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Sitecore vs Umbraco .
Here at the agency we are often asked the question of why one CMS platform is different from another. In response to this very question I’ll be looking at the key features of Sitecore and Umbraco with Server-Side Developer, Lee Swainsbury, who has a long heritage working with both platforms and provides his technical knowledge for a fairer, more accurate comparison.
Before we drill down to the individual platforms I think it’s important to bear in mind the main difference which is that Umbraco is open source CMS, as opposed to Sitecore which is a licensed, commercial platform.
Sitecore has a wider and much more extensive out-of-the-box feature set when compared to Umbraco, including personalisation, marketing automation tools, web forms and workflow which makes configuration more complex and the setup process much longer. Let's just be clear though, nothing is ever really ready to use ‘out of the box’ with an enterprise level platforms such as Sitecore development setup and configuration time will be required.
On the other hand, Umbraco has a very simple out-of-the-box UI which means it’s very quick and easy to setup and the learning curve is much shorter for users.
“Currently, Umbraco’s configuration files are much simpler than Sitecore’s, however, this has been improved with the release of Sitecore version 9.” - Lee
Whilst Sitecore can be daunting to use, due to its vast functionalities, it is a very intuitive platform with functions such as content editing, workflows, uploading images and blog creation being very simple to perform.
“Sitecore’s feature-rich interface makes its on-page editor far superior to Umbraco’s Canvas Mode; allowing content editors to easily modify content inline, allowing them to work faster and more efficiently.” - Lee
Sitecore has three separate databases: Core, Master and Web. The web database only stores published content for the live site, meaning the front-end is much quicker. This functionality also helps to reduce human error where content is accidentally published live before it is ready.
Content Management Both Sitecore and Umbraco use data-sourced components meaning that editors can update one piece of content across multiple locations at once; reducing the amount of time spent editing for marketers. Those using Sitecore will primarily use the content editor tree, making it very simple to navigate and edit multiple views opposed to Umbraco where there are several views for navigation.
Umbraco allows developers to start their projects with a clean canvas to select the modules as you need them. However, it’s important to understand the different types of modules available as there are often several that can do the same thing and this can lead to complications.
Sitecore lets developers make use of 3rd party utilities (i.e. Unicorn sync) designed to simplify deployment across environments automatically. As well as this, Sitecore now has Helix, a set of overall design principles and conventions making the development process much tidier and more straightforward whilst also providing users with a more coherent content tree.
“The Sitecore community is continually growing but Umbraco has a large source community with a core team of full-time developers; making development much more flexible when compared to a commercial platform such as Sitecore” - Lee
Sitecore has recently introduced Sitecore Experience Commerce which includes a variety of features and functions and is a big contender in the e-commerce vertical.
Umbraco doesn’t offer its own e-commerce solution however, both platforms can be integrated with Ucommerce to create an e-commerce offering.
Earlier in this piece, I mentioned that Sitecore has more out-of-the-box features than Umbraco which can make it more cost-efficient for marketers, of whom these features will benefit most. I’ve explored these features in more depth below.
Sitecore developments are made up of renderings and components; making it easier for marketers to create behaviour based rules. System administrators are able to create personas and assign profiles to these which allow audience segmentation and contextual content delivery. Upon every visit, Sitecore creates a record of the users activity and, if a number of predefined rules are triggered in the session, personalised content can be delivered to the right persona at the right time. This could be based upon a repeat visit or if they have followed a brands social profile for example; making the path to conversion simpler.
See personalisation in action below with Red Carnation Hotels. We implemented personalisation to improve conversion rates!
Sitecore enables system administrators to restrict large sections of functionality effortlessly and on a granular level which is especially important for larger businesses that need to maintain control when giving multiple people access to the back office or publishing content.
Sitecore’s form solution, historically known as ‘web forms for marketers or WFFM’ integrates with the Sitecore Analytics database to store form submissions and drop-offs. However, Sitecore 9 improves this service with its newest form solution which delivers a more user-friendly drag and drop form builder and multiple page form option which offers better solutions to marketers.
Sitecore’s advanced marketing automation tools include A/B testing, engagement automation, follow up emails, goal tracking and, with the release of version 9, machine learning feature: Cortex.
Sitecore’s built-in analytics helps complete the 360 customer view and records user profiles including every interaction that a customer has with your brand to help marketers understand what it is users want from your site and how they currently navigate your content.
Which platform suits which business type
Umbraco is great for businesses that don’t need lots of fancy features but want a simple, pages and news digital presence making it the perfect solution for small to medium-sized businesses that don’t have enterprise level marketing budgets.
Sitecore, on the other hand, is a fully scalable platform that makes it simple to introduce new products or services without requiring a complete redesign. It is better suited to larger organisations, those that have complex booking system integrations, multi-lingual or