Inform clients on Opensource materials used or not?

When CMS is one of your client’s requirement, and if you decide to make use of Opensource platforms like Wordpress or Joomla since it fits their needs, would you tell your client first? Or would you just go ahead and use what you deem is suitable as long as you meet their requirements?

I am thinking of this because I have a problem when I tell clients that I will be using an Opensource CMS like Wordpress, they would be give me with that “hey! Isn’t that a free software? You should be charging lesser, shouldn’t you?”. I did try ways to explain like creating another CMS from scratch to have what many of these Opensource CMS could provide is totally WTF unless they have a lot of time and money to develop one but I could see that I don’t give them a good impression even after I explain.

Honestly, some clients wouldn’t even know what was being used to for their CMS as long as they could use it to update their site. But I don’t know if it is rightful to not let them know before hand that I will be using an Opensource material for their site.

How would you usually do?

I think your clients have a right to know what’s going into their sites. When you’re building a house, you would certainly know whether your cabinetry was hand made or store bought.

I don’t have a problem telling my clients which cms I use and why. Nor do I have a problem with telling them that something is open source and because it is, it saves them money. Most clients are happy to hear it.

When you see something that may be a problem (negative) find a way to turn it into a positive. That’s a positively sure way to make your business succeed.

Generally, the client won’t have the technical knowledge to understand the difference. Unless the client can get some additional benefits from an alternative product, giving the client the choice between two products will only confuse him. Of course, if there are potential benefits, then the client should be giving the choice.

Yes, but what’s wrong with offering a customer 2 quotes, one using existing software and another fully custom?

But the initial quote would obviously be a lot different, depending on whether it’s a customisation job or building a CMS from scratch?

I tell the clients which open source software I’ll be using for their site and include it in my proposal.

I haven’t had any problems with clients questioning my costs, but would just explain what is involved with creating a custom CSS template, configuring the open source software and adding their content (plus admin, testing, user training etc) - which is what my quotes are based on. :slight_smile:

To each their own. :wink:

Never fix something that’s not broken and never say too much. Words to live by! :slight_smile:

I just hate that phrase. Thankfully, a lot of people don’t follow it. A lot of great inventions have build on something which worked just fine. If noone ever improved on something that ‘worked’, there would be no internet, no colour monitors, no aircrafts, no cars, no trains, no telephone, no wheel, no nothing.

I don’t go into a long spiel about Open Source but I will point out the benefits of using a community driven Open Source project over a proprietary solution. As a matter of fact I’m in the process of discussing that very thing with one organization who is stuck with a proprietary CMS that powers three of their websites and another with a custom CMS that doesn’t provide enough customization for their needs.

The system the organization with three sites running would probably be suitable for their purposes but it’s hosted on extremely slow servers resulting in extremely poor response time for loading even a simple homepage. If they were using Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal, DotNetNuke, or any of the other well supported Open Source packages, they could just dump the database into a text file, host the site elsewhere, and then get on with business. As it stands now, they can’t just pack up the site and leave because it’s wrapped up in a proprietary CMS. We’ll probably have to build blank Drupal sites, copy and paste the content and then theme the sites to match the look and feel of the old sites.

Once they’re up and running in Drupal, they can do whatever they want. Even if they decide after we’ve set them up, they want to find another developer to work with, they are free to go with no strings attached. Of course that isn’t what I would choose for them to do but I let them know that they’ll have that kind of freedom and security with the solutions we suggest.

I tell them that I will be using Wordpress, Joomla, etc for their site. But I do not necessarily go into detailed explanations that they are open-sourced, code is available to public, etc.

All open-source CMS will eventually put out a new version with security update. When that happens, do you inform your client that they should update their code? If yes, then they will have to know that its code is open-source eventually anyways. So mind as well tell them upfront.

I think every client should be told if their site is running on a cms platform.

First, I think a lot of clients will easily understand the concept of a platform because it has broad applications in real life. Builders build most homes based on their basic designs and then tailoring the design to the needs of the specific homeowner. Auto companies build many of their cars on common chassis. I think clients understand and appreciate the concept of not reinventing the wheel.

Second, there is so much in mainstream press about Wordpress that even the owner of Mama’s Little Cheesecake Shop may have an inkling of what you are talking about. To assume that clients are clueless just because they are too small to have an IT department is presumptive and possibly demeaning.

