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Know The Facts: Proprietary Vs Open Source In Real Estate Web Design

Open_source_web_designOne of the least understood, yet most important elements when choosing your web design provider is knowing the difference between purchasing a proprietary product and an open source product. 

 Now that the internet is literally driven by open source (Wordpress, Firefox, Joomla, Thunderbird, Linux, Apache, MySQL, phpBB,, OSWD, WikiMedia, and more.) consumers have better, more affordable options and more effective tools for their needs. 

Don't find yourself handcuffed to a product or company that has developed a limited and expensive solution for your current needs.  Open source grows with you, and your options for service and development are approaching limitless.

Know the facts:

1. Ownership
Do you own the elements that make up your real estate website, blog or blogsite?

Open Source:

In most cases, yes, you do own all the elements of your site.
You have dominion over the code, graphics, functionality and content.
The site can in fact be in your copyright.
You never own all the elements of the site.  Your relationship to the site is in essence just 'renting'.
The code and functionality of the site are the core elements that you do not own.
Images and content are commonly owned by the client.
Being proprietary to the web design firm, the site is in their copyright

Something happens to the company that 'designed' your site (company is bought-out, folds, changes):
Result with Open Source: Your site can be easily moved to another host server without any loss whatsoever.
Result with Proprietary: At a minimum, you lose all the architecture, functionality and features of your site.

2. Hosting
Every site on the internet needs to be hosted somewhere, what are your options?

Open Source:
Most hosting companies have the capacity to host the database, code and content that make up your open source site.
Normally, for convenience sake and for easy access, your web design company will manage your hosting, but it is not obligatory
Hosting fees are normally minimal because there is no 'tie down'.
Email account management and domain forwards can be managed by client, or other.

Proprietary software must be hosted by the company that owns the software.
Changing hosts is not an option.
Fees are determined by demand because there are no other competitors to their hosting services.
All email management and domain management must be done by company hosting the domain/site.

Something happens to the company that 'designed' your site (company is bought-out, folds, changes):
Result with Open Source: Your site can be easily moved to another host server without any loss whatsoever.
Result with Proprietary: At a minimum, you lose all the architecture, functionality and features of your site.

You_Are_Just_Renting3. Upgrades
The marketplace is always changing, is your site staying competitive?

Open Source:
Open source is exponentially improved.  Thousands of designers and coders are constantly improving on the core functionalities.
New versions are released regularly with one click upgrading.
Hundreds of custom plug-ins are being introduced annually, offering new functionalities all the time.

Proprietary software only improves at the speed of the company's ability to compete.
Proprietary software only improves when the company recognizes the need to improve.
Upgrades must be performed by the software company.
Plug-Ins are only available if the design company develops them

You experience something on the internet that a competitor has implemented to enhance their site.
Result with Open Source: If feasible,* any capable designer can add the improving feature and more to your site.
Result with Proprietary: Your site must exist within the bounds of the company's ability and flexibility.

4. Design Improvements:
Sometimes you just need a new design.  We all do.

Open Source:
Employ your designer to whip something up.
Give one of thousands of designers access to your site, and pay them to give you that perfect new look.

Employ your designer to whip something up.
Cross your fingers and hope that a new designer can work within your web design company's unique format.

It's time for a change, and you don't want to work with the same designer you did the first time.
Result with Open Source: Any capable designer can work over open source and build you your vision.
Result with Proprietary: Some proprietary code will not be flexible enough to accept unique designers' themes.

5. Cost:
It's really all about the value, not the cost, nor the sales pitch.

Open Source:
Most open source is free or close to free.
Invest your money in truly custom designs and unique code development and organization for your needs.
Service fees are performed at a competitive rate because of the 'openess' of the site's architecture.
Any capable designer and/or coder can make the changes you require.

Base fees for proprietary products are unavoidable.
Design fees and custom changes add to the overall cost.
Fees are determined by demand because the product is considered unique
Changes must be performed 'in-house', at their fees and pace.

Scenario: There are better service providers, cheaper hosting, slick coders and creative designers that you want to take advantage of.
Result with Open Source: You can either work with the company that helped you develop your site originally, or employ any number of technicians to get the job done.
Result with Proprietary: You will to either work with the company that helped you develop you site originally, or start from scratch.

*Not all elements that are found online are transferable to all real estate websites.  IDX features, for example, vary from association to association.

Related Must Reads:
Open Source, Freely Taking Over The New World

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What an immensely helpful post to someone like me who's technically challenged. Kudos and thanks!

Very nice read; definitely something that I did not even take in consideration, which is: "what happens when your website company is bought-out, folds or change?"...(pauses as I call my web admin for the answer...)

Very interesting post and the way it is organized is so helpful to a very non-tech person like me. I now find that I read only a few selected Real Estate blogs (after all how much do you need to read about Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, etc?) and concentrate more on Tech Crunch and others like it so as to keep as up to date as possible regarding the points you addressed here.

Thanks for a great breakdown of custom code vs. open source customization. I'm working with a real estate client right now to move from a custom site (which has expanded by leaps and bounds) to an independently hosted and customized WordPress site.

There are some challenges, but I think the final product will be easier for him to maintain without outside assistance (now THAT is a serious cost savings!) and it will be easier to organize and search his content-rich site (making it more user-friendly). I'll be blogging on the challenges, the shortcomings, the solutions and the end result as they happen.

I love open source and think it's wonderful that you have offered this outline for those who have never compared these two options.

This is the whole reason why I am making the transition from a proprietary site to a blog...

I work for a home builder in Houston, and I was attempting to explain why it is smart to develop our community site on Joomla...because it can be passed on and it is constantly improved and upgraded. This article explains it perfectly...

Right now we are feeling a bit hijecked because the company that made our site is slighty less responsive than before. If we were to try to switch now, we would really have a hard time finding a qualified person willing and able to take over such a complex site... Every web designer does it a little differently. Their coding is Top-notch though... but without them we are up a creek.

Some of the open source options are a little amaterish for master coders... but the cost and time-savings of out-of the box open-source solutions makes them extremely cool.

Carson, you'll find that a lot of proprietary applications are a little amateurish for master coders, but because they can't see the code, they only know that they're buggy and slow to respond.

Great pros and cons Jim. Estately is entirely open source, but we wouldn't shy away from a closed source application if it was definitively better. It's just that for blogging and building websites, open source solutions are great.

I am really glad that i have found that post and the info about the Joomla tutorials in it! Thank you so much!

I just want to say one more tiime that all these is just wonderful and the info about the easy joomla tutorials is more than useful!

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