Choosing which content management system (CMS) to use can be a headache at the best of times. We are faced with hundreds of options to choose from, and countless opinions on which one is the best. Every CMS will have its pros and cons, and each would have been built to serve a particular purpose.
In this article we will provide you with a straight up comparison of ‘the friendly CMS’, Umbraco, and the CMS for the masses, Wordpress.
What is Umbraco?
Umbraco is an open source Microsoft .NET content management system which is free to use. It is also the most popular CMS built on the Microsoft .NET framework. Unlike Wordpress, which comes with a starter website pre-installed, Umbraco is a blank canvas which enables you to bend, twist and shape it however you like. Its power lies in its flexibility and ease of use.
What is Wordpress?
Wordpress is a free open source content management system, which is built using the PHP programming language. Wordpress is without doubt the most installed CMS on the web today. For good reason too. They have developed an ecosystem where pretty much anybody can quickly get a website up and running within a few minutes. Wordpress has an extensive collection of plugins created by developers which can easily be installed on a Wordpress website. This can also be one of the downfalls of Wordpress, which we’ll touch on later in this article.
What do Umbraco and Wordpress have in common?
Even though they are two very different platforms, they share a lot of common features that you would expect to see in a high end CMS.
- Content editing - Both Umbraco and Wordpress allow you to create, edit and delete pages. They both allow for customisation of the editing experience, and are both user friendly when it comes to editing content.
- Content scheduling - You have the ability to schedule content to be published in the future. A necessity for any business who regularly posts content.
- Ability to rollback versions of a page - Need to rollback to an older version of a page? No problem. Umbraco and Wordpress both have version control built in out of the box.
- Open source and free to use - They are both free to use open source platforms with no licensing fees. You only pay for third party plugins as and when you use them. This also means you are not tied down to a particular agency and can move your website elsewhere if you need to.
- Large developer communities - Both platforms have a large community base with forums to ask technical and non-technical questions. Wordpress has the larger community because of its large market share.
One of the biggest differences between the two platforms is the plugin ecosystem. For Wordpress, this is one of their biggest selling points. There is almost an endless supply of plugins for a user to install. From building out contact forms, rich media elements, booking systems and even ecommerce solutions.
As most Wordpress users are not going to be developers, or even technical minded for that matter, the analogy of a child in a candy store comes to mind. There are plenty of quality well maintained plugins for Wordpress, but it is so easy to be fooled and fall into the trap of installing every plugin under the sun, only for this to have detrimental effects on performance and ultimately search rankings.
A lot of these plugins, most of which are free, are poorly developed and lack the proper support. This ultimately comes at a cost. For example, what should be a simple task of upgrading the Wordpress CMS could turn into a catastrophe as plugins may not be supported for newer versions of Wordpress.
At face value these plugins might seem like the perfect quick fix, but in reality they can be a ticking time bomb which could bring down your entire website.
Umbraco also has some helpful plugins and extensions, but because an Umbraco website needs to be created by a developer, these plugins will be integrated in the correct way. Any functionality you see in a plugin for Wordpress can easily be developed in Umbraco. The extra care and attention that will come when developing on Umbraco will far out way the convenience of installing a poorly developed plugin on Wordpress. Important factors like longevity and scalability need to be taken into consideration if you want a piece of functionality to last the test of time, and to have the capacity to build on it in the future.
Think twice before you go away and install a plugin on any CMS platform for that matter. A key indication to not use a plugin would be a lack of regular updates to the plugin, as this show they aren't applying the necessary changes to make it compatible with the latest version of the CMS and taking advantage of enhancements to internet browsers.
Out of the box both Umbraco and Wordpress are built for performance. The biggest downfall with Wordpress (other than security) are its plugins and the negative effect they have on the performance of a website. Each plugin wants to rule the roost and each adds its own code to the website. This stacking of cards effect will at some stage topple the house. Potential issues can also arise if two plugins conflict with each other, then a developer needs to take charge and add a bunch of hacks in order to make things 'right'.
