Open Source Software (OSS) is the cornerstone of Web Design Highlands. In contrast to closed-source software (for example, most games, Microsoft’s Windows or the software running your car’s engine management system), OSS provides the end user with the source code behind the program, meaning it can be modified and customised to any degree imaginable.
All of our systems, both at server level and in the office, are based on what’s usually called “the LAMP stack”, where LAMP stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP. On top of this, we use GIMP for image manipulation, Open Office for word processing and spreadsheets, and coding is generally done with a modified version of Gedit.
Don’t Panic! Just because we’re using Linux it doesn’t mean you’re going to have to learn to use it for your website! Around 68% of all websites are based on Linux or Linux-like (*nix) servers – it’s by far the most popular and mature web platform, but it does all of the hard work in the background. You can log in to your website or server using Windows, or a Mac, or even a mobile operating system like Android or iOS, it really doesn’t matter.
Then there’s the software which runs your website – WordPress is by far the most popular option. This is basically a “blank website” which is free to install and can then be customised as much or as little as required. Similar frameworks exist for large content based sites (eg Drupal), eCommerce (Magento) and even whole social networking sites (Dolphin) – and because they’re all open source, they all have a small army of volunteers producing new plugins and modules to make the software do all sorts of funky things.
Much of this is entirely free, so everybody benefits from the savings. An additional advantage is that almost all web designers will immediately be “at home” with your website, meaning anybody with the relevant skills (and the relevant login details!) can start working immediately, without having to scroll through page after page of custom-written code trying to work out exactly what the previous programmer was doing.