5 Best (and Easy) Open Source Website BuildersA website is essential for every small business, even if it's just a simple information page. Forget phone books or newspapers; prospective customers look websites. You can publish and maintain your own site, and these five open source website builders make it easy and affordable.
Before You Build an Open Source Website
First you need a registered domain name. Let's say your business is Golden Touch Tattoos. You want your customers visiting goldentouchtattoos.com and emailing you at email@example.com. Using a free service like Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo looks amateurish, and firstname.lastname@example.org doesn't support branding or help people remember you. A registered domain name costs about $16 per year, and you can find registrars here.
Next you need a Web hosting service. Don't spend more than $50/month for a service with lots of features and choices for site builders. Web hosting is a cutthroat business full of bad hosts, so visit Web Hosting Talk to find the best.
Now you're ready to start. These five open source website builders—from small and simple to large and full-featured—come with multiple themes for customizing their appearance, spam filters, and multiple language support. No coding required, and any good Web host should offer them.
Textpattern Open Source Website BuilderThe Textpattern free and open source website builder works especially well for text-heavy websites that post lots of tutorials, detailed product information, announcements, press releases, or a CEO blog full of deep thoughts. You can easily post and organize images, too.
Textpattern uses a Web-based administration console and offers slick features like a plain-text-to-Web-page converter, human-readable URLs (which are great for search engine optimization), very flexible organization and categorization, and control over reader comments. Textpattern makes writing and editing new content fast and intuitive, and its layout controls won't drive you crazy—you can actually make your pages and articles look the way you want without a fight. If you're looking for a simple, yet effective open source website builder, give Textpattern a shot.
Dotclear Open Source Website BuilderLike Textpattern, the DotClear open source website builder gives you easy formatting, editing, and layout tools that don't get in your way. It includes modules for importing your content from other blogs and good multi-media management capabilities.
It also includes a feature you won’t find in most website builders (open source or not): support for Braille displays and screen readers. Don't forget your vision-impaired or keyboard/mouse-impaired customers, because their money spends exactly the same as everyone else's and, even in the 21st century, most businesses still overlook that demographic.
Wordpress Open Source Website BuilderWordpress is two different things: it's free open source blogging software that you download and install on your own Web server, and Wordpress.com is a website that hosts Wordpress blogs, with both free and paid services. It's the most popular blogging site, and for good reason—it's fast and easy to learn. With this open source website builder, you can literally create and publish a new site in a few minutes.
If you're new to building your own website, open a free Wordpress account to practice. It includes 3GB of storage, a statistics system so you can see where your traffic comes from, spam filter, and 100+ free themes.
A free Wordpress account isn't suitable for a business website, because you can't use your own domain name; instead you get a subdomain like mysite.wordpress.com. For a business website, spend a few bucks so you can use your own domain name.
Wordpress.com charges $17 to $24 per year for a custom domain name. If you publish lots of content, photos, or videos, extra storage ranges from $19.97 to $289.97 per year, depending on how much you need. There are no bandwidth charges.
Video hosting costs $59.97 a year, and it supports high- and low-definition videos. When you upload video, Wordpress.com automatically converts it to the correct format. Wordpress supports forums, image galleries, videos, blogs, and newsfeeds.
Plone Open Source Website BuilderPlone doesn't get much buzz, which is surprising for such an excellent open source website builder. Known for its polish, speed, and user-friendliness, Plone offers superior editing tools, great search and indexing, and painless upgrades. It renders pages correctly in all Web browsers, even old versions of Internet Explorer.
Plone stores binary files and file data in the filesystem, which makes it very efficient in terms of server speed and storage. But complexity is its one downside. That's hard to avoid with a fully-featured content management system (CMS), so you're in for more initial setup work than say, Wordpress. However, after the initial setup, a well-organized administration interface makes it fairly painless to administer.
Drupal Open Source Website BuilderDrupal is the most flexible open source website builder and CMS, and—because of this flexibility—it's the most future-proof. You can start small, learn your way around, add features and content at your own pace, and Drupal will grow along with your business.
Its administration interface is a sleek dynamic overlay with controls appropriate to the page you're on, which means everything you need is always in front of you. Drupal's huge developer and user community crank out themes and extensions day after day. If you need a specific feature, it's probably out there somewhere.
Drupal may be overkill for a simple website, but if you want the option to add features and grow your site over time, it's a great choice.
Carla Schroder is the author of The Book of Audacity, Linux Cookbook, Linux Networking Cookbook, and hundreds of Linux how-to articles. She's the former managing editor of Linux Planet and Linux Today.
Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!
You don’t have to spend a fortune, or much at all, to build your own small business website. These five open source website builders offer ease of use, flexibility, and low cost.