Static vs dynamic sites, Open source vs Proprietary software

When starting Neem Tree and assessing the Australian market, I noticed there was a significant dissimilarity between Aussie and Stateside consulting cultures. American IT consulting is dominated by larger firms, either software generalists (e.g. Sapient, SAPE 2007 revenue 675 M) with in-house web, information architecture, and marketing expertise, or interactive marketing firms (e.g. Agency.com, OMC 2007 revenue 13 B); whereas the Australian market is mostly comprised of design-focussed micro-agencies.

My wa/guess is that the combination of technology adoption latency and the fewer resources of the local agencies has resulted in an unfortunate bias towards static, custom, or proprietary web solutions. The semantics of these terms, in this context:

static
These sites can not be updated by non-technical users, they HTML-only implementations and need to be re-coded to be updated.
custom
Either static or dynamic site, that is built from scratch, instead of leveraging existing frameworks and solutions.
proprietary
The opposite of open source, proprietary software producers exercise private control over the use of their solutions, resulting in licensing fees and/or the inability to customise it.
CMS
Content Management System

Static vs CMS
Some reasons why you don't want a static website:

  • Creating a static site is cumbersome; which is why service providers who still offer this solution charge 'by the page'. With a CMS you can add as much content (as many 'pages') as you want.
  • Updating a static sites is cumbersome; it requires knowledge of HTML, FTP/web server access, and if you're relying on your website consultant to do it expect additional costs and time delays for each update.
  • 1994 called, and wants its technology back.

Custom vs CMS
Some reasons why you don't want a built-from-scratch website:

  • Building anything from scratch is time consuming and expensive.
  • Building a custom solution circumvents many best practices built into existing CMSs.
  • A widely used CMS ensures ongoing testing feedback.
  • Most CMSs provide routine upgrades ensuring ongoing security, performance, and functionality improvements.
  • Most good CMSs also enable extensive customisation, allowing for tailoring equivalent to that of a bespoke solution.
  • 1999 called, and wants its technology back.

There were a couple of sessions at last month's Bar Camp Sydney which covered this topic, but consensus wasn't reached ;)

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Open source vs Proprietary
This post, was mostly inspired by the report that a provider of a proprietary CMS solution is "spreading some good old fashioned FUD [fear, uncertainty, doubt] about open source software".

While I believe a CMS should be a best-fit solution to a given set of requirements; I strongly believe that most licensees of $50,000 to $150,000 are overpaying.

First, the proprietary software vendor's post, Open Source is Free like a Free Puppy is Free:

We look differently at the cardboard box full of free puppies outside the super market once we become adults. As children what could be more fun than to get a puppy who is going to be your friend for life? Why not mom…it’s FREE!!
...
Open source WCM solutions are very similar. The free price tag is attractive at first, but for online strategies that have multiple initiatives (intranet, extranet, portal, landing pages, micro-sites, etc.), the hidden fees lie in the heavy customization, maintenance and engineering work.

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Followed by the excellent rebuttal that inspired this post:

In a throwback to 2003, the Interwoven blog has a post spreading some good old fashioned FUD about open source software. The general message is that, while the software is free, open source will wind up costing you more money in the long run because it lacks the functionality of commercial software (presumably like TeamSite). Like most blanket statements about whole categories of software, the accuracy is dubious.

In conclusion
Get online, with an open source content management solution (preferably Drupal). Static sites are not sustainable. Good CMSs are just as customisable as 'custom' implementations, quicker to implement, and better supported. Open source provides quality, full featured solutions at a fraction of the cost of proprietary systems.