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CMS content-ment

| 2 minute read

Comparing the pros and cons of Content Management Systems is an essential part of planning a website.

This post compares three Content Management Systems (CMSs) we work with: WordPress, Umbraco and Sitecore. Just like the websites they support, the user experience and capabilities of a CMS vary significantly. Understanding their differences and weighing up their pros and cons depends on your brand and business needs.

Two of them, Umbraco and SiteCore are based on the C# programming language and use the Microsoft.NET framework, while WordPress is based on PHP, another equally good programming language. However some of the other differences between the three of them have some practical pros and cons.

Open source versus licensed

WordPress and Umbraco are both open source, which means all the code they are based on is publicly available. They are supported and developed by a community of developers and no license fee is required to use them. On the other hand SiteCore is a licensed product with annual license fees. These fees include access to Sitecore’s technical support — but not day-to-day user support. License costs are the most common tipping-point for businesses choosing CMSs with more limited budgets.

Different heritages

Sitecore is often referred to as enterprise level software, whereas Umbraco is described as software for mid-sized businesses. This used to be true in the past, but this has changed over the last couple of years. With the release of Umbraco 6 in 2013 and its upgraded User Interface (UI) Umbraco started to get more serious attention. Since then over 200 new features have been rolled out, and today Umbraco is a legitimate enterprise contender. It is used by some large global brands including: Carlsberg Group, Scholl, Peugeot, Heinz, Costa and Tesco.

WordPress started as a blogging platform. Whilst it can be (and is) used as a CMS, all content is built around Pages, Posts and Comments. This is fine for small websites, but it can get difficult to manage with larger websites. It also has limited support for multiple languages.

Each CMS has a ‘Content Tree’ to help users navigate around the website pages they need to manage. WordPress’s is very simple and ‘flat’, based on generic pages, whereas Umbraco’s and Sitecore’s give you more structure and highlight different page types, which can be very useful for managing more complex, non-linear websites.

Module management

WordPress manages pages with templates which essentially specify how the page should look. You can have many templates developed for your website, but they are static. That means once you choose a template, you cannot rearrange elements on the page (unless you are a developer!). Sitecore and Umbraco can also use templates. But you can do more with them. They give you a grid layout where different modules can be dragged & dropped in the template, giving users far more flexibility with the structure of pages, and less need to go back to a developer to ask for another template.

Umbraco drag plus save and publish of module

Security control

Some of the functionality your website might need (e.g. supporting multiple languages and domains, sending SMTP email from the website, page redirects) may not be available in the CMS. WordPress uses a large library of third-party plug-ins to meet these needs, but what happens when the plug-in doesn’t quite solve your business need? On the other hand, Umbraco and Sitecore have far more functionality built-in, and rely far less on them.

Plug-ins can compromise security and introduce vulnerabilities. In most cases you don’t know who has built a plug-in. If it has not been properly designed, built, and more importantly updated, then you could be leaving the website prone to attacks.

Unique feature

The only feature unique to Sitecore is its marketing suite which allows you track individual customer behaviour on site, and target them with customised user experiences. This is obviously great for ecommerce or targeting individual users, but also expensive due to the annual licenses and the high level of hosting requirements involved.

Selecting a CMS

If you want a simple website or blog with a small number of templates then WordPress is the answer. If you require a more bespoke website that will adapt to your business needs now and in the future, but don't want the capability to target and market to individual users, then Umbraco is a better answer.

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