Apples and Oranges? A Comparison of Umbraco CMS and WordPress
Published: July 19, 2019 (20 min read)
WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems, but is it the best choice for your organization? We’ll weigh the pros and cons of WordPress vs. Umbraco, an open source CMS built on Microsoft .NET technology.
Content Management Systems are, of course, nothing new. I worked for an IT company in the late 90s and one of our development teams built a CMS from scratch. It was pretty revolutionary at the time and before long we had hundreds of companies and non-profit organizations using it. It was a workhorse for many years before dying from a self-inflicted wound: websites built on this platform could only be updated using Internet Explorer. Keep in mind that Internet Explorer enjoyed as much as 96% market share until the browser wars broke out in the mid-2000s. Not only was it limited to Internet Explorer, the CMS was incompatible with any version newer than IE8. Once browsers switched to an auto-update model, our little homegrown CMS gasped its last breaths.
Today, most content management systems are built to be flexible and scalable (and are NOT browser-specific). And there are certainly plenty of them on the market.
As an Umbraco Certified Gold Partner, it won’t surprise you to know that the Fyin.com team has a particular focus on the Umbraco CMS, though we do have experience with Sitecore, Kentico, and other platforms. We also get our fair share of questions about one of the more well-known platforms: WordPress.
When it comes to Umbraco vs. WordPress, how do the two platforms compare?
Let’s start with a little background. In the US, WordPress certainly enjoys more name recognition. Umbraco was developed in Denmark and while it still enjoys more popularity in Europe than in the US, its growth has been significant worldwide.
WordPress hit the market originally (in 2003) as a blogging platform. Later, it gained traction as a website builder of sorts. WordPress is open source, built in PHP and MySQL. Umbraco is an open source CMS, written in C# and built on Microsoft’s .NET framework. What is open source? Open source indicates that the software is free (as in, you don’t have to purchase expensive licenses) and without restrictions. User can download the code and modify it if they wish.
Umbraco Pros and Cons
Umbraco CMS, which is used by major brands like Peugeot and Heinz, has several benefits including:
- Large community of developers. Umbraco even accepts “pull requests” from independent developers, often incorporating new features developed by the community.
- Security and stability. Perhaps benefiting from its lower profile, Umbraco is known as a secure platform that is not particularly prone to hacker attacks.
- Availability of and compatibility with third-party packages. Umbraco is scalable and customizable.
- It’s user-friendly. Site editors do not need to be tech savvy in order to make content changes, add images/video, and build simple forms.
- SEO friendly. Built-in SEO features enhance an Umbraco site’s visibility in search engines.
- Multi-language support. Umbraco’s latest version makes it easier than ever to render content in multiple languages.
- It’s easy to run multiple sites within a single Umbraco installation.
- Editing experience is more customizable than WordPress
Since it wouldn’t be fair to list advantages without tossing in a couple of disadvantages, here are a couple of potential challenges in working with Umbraco:
- Umbraco CMS was built with developers in mind. So, even though the back office is as friendly as can be, you’ll still need developers to get everything set up for you.
- Migrations between versions can be a bit of a headache depending on what version you are on and where you need to be.
WordPress Pros and Cons
It’s estimated that over 75,000,000 sites are currently powered by WordPress. A few advantages of the platform:
- Wide variety of mobile-friendly design templates available. Some are free while others are available for a small fee.
- Blog functionality is built in.
- Plugins are easy to use and, well, plug in. You can add features like a photo gallery or Twitter feed fairly painlessly.
- WordPress sites tend to fare well with search engines.
- Thanks to its popularity, support is generally pretty easy to find via online forums, etc.
- Sites can be built quickly and inexpensively.
There are a few disadvantages as well:
- WordPress sites are among the most popular for users . . . and for hackers. Security is a frequent concern for those running WordPress sites.
- Many plugins are available for WordPress, but those same plugins can slow a site down and/or create security vulnerabilities. It’s easy to cross the point of diminishing returns if the functionality you’re looking for requires so many plugins that you’re relying on a library of code that isn’t guaranteed to be supported in the future.
- While WordPress is intended to be user-friendly, some updates require PHP knowledge.
Who Wins the Cage Match?
As is frequently the case when comparing two products/services, the answer often comes down to: “it depends on what you need.” The Umbraco vs. WordPress conversation is similar. Even developers with no particular allegiance sometimes say that WordPress might be best if you are in the market for a small site (particularly one with a blog) that needs to be launched very quickly. If your needs are more complex, particularly for bigger sites with layered functionality, Umbraco might come out on top.
In researching this blog post, I came across many online debates regarding Umbraco and WordPress. Developers on both sides found certain principles upon which they could all agree: it’s possible to have a “bad” installation on virtually any platform. Some developers are simply more skilled in certain languages and platforms than others. Here at Fyin.com, we have inherited (and taken over management of) Umbraco sites that weren’t built the way our team of Umbraco developers would have built them. Ultimately, code is somewhat objective and the proof is in the pudding.
As a longtime (10 years - woo hoo!) Umbraco user, it wouldn’t be hard to argue that I am biased in favor of Umbraco. I should mention that I have, indeed, built a site in WordPress and, true to the hype, was able to launch it in a matter of hours with no programming needed. Many times, companies and organizations choose WordPress simply because they’ve heard of it (the old “if your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?” argument). However, that doesn’t mean that it’s the best fit for a given site.
If your business/organization is in need of a new site and you’ve decided to work with a development team, a good first step is to ask to see examples of their work. Ask which CMS they use and why. Ask how long the site is likely to last before a major overhaul will be needed. If you need eCommerce, be sure to ask about that, too. Do your research and weigh the data. Your legwork will pay off and set you up for the future.
If you’re frustrated with the limitations of WordPress and are considering an alternative, or just don’t have the resources to manage the technical issues that come along with building your own WordPress website, contact us and we’ll put together a team of Umbraco experts to bring your vision to life.