How to Choose an Open Source CMS

An open source content management system provides public access to source code so that the platform can be modified and customized to suit your needs. According to Red Hat’s State of Open Source 2022 report, 82% of IT leaders are likely to select a vendor who contributes to the open source community. 

But how can you choose an open source CMS that fits your needs?

Why Choose Open Source?

Enterprises favor open source software for a number of reasons. 

Cost Effectiveness

Open source software is often freely available for download, use, and modification. This eliminates the need for expensive licensing fees associated with proprietary software. Companies can allocate their budget towards customization, integration, and support rather than software licenses.

Community Access

A community of developers, content creators, and other users collaborate to improve open source software. This community provides access to a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and best practices. It also leads to faster problem resolution, improved features, and increased innovation.


Security is another benefit of open source software and an open source community. The community can work together to identify vulnerabilities quickly and report them so they can be patched instead of waiting on commercial vendors. 


Open source software provides full visibility into the inner workings of the software, allowing developers to understand, modify, and customize it to meet their specific needs. Transparency also promotes trust and accountability, as companies can be confident that there are no hidden or undisclosed functionalities in the software that could pose risks or compliance issues.

No Vendor Lock-in

With open source software, companies are not tied to a single vendor for support, maintenance, or upgrades. They have the freedom to choose from various service providers or even manage the software in-house if they have the expertise.

Data Ownership

Unlike a proprietary software solution, using open source software ensures that you will have complete control over your data, whether you want to move to another solution or if something happens to the vendor. 

Use Cases For an Open Source CMS

Like you would expect with any other CMS, an open source CMS should support a variety of use cases and types of content experiences. When considering an open source CMS, these are some of the use cases the platform should ideally be able to support. 

  • Enterprise Websites: Build personalized, multichannel, responsive websites for B2C or B2B corporate purposes, media and entertainment enterprises, transactional sites, and more. 
  • E-Commerce: Deliver content-driven e-commerce experiences that engage consumers and drive immediate results. 
  • Mobile Apps: Create native mobile apps to reach customers on the channels where they spend most of their time. 
  • OTT Video Experiences: Deliver engaging video experiences for live streaming and VOD situations.
  • Portals and Intranets: Solutions to keep employees, customers, and partners engaged and up-to-date.
  • Single Page Apps: Applications that allow you to improve the user experience with dynamic, content-rich, modern web applications.
  • Microsites: Build sites and landing pages for specific campaigns. 

How to Select Your Open Source CMS

On the surface, every open source CMS should be able to meet the ideal use cases. However, for enterprise companies, these factors should be considered to ensure the solution can meet demands today and in the future.

1. Examine Open Source License

Not every solution that claims to be open source is truly open source. An open source CMS must have an Open Source Initiative (OSI) approved license, such as Mozilla Public License, Apache, GNU General Public License (GPL) or MIT License to be considered open source. Some vendors that claim to be open source really have non-open source license such as a Business Source License (BSL) or Shared Source License instead. However, these license types don’t grant the same freedoms as true open source. 

2. Evaluate Architecture

Like any other CMS, the underlying architecture will be crucial in what you can accomplish with your digital experience projects. An enterprise-grade open source CMS should be built on headless, decoupled architecture. This provides the freedom and flexibility to build and deliver content experiences for various channels and opens up new use cases and levels of productivity that a traditional CMS can’t offer.

Additionally, an architecture that supports and fits into DevOps and CI/CD processes, supports sophisticated versioning, branching and auditing, and enables content and code to move easily between environments will be beneficial for developers and content editors. 

3. Determine Platform Extensibility

An extensible CMS can be customized and extended to meet specific business requirements. This means you can add features, modules, or plugins tailored to your unique needs, ensuring the CMS aligns perfectly with your organization’s workflow and objectives. An open source CMS that provides a high level of extensibility will be easily modified for different use cases.

4. Review API Coverage 

A modern open source CMS should expect support for REST and GraphQL APIs. Comprehensive API coverage for an open source CMS allows for seamless integration with other software systems and services. 

5. Assess Community Support

Community support is one of the hallmarks of open source software. As such, you should determine if the platform has enough presence in places such as Slack, Google forums, Discord and/or StackOverflow, where developers can ask questions and solve problems. 

6. Evaluate Content Authoring Capabilities

Open source software is often seen as a developer benefit. However, an open source CMS should also provide user-friendly content authoring tools. This reduces the headache for content editors who need to create and manage content and the developers who would otherwise be called away to help them make edits to landing pages.

7. Review Documentation and Update Frequency

An open source CMS should provide thorough documentation so developers can find their way around the platform, learn about the features, and troubleshoot as necessary. Along with this documentation, companies should assess the update and new release frequency, the GitHub activity, the number of GitHub stars, and commit history to know how often developers contribute to the source code, bugs are fixed, and security patches are applied. 

8. Download and Test

The best part of selecting an open source CMS is downloading and testing it out. Unlike commercial CMS solutions that may, at best, provide a short-term free trial, an open source CMS will be immediately ready for download, installation and use. 

CrafterCMS: Tailored For Open Source Development and Enterprise Success

CrafterCMS is an open source headless CMS for enterprise-grade websites and other content-driven digital experiences. Several characteristics set it apart from other open source CMSs and make it the ideal choice for developers and enterprises. 

Modern Headless CMS: CrafterCMS is an API-first CMS that supports developer productivity. Unlike most other proprietary, closed source headless CMSs on the market, CrafterCMS immediately gives enterprise developers an edge in the types of digital experiences they can create. Further, as a decoupled platform that separates content authoring from content delivery, both the content authoring experience can be extended and customized for various business user needs, and a variety of end-user site experiences can be built for content authors to easily manage.

Ideal for Several Use Cases: Enterprises that want to start with a single use case, such as a website for a new project, can later leverage CrafterCMS for any number of use cases, including e-commerce, mobile apps, customer portals, OTT video, and more. 

Perfect for Both Enterprises and Scaling Startups: CrafterCMS scales from the department level to enterprise level for large scale sites and apps, with many users, large content repos, and various use cases. It’s also well-suited to startups that need a robust headless CMS for a new project but need the flexibility to scale when needed. 

Enterprise-Grade: CrafterCMS offers enterprise-scale capabilities, including robust security, high performance, and scalability. 

Git-based CMS: CrafterCMS’s Git-based content repository enables teams to take advantage of the version control, auditability, branching and rollback features of the open source Git library. As an open source CMS, CrafterCMS provides an open architecture that supports DevOps and CI/CD tooling processes. Git enables easy integration of all of these processes and tools, while at the same time providing sophisticated versioning and branching for content teams, and allowing developers to easily move between environments with ease with no bottlenecks.  

User-friendly Content Authoring: CrafterCMS provides live in-context editing, multi-channel preview, and drag/drop experience-building features that make things easier for content authors. 

Framework Agnostic: Any JavaScript frontend framework, including React, Angular, Next.js, Vue.js, Svelte.js, and others, is supported on CrafterCMS. Additionally, developers can leverage Freemarker for templated sites, and Groovy or Javascript (or Java/Spring if needed) on the backend. 

Comprehensive API Coverage: CrafterCMS offers comprehensive API coverage with RESTful APIs and GraphQL, as well as Javascript, HTML templating, and even in-process Java if required.

Ideal for DevOps and DevContentOps: CrafterCMS is perfect for DevOps teams, enabling them to deploy and manage sites in production with no issues. CrafterCMS also brings content and CMS into the DevOps lifecycle with DevContentOps, allowing all teams to collaborate better and launch content-rich applications quickly. 

Download CrafterCMS today and see what a powerful open source headless CMS can do.