Really… I always bring up implementation in writing, in the proposal. My clients are pretty savvy and if they don’t understand something, it’s usually pretty easy to explain the technicalities surrounding the various components of the project. Mind you, nearly every website we’ve built in the last 6 - 8 years have had some heavy customization so it’s critical that our clients thoroughly understand the system we’re building for them. We are very much partners in the process with our clientele.

Color me idiotic :smiley: Maybe not every client but more and more often I have had these discussions… Not necessarily because they want to resell the technology but because they have the responsibility to their stakeholders to know what technologies they are investing in. Then again that might just be my clients.

I find the fun discussions you describe generally end up with a greater understanding for all involved and prevents the client from getting a website that they hate. As a matter of fact it usually ends up with the client appreciating the site more if they are more involved in the process. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have clients hovering over me while I work but I do have very open and transparent discussions about the technology direction we are taking and yeah… If they have an idea I’ll definitely listen. I’m good but I’m not so confident to think I have all the answers and I’ve had clients provide some amazing solutions to really complicated issues.

I’ve found recently (last couple of years) that my clients have an increasing knowledge of Open Source CMS packages (as well as proprietary packages like Sharepoint, etc…) and that it’s not that they want the coolest technology but they’ve reviewed their peers websites and have seen the various successes that they have experienced with product X or package Y and as a result they either want the same thing or they want to know if it is the best fit for them.

Going into these conversations is an investment but with patience, honesty and transparency it will pay off in spades. In my book, long term clients, multi-year projects and referrals are well worth any discomfort involved in discussions explaining rudimentary elements of web development and programming.

…Ah, but that’s just me :stuck_out_tongue:

I see no problem in telling the client what CMS is being used. Whether or not it’s open source should mean nothing. But honestly in the hundreds of clients i’ve built cms websites for only a handfull have ever asked what cms is being used. Most people do not care and just want it to work.

I think we should be clear though. I agree that the client has the right to know about the project. Anything that will be important to the client is information that any web “professional” makes sure their clients have and understand. This frequently includes training as part of the project handover, rather than simply dropping everything in their lap. However, I believe it’s unprofessional to think that your client is your buddy to chat about web technology with. That’s why I come to Sitepoint, I chat and discuss the merits of various technologies and approaches with you all, that is NOT what your client is for.

As a professional designer/developer it is your job to build the best site you can for the most reasonable price for you client. I never bring up implementation except in response to client questions. Ideally, the client is in control of what the site requirements and you are in control of how to implement that. I fully agree that a client should never be confused about what’s going on and what their site will and won’t do, right down to resale of the technology. So do any of you give your clients a full hour+ training on the legal issues surrounding intellectual property rights as they apply to their website? Nobody is doing that. That would be idiotic. Is anyone going over HTTP security best practices every client? No. That is WHY your client hired you. It’s our job to understand what these different technologies mean, and break it down to the choice they have to make. “I can do X, and it will mean A to you, or I can do Y and it will mean B.” For freelance clients, anything more detailed than that is basically asking your client to do your job for you.

Worse, in the real world, your clients have frequently heard a buzzword or two. Having the “fun” discussions about how things work invites them to express opinions and make decisions about implementation details they don’t truly understand. They have enough information to be dangerous to themselves and their project, and if you open that can of worms, you wind up with a client who hates their site and doesn’t know why. Yes, you can carefully explain all the details and try to talk them out of it; but the point is WHY were they involved in that conversation in the first place? They don’t have the expertise to make good decision, which is why they came to you in the first place.

If a client has real implementation needs (their marketing department needs to demonstrate they’re using cooler technology than their competitor), that is the kind of thing you should be finding out in the discovery phase of Requirements development. Otherwise, I always treat requirements development (including client communication) as a black box problem. The SDLC is not designed to focus in on white box details that early in the process. It’s not even possible for you to know what design and architecture you’re going to use that early in the process. Don’t make the client be a web developer. Let the client bring their expertise in what they do and what they need from their application. You can’t afford to distract them from taking care of their portion of the project specs, and you can’t afford to lose track (or be having to argue with your client) about how you’re going to make that happen for them. You’re the expert in web development, you just take care of that, and they’re the ones who are experts in how to run their business best. Having two people collaborating by focusing on what they do best is how you make sure the collaboration yields excellent results and everyone winds up happy.

Total openness will garner long term relationships - and trust. To “hide” the fact that you are using the likes of Wordpress is to treat a client like an idiot. The web is no longer mystic, many people are far more savvy than once they were - and google makes up for the areas they don’t know.

Essentially as an internet professional you sell your skill. And that is measured fiscally (generally) by time. If you really think that wordpress is the best tool for the job, then by all means use it. Let the client know why you think it is a good fit, and explain what customisation you aim to provide for them, then bill for your time. Simple.

You may have some clients come back and say “can’t I just do that myself?”. To which the answer is obviously yes. In much the same way that one could plaster, or build ones own house. But without experience it will take far longer, probably be more shoddy and ultimately could end up costing more.

If your concern is looking unprofessional, don’t worry. Many people use OS solutions that fit the bill in a professional environment. In fact if the clients requirements exactly equate to Wordpress and they are billed hundreds of thousands for a bespoke solution that reinvents the wheel then I would argue that to be highly unethical at least.

If you have a client that wants to try and do it themselves, it can often actually be to your benefit to help them. Freely give advice. Point them in the right direction. I have done this on numerous occasions and the result is almost always that they come back and gladly give me the work when they know what’s involved - and that they have bitten off more than they can chew. By helping them and being open in the first place, a relationship of trust is built.

I inform my clients about what system is powering their site, just as I would tell them which web hosting provider is serving it if I would arrange it.

People in this thread are discussing writing the site from scratch or using an open-source application and the difference in cost—some even providing two quotations for it. These are not two equally perfect solutions for any project. The budget and the requirements are the deciding factors and those should be discussed way before any CMS is being considered.

Are you planning how to build the site before you’re even working with a signed client? I wouldn’t.

And I wouldn’t provide different quotations for different applications. That’s an informed decision we make together when we come to the stage of selecting the right tool for the job. Certainly not before anything has even been signed or the budget has been discussed. It’s not the way to provide quality results.

Quality results come from a process involving different stages of decision-making. I provide a service, not a product, which is why the price is discussed before the details of how the site will be made. You can slap a price tag on your product and have “no” decisions left to make—just producing it for your client—but it sounds like trouble to me.

Basically, I’m selling web services and not Dell computers that you can customize before you buy. Otherwise I’d get a web shop and start selling “solutions” for generic (read: fantasy) projects.

Back to the topic: Yes, I keep my clients informed and it’s one of the core values of my company to do so. No unnecessary surprises since I keep communication open and honest from the beginning.

I created and maintained a CMS about 8 - 10 years ago… It was great but it didn’t hold a candle to Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, etc…

I tell my clients right from the get-go that we’re using Drupal, WP, etc… unless they have a preference for something else. The client is paying for web development experience and expertise and there is enough work involved in customizing an Open Source package to make it into a unique website. If they have trouble with that, then show then a new (Garland themed) install of Drupal and then another site that you have customized. They’ll get the picture.

Furthermore, the speed of security patches and troubleshooting makes it a no brainer to go with a nice big community driven project :smiley:

I think what we’re losing here is that the understanding of different clients is quite simply different. What you tell the Director of IT at a large company who has you on contract is vastly different from what you’re going to talk about with the owner of Mama’s Little Cheesecake Shop, Chicago IL. That’s why requirements development is so different from other phases of the SDLC. It is primarily a discipline of communication; while you need technical expertise that is distinctly the subordinate skill you’re being called upon to exercise. If you can’t communicate effectively to determine your clients needs, the instant recall of an entire catalog of technological solutions won’t save you.

So I don’t believe it’s fair to say that someone is being “dishonest” if they don’t leave EVERY decision up to the client. A client wants a website that works, and part of what you are hired for is to provide your expertise. Put another way, I think of myself as a non-technological layer of abstraction which hides away the implementation of the website and exposes only the relevant information which the client needs to make decisions about what they want. I always keep discussions about projects on the level I/O. “I can execute the project this way which will require you to purchase this level of webhosting, and permit you to make changes like x, y, z in the future, vs. solution 2 that will cost more to code but provide cheaper webhosting, but without the ability to make those changes as easily.” & “If you want me to do that, I can but you will need to sign an open source software license. Given the needs you’ve expressed to me, that sounds like the best way to go.”

That means that you can’t just talk to your client and put together a specification, you have to LISTEN to your client and understand how this solution will integrate with their current business and factor in the future needs of the solution as best you can. One way I manage this is to epmloy incremental development methodologies. If I can deliver the UI, then I have a powerful tool for talking with the client “Is THIS what you wanted? Is THAT working the way you thought it would?” Once that’s nailed down, you can move on to the next phase/increment of the project. Constructing it piece by piece, giving your client the ability to change their mind, but at the same time requiring them to sign off on things phase by phase which allows you to avoid unacceptable scope-creep.