Because each Wordpress plugin will add its own code to the website, this can have a dramatic effect on page speed. With Google taking a bigger onus on metrics like page speed and performance in general, this can only spell bad news for any Wordpress website which is bloated with code from plugins.
With Umbraco (and the right technical know-how of course) everything is built in harmony and with a holistic mindset to ensure the website is scoring well on all of those performance metrics that Google loves. With the entire website being controlled by a developer, and not having any plugins to fight with, developers are able to ensure all code is minified with no unnecessary bloat. They can take advantage of the latest advancements in internet browsers and use industry best practices to ensure the website is built for performance.
At the end of the day time is money. Google recommend that a website takes no longer than two seconds to load. That isn't two seconds until you see something on the screen, that is two seconds until you can fully use the website. For each second over this mark, there is a notable increase in bounce rate. A topic of this proportion deserves its own article as it is such an important issue, but in short, moving into the future Google is going to be cracking down on slow loading and 'resource heavy' websites in favour of quick and light websites.
Umbraco and Wordpress are both extremely user friendly and you can see a lot of effort has gone into the user experience of both platforms.
Out of the box Wordpress has all of the basic functionality to publish content and handle the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) of a page. Whereas in Umbraco you create all fields from the ground up, which actually creates a more intuitive experience as it is tailored to the needs of the business and its content editors.
With Wordpress the content editing experience can become a bit of a minefield when you have too many fields. It can also make life difficult for content editors with its confusing visual page hierarchy. Umbraco allows for complete flexibility and you can structure the backend to suit the needs of the content editors. From it's 'family tree' style page navigation to its folder like structure of the media library, it truly is a content editors dream.
From a user experience perspective Umbraco wins with it’s simple, intuitive and easy to navigate backend. The experience can only be enhanced once the platform is tailored to the needs of its content editors.
Umbraco is significantly more secure than Wordpress. In fact, it is one of the most secure content management systems on the market. Umbraco is built using Microsoft .NET technologies which means by default it inherits security benefits that would be lacking in a PHP based CMS (Wordpress).
Both platforms regularly release updated versions of their core, which bring security and performance benefits. But the problem with Wordpress and the fact that it is so plugin driven, is you need to ensure all of the plugins are updated and that they are supported by the latest version of Wordpress. This leaves a Wordpress website at the mercy of hackers. In fact, 90% of websites that are compromised are built on Wordpress.
It is important to regularly update your CMS so your website can reap the performance and security benefits, but if you are constantly having to upgrade all of the plugins, and test that nothing has broken, this is going to get very time consuming and as a result, expensive.
Wordpress was intended to be used as a blogging platform, and overtime developers have built upon the foundations of Wordpress, with the use of plugins, to fudge it into a fully fledged CMS. Umbraco on the other hand is a content management system at heart.
Pricing and licensing
Both Umbraco and Wordpress stack up well in the pricing and licensing department. They are both free and open source, meaning you can do as you wish with the source code.
The only exception is when you want to use a paid plugin or extension. These can range from one off payments to an annual subscription.
Umbraco does offer a cloud solution in which they will host your website and also run automated updates for you. This can be a good solution for businesses/developers who want to take a hands off approach.
We have been developing websites on both Umbraco and Wordpress since the late 2000’s, and we have seen them evolve over the years to what they are now.
In terms of the time and effort it takes to build a website, there is no real difference between the two. Yes Wordpress has a bunch of plugins to ‘make our lives easier’. But the reality is you spend half of the time banging square pegs into round holes.
It is a smarter investment to build a website on a reliable, scalable platform like Umbraco that will be built for longevity than it is to ‘rinse and repeat’ and develop numerous Wordpress websites over the years.
Umbraco is hands down our CMS of choice because of the many benefits it brings to our clients businesses.
If you’re still stuck on choosing the right CMS after reading this article, get in touch and we’d be happy to offer some more advice.