahead of the competition.

For example, you want to be able to support the latest industry trends, security standards, and programming languages. Falling behind in one of these areas can be costly, both for your development efforts and for your bottom line.

Website performance and speed is one area where you always want to stay competitive.

Why do load speeds matter?

Website speed directly impacts your user experience and search engine optimization (SEO). According to Sean Work, “40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.”

Moreover, Google has started to punish websites that load slowly by ranking them lower in search results.

Your CMS selection makes a large impact on the availability and performance of your site. For instance, WordPress does not have the ability to cache pages.

While this may acceptable in the beginning, as you add more content and plugins, WordPress has a noticeable decrease in stability and performance. Scalability is another major consideration when selecting a CMS.

Each year, food giant Pizza Hut evaluates their website traffic from the previous year. They look at their busiest day and plan next year’s server capacity to handle double that load. This is a great way to think about scale and ever-increasing demands.

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As you look ahead, be sure to consider solutions that have spent the money to build a scalable infrastructure. As a company, you want to spend your money on your website and performance – not on software licenses and confusing contracts.

The Importance of Complete Creative Freedom

Your content management system should never hold you back. From UI and UX design to integrations and plugins, the whole experience should be seamless.

When looking to create a website or web application, you should not feel constrained. The design should be unique, and communicate your brand’s values. The interactions should be fluid, and work across all device types.

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In addition, your website should be future-proof and ready to support what’s coming around the corner, like HTML6 and CSS4. And it’s more than skin deep.

The right open source content management system has the ability to expand to integrate your internal API or any third-party APIs that are needed.

Why creative freedom matters?

Creative freedom is important to designers, developers, marketers, businesspeople, and more. As a company, you want to be prepared for whatever comes next – whether that’s a new device, programming language, API, or customer expectation.

Having creative freedom allows your team to quickly adapt and launch an update, without having to go back and evaluate whether your current content management system is the right CMS for the job.

Say no to cobbled together solutions once and for all!

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When evaluating software, people often fall into a false dichotomy. They believe they must pick between a compromised solution and a huge price tag. But we’re here to tell you that there is an other option.

Open source software allows for affordable prices, quick adoption, creative control, high performance, and enterprise-grade security. When evaluating CMS offerings, consider which system suits all of your needs.

Keep Your Content Secure

Security is no longer solely the concern of Fortune 500 enterprises and banks. Every software product, retail store, startup business and so on has sensitive information, including email addresses, passwords, private messages, photos, etc.

According to the U.S. Government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), there are more than 1,500 reported vulnerabilities for WordPress and over 1,000 reported vulnerabilities for Drupal.

Large platforms often become targets by hackers and other nefarious actors, because one successful attack can lead to a massive data breach.

Having secure content means having conviction in your content management system, but it means more than that. Data security often comes down to people. Ensure that the CMS you are evaluating has granular roles and permissions, so you select the exact permission that is required by each role.

Why does security matter?

Security matters for all stakeholders – from development to customer support and marketing. Furthermore, security is a broad topic that encompasses how safe your platform is from malicious actors and permissions for your internal teams.

There are a number of people looking to harm your services, including crypto miners, spammers, and botnets orchestrating distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

At the end of the day, security matters because customers need to trust you. They need to trust your systems are secure, and, if there are problems, you will provide an expedient solution.

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For many, security comes at the cost of affordability and speed. This is not true. By leveraging an open source platform, you benefit from thousands of hours of development effort.

Furthermore, being safe means keeping your systems up-to-date. Ideally, the open source community supporting your CMS is active and aware of the best practices even as they change over the coming months and years.


Content management systems are the underpinnings of most modern websites and web applications. Given the number of choices, it is important to understand which CMS is right for your business and its growth plans.

When evaluating open source content management systems, we recommend selecting a solution that is on the cutting-edge of technology, empowers you to create custom user experiences, and keeps your data secure.

Now that you understand the framework, you are prepared to evaluate different CMS offerings and how they fit your specific use case!

For more information or to start using a great open source content management system for free, check out MODX Revolution.