Umbraco vs. Sitecore

Aside from beer and pastries, Denmark is also responsible for the export of two very popular content management systems (CMS): Umbraco and Sitecore. They both run on the .NET Framework, and developers, marketers, and clients alike frequently have to compare the two to determine which offers the best solution -- here's my two pennies worth.

Editing/user interface

Umbraco have kept the user interface (UI) quite simple and intuitive to use, making it hard to get lost whilst administering within the system.

Sitecore's UI looks a lot like Windows, which helps with familiarity, but users can still sometimes feel quite overwhelmed by the amount of features available. Sitecore also has its own page editor feature which allows the editing user to browse the site in design mode and make any changes they wish. Here, they can switch device or language to make edits to different versions of the page.

Localisation/globalisation

This is built into Sitecore and each content item can have multiple language versions; to enable multiple languages, you simply create the ones you wish to use inside the language section.

In Umbraco, however, you have to build your own structure and place the language versions side-by-side in the content tree.

Personalisation

No personalisation is offered out of the box for Umbraco; however, it can be achieved with a paid add-on from Spindoctor.

Sitecore, on the other hand, comes with its very own digital marketing system (DMS) which has various personalisation options built in. The rules-based segmentation is excellent; the dynamic persona generation is good, too, but can be time consuming to setup -- we'd advise that any marketers undertake training before using the system.

Security

Umbraco's security model is fairly basic, but sufficient for most small sites. Although the UI can be quite fiddly, it is possible to set security on a 'per item' basis for any given user. However, if you need more advanced security features, like limiting access to specific functionality, then you will soon hit a stumbling block.

Similarly, permissions inside Sitecore can be set on a very granular level. The 'Security Editor' allows users to grant 'Read', 'Create', 'Edit' and 'Rename' access to individual content items.

Workflow

Implementing advanced workflows in Sitecore is usually trouble free as it supports editorial, multistep processes including locking of content in order to prevent modification.

Standard Umbraco workflows are very simple - just send for approval and approval roles. This is achievable with paid for extensions, although these modify the core underlying framework which is not ideal.

Scalability

Out of the box Sitecore is designed to scale, and it comes with three separate databases to achieve this. From a content perspective, the two main databases are 'Master and Web'; editors make changes using the 'Master' database and when published, the content is pushed to the 'Web' database. This helps with the separation of content authoring and content delivery. The benefits of this are that the 'Web' database which the website runs off is small in size which means faster load times and there is less room for human/developer error as the application will only display items which have been published.

By default, Umbraco runs off one database, and this makes it hard to separate the concerns. Editors can be making changes on the same database that's serving the website to the end users, which can lead to problems with the stability of the application.

It is, however, possible to scale with an Umbraco solution; it just requires more setup and configuration to achieve the same load balanced architecture. At Code Computerlove, we have developed a way to mimic the content authoring and content delivery environments by syncing content and document type schema between databases through a bespoke tool.

Form Designer

Sitecore has its own 'Web Forms for Marketers' module which allows users to build their own forms and collect whatever data they wish. It also records drop off analytics on a per field basis and stores information provided on forms in both failure and success scenarios. This then can be used to provide business users with analytics and reporting.

Umbraco doesn't have this feature built in, but there is a paid for add-on called Contour which gives you the ability to create, edit and administer forms inside Umbraco's 'backoffice'.

Cost

Sitecore ships with a hefty price tag due to its licensing, whereas Umbraco doesn't.

However, it's important to remember that it's not always going to be cheaper overall to use Umbraco just because the entry price is lower. For bigger builds, a large amount of time might need to be invested to make Umbraco fit for purpose; baring this in mind, the upfront costs of Sitecore's license are often worth it in the long run.

Support

With Umbraco being Open Source, the community have a lot of control regarding what issues are fixed and what features are to be developed. This means that critical bugs are fixed really quickly and new versions of the CMS are released on a regular basis. Minor bugs which don't affect many users are sometimes overlooked and are never fixed. This can be frustrating, but you can, if you wish, download the software and debug/fix these yourself and submit a patch to Umbraco.

With Sitecore, you will also experience bugs. The standard procedure is to contact their support department and you'll usually receive a response pretty quickly where they'll offer some advice to fix it (if possible); failing that, a fix will be made in a newer release.

Conclusion

So which is best? The answer is neither, of course -- they're both very good at what they do, so it would be unfair to try and pick a winner!

In summary, Sitecore is an enterprise level CMS with a good development platform, and can be a great investment for your online marketing, and Umbraco is an excellent but basic CMS that's perfect for small-to-medium sized solutions.

Choosing which system is right for you ultimately comes down to your budget and business requirements, and you need to evaluate the long term strategic goals of what you're looking to build.

If you would like a demonstration of either of these content management systems or need help deciding the right vendor for you, then just let us know.


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