Flexibility, control and freedom are three of the biggest business needs for web sites, yet, so many senior managers do not know how to achieve this unless they design their own web site with the expertise of their own web development team. If your organisation is not in a position to hire it’s own design team then be sure know what to ask for to obtain the flexibility to have your web site reflect the feel of your business, to have control over who develops the site and implements updates, upgrades and other changes for you as well as the freedom to adapt your web site’s capability to meet your business’ developing use of technology.
When you look at your list of developers there are some important questions to ask about the production of web sites and the contractual agreements that are associated with them. Perhaps, today, the most important question to ask is how much of their work is based around open source technologies and who retains ownership over any works that are not based on open source technologies.
Open Source is a term used in the Information Technology industry to describe products or ‘code’ that has been licensed in a manner that allows the free use, modification and, usually, also permits re-release under the same license conditions (though this is not obligatory). One of the most thorough Open Source licenses is the Gnu Public License or GPL. Many very well known web development products are licensed under GPL including Joomla and Drupal, both web site content managers that have active development communities; WordPress and b2evolution, content tools to assist in web sites for bloggers and education content managers including Moodle. Databases that power web sites such as postgreSQL and MySQL are also available under GPL.
These tools are all very powerful because they are supported by a significant number of developers around the world. By using open source tools you are taking advantage of products that have already been purpose built, yet, have the flexibility to be customised to the suit the look and feel of your business and to present your core branding messages directly to your target audience.
It is important to find out from your short list of web developers what licensing is applied to the work that they perform for you and who owns the intellectual property, copyright and any third party sourced materials that are not from the open source community. This can greatly influence your decision, as if you own all work that they complete, then you are able to maintain full control over all aspects of your web site and, should something happen to your developer, you will be able to easily locate another directly from the open source community of developers and designers.
Another bonus of open source products is that you can ask your developer to not just customise the appearance but to also add functionality to the site that was not available previously. This allows the full customisation of your web site so that it can serve your business in an effective manner and can be reflective of your strategic goals as well as your work flow management. So, before you decide on a designer ask about their use of open source and how their own ‘coding’ fits into the licensing arrangements.