We recently attended the Internet World show in London and found it very interesting to note that a number of companies are developing business models by partnering with open source technologies and then selling on the expert services of design and build within them.
We’ve seen this over the years with the ubiquitous and brilliant Word Press that is used for this Blog, and the number of excellent plug-ins and community support available make it an obvious choice.
But as a digital marketing agency, typically we’ve had to offer robust licensed solutions for clients, and to that end we’ve been reselling technologies such as Activedition for CMS and ePages for eCommerce. The catch for clients in this climate is that they come at a price, a typical license costing thousands before you’ve even started design. Now don’t get me wrong, for specialist projects such as Fellows & Sons where we needed a solution to a specific problem, Activedition is the perfect tool, but I have to say for a typical company’s CMS solution it’s a sledgehammer to crack a nut, and the cost of a package such as ePages makes the average SME groan, say thanks for the quote and go off to someone else.
So we’ve been looking for open source solutions so that we can still win the work and not have to give up on producing great creative and well constructed web sites, that are SEO effective.
Internet World was an eye opener as we were confronted with some amazing tools such as Magento for eCommerce which on the face of it seems to offer the same, if not in some areas more than the licensed version of software we use, and if we need support there is a network of companies providing it. We are researching this tool in detail right now as you can imagine and have noted a couple of books available to support it available on Amazon. More on this topic in later posts as we need to get it downloaded in a test environment to see if the hype matches the reality.
As for Word Press we’ve used this for a few builds that required elements of CMS, didn’t have the budget, but did require quality design, the most recent being wowsmileuk. Saving to the client on the build vs AE is roughly £4K, and as they won’t change anything very often it makes absolute sense. A great book on the subject is available from Tessa Blakeley Silver called Word Press Theme Design.
As for the true CMS market we’ve discovered Joomla, and have been studying the excellent book by Barrie North called Joomla! A Users Guide. We’ve got a test version on the server and we are going to embark on transitioning a static customer site into Joomla in the next few weeks, I’ll keep you posted, but we are excited about this one as it follows all of the best practice and usability of the corporate strength Activedition…
But there’s more, we discovered Usability testing programme Silverback which looks cool, although Mac only at $49 it will help no end with some upcoming usability studies for smaller clients, and for CRM we came across Sugar which for one of the guys in our sales dept was like a revelation, and at $7 per user per month looks pretty good, James downloaded it Friday so we’ll give you an update soon.
So in summary, Internet World has piqued our interest in how these open source solutions can help digital marketing agencies such as ourselves to better equip the SME market with world class technology underneath their web assets for a fraction of the cost. Now that seems like a pretty good thing in the midst of a recession. We can continue to add value where we should, in the marketing consultancy and web design verticals, and we don’t have to weaken our position by offshoring design and development which inevitably results in poorer customer service. A lot of agencies are doing it or contemplating it though.
We’ve a bit of work to do in getting to know these open source solutions better, but with the level of uptake and community support, it shouldn’t be too big a problem. So check out the list below, its hardly exhaustive but these are the packages we’ve had time to focus on, and let us know what you think…