Today, online purchases have now become the norm. The expansion of online business during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a phenomenal boost in online sales. US e-commerce increased 14.2% to a total sales reach of $4.55 trillion in 2021. Businesses around the world are clamoring to get into e-commerce in the hopes of attracting new customers and boost their sales.
If you yourself are looking to develop your online business, you have surely asked yourself the question: which platform should you use for your e-commerce solution?
Finding the best e-commerce platform according to your business’s needs can be difficult. There are today numerous options available to choose from, which doesn’t make it any easier to choose. Your choice of platfrom depends on your business objectives and what you want to accomplish.
On the one hand, there are several sites that offer SaaS (Software as a Service) which works on a subscription model. These platforms let you essentailly “rent” software. They support a wide range of aspects, but they can also have several restrictions.
On the other hand, open-source platforms provide much more freedom to users but can also be difficult to use and involve greater responsibilities. These platforms are increasingly popular since as they provide complete access to the source code, you have the ability to change, create, and build whatever you need from your e-commerce solution.
To help you choose, this article provides the pros along with the cons of using open-source platforms.
The most common open-source and proprietary CMSes
WordPress, along with the WooCommerce plugin, PrestaShop, and Drupal are some of the most widely used CMSes on the market. In particular, WordPress represented more than 65% of the CMS market in 2021.
Differences between open-source software and proprietary software
Open-source CMSes like WordPress or PrestaShop and proprietary CMSes are different in several ways. Generally, these differences mostly have to do with the total freedom on the open source side and automation, that certainly makes things easier but can also make things more restrictive, on the side of proprietary CMSes. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between these two options.
The first difference between these two options is price. At first glance, an open-source CMS seems much less expensive than a proprietary option. However, the additional control that open-source software generally provides involves additional responsibilities, and therefore additional costs.
An open-source CMS is freely downloadable at no cost.
However, this solution involves ancillary costs like domain name registration, hosting, SSL certificate, or plugins that enable you to design your e-commerce site.
Even if downloading an open-source CMS is completely free, you should still consider the additional costs involved in your decisionmaking.
A proprietary CMS costs money, consisting generally of a monthly or annual subscription.
Each company determines its own products and prices. A subscription for a proprietary CMS generally includes a good number of services such as hosting, technical support, updates, design, security, and more.
Installation is a key difference between open source and proprietary software.
With open-source software, installing and setting up your site is at your expense, including reserving a domain name, choosing your hosting, installing your CMS, installing your SSL certificate.
However, these steps are relatively intuitive and your hosting provide will be able to help you along each step along the way.
With proprietary software, the entirety of the installation of the software itself is taken on by the company that owns the proprietary software.
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The main difference between an open-source CMS and proprietary software remains the design and customization of your e-commerce website.
As its name indicates, an open-source CMS is free software. In other words, the source code is accessible to everyone and can be enhanced and modified by anyone who wants to contribute.
You have, then, complete freedom in the design of your e-commerce website. You can set your own, complete design of your site.
However, not everyone is a computer programming expert. With open-source CMSes like WordPress or PrestaShop, a wide array of templates and plugins are available to help you design your e-commerce website.
With an open-source CMS, you can create your website as you see fit. Choosing design, configuring your payment system, and optimizing your website’s search engine ranking and boost traffic.
Proprietary software is developed by a business who maintains control over its own source code. As such, the company carries out your website’s integration for you. This amounts to gains in both time and money but you have less freedom and flexibility in your site design. However, the search engine ranking of sites hosted on proprietary platforms is generally mediocre, which can hurt your visibility.
On the other hand, once your website is hosted on a proprietary platorm, you are dependent on it since the source code belongs to them. If later you wnat to change CMS, you’ll have to start from scratch and redesign your entire website.
Your e-commerce website’s security is essential. Protecting the data of your customers and transactions should be one of your priorities.
A proprietary software platform will take care of securing your website automatically, without you having to worry about this aspect of your e-commerce website. Security is not your responsibility, but you also have no control over your data or your customers’.
Maintenance and support
Have a bug? A question? A doubt? You may face a problem or a bug when managing your website. Support, then, is very important for helping you resolve problems quickly and effectively.
Similarly to security, maintaining your site is up to you. You will have to take care of any software updates and management of your site.
However, you can count on a large community of users and developers to help you. By creating your site with an open-source CMS, you’ll find multiple forms of support online.
With a proprietary software platform, all maintenance is taken on by the company. They take care of the management of your website and make updates. You don’t have a hand in the maintenance of your site and will have to trust the company.
If there’s a problem, you’ll have to contact the support team of the company you’re using, and the quality of support depends on the company.
Why choose open source?
Advantages of open source
When it comes to creating your e-commerce website, choosing open source offers numerous advantages.
Unlimited freedom: When it comes to the design of your e-commerce website, you have virtuallly unlimited freedom. You can design your website as you see fit and give your imagination free reign with almost no restrictions, which is not possible with a proprietary software platform. Open-source CMSes offer a wide range of free and for-sale themes and plugins to help you with designing your website
Lots of flexibilty: You are in complete control of the administration and configuration of your website. Of course, this involves additional responsibilities, but it also grants you to ability to set up your e-commerce website as you see fit and maintain control over the administration of your site
A large community: The community of open-source CMS users and developers, particularly WordPress, is fairly large. Plugins and themes are constantly updated by their creators to fix bugs and security flaws. Additionally, this community gives you access to advanced technical support, especially through online forums
Better search ranking: Proprietary software platforms are generally considered to be suboptimal in terms of search ranking. With an open-source e-commerce website, you can optimize your search ranking the way you want to and boost your e-commerce site’s visibility
The downsides of open source
Requires more work than proprietary software: The freedom and flexibility that an open-source CMS offers also entail responsibilities. The installation, management of your domain name and web hosting, as well as the configuration and maintenance of your e-commerce website are up to you. That gives you a great degree of freedom but requires you to familiarize yourself with all aspects. A proprietary CMS automates all these aspects and enables you to gain time and energy, at the expense of risking impacting the quality of your website
Potential vulnerability in terms of security: With an open-source CMS, you’re in charge of everything. As such, if you don’t pay attention, security flaws may appear in terms of security and unintentionally allow hackers to introduce malicious software and put your website’s as well as your customers’ data. Your e-commerce website needs enhanced security with special attention to your plugins and their compatibility in order not to open the doors to cyberthreats
Launch your e-commerce website with WordPress!
With WordPress and its dedicated plugin for e-commerce websites, WooCommerce, launch your e-commerce website and configure to as you see fit while benefiting from the large community of developer and users that can help you along with this adventure.
At Gandi, we take care of technical complications and leave it to you to choose your domain name, web hosting, and get started designing your website!