creating amazing digital stuff

Open source website development vs. traditional website development

Difference between open source website development vs. traditional website development

In a recent proposal, E-creation was asked to explain what open source website development is in laymen’s terms. Since a layman’s explanation of open source website development is probably useful for other potential clients exploring the best avenue for their website development approaches, here is an extract:

On a simple level, open source vs. traditional website development is similar to the difference between Wikipedia vs. Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica is a commercial resource written by experts, with staff & organizational costs and as a resulting, substantial cost attached to the purchase of the content. Wikipedia is a content platform, open to anyone, where information is entered / validated by the public – and offered to the public for free. Quality of the information is ‘policed’ by the public (effectively using ‘wisdom of the crowds’) and research indicates that the quality of information is generally as good (see below*).

Open source code platforms allow the public to create & publish code, with quality control managed through developers rating each others code. There are thousands of open source objects or plugins available for functionality such as newsletters, Twitter feeds & shopping carts, which helps to reduce project development costs & timescales. For clients looking to develop websites, choosing between open source & traditional development, is not a question of quality of code, but rather a philosophy. is an example of a classic development platform (with associated license costs & ‘from scratch’ development costs).

During website development projects, the use of OpenSource technology (such as WordPress) provides significant time / cost benefits, as many free plug-ins are available to deliver key functionality for your website requirements. The costs involved are research, installation & customization time, rather than specification, coding & testing.

As open source plug-ins are already commercially in use in other sites, their functionality is tried & tested (reducing bug fixing time at the end of the project). The challenge faced by developers coming from non-open source background is the time involved in project management / training, which can add to development costs.

* “For its study, Nature chose articles from both sites in a wide range of topics and sent them to what it called “relevant” field experts for peer review. The experts then compared the competing articles–one from each site on a given topic–side by side, but were not told which article came from which site. Nature got back 42 usable reviews from its field of experts.

In the end, the journal found just eight serious errors, such as general misunderstandings of vital concepts, in the articles. Of those, four came from each site. They did, however, discover a series of factual errors, omissions or misleading statements. All told, Wikipedia had 162 such problems, while Britannica had 123.

That averages out to 2.92 mistakes per article for Britannica and 3.86 for Wikipedia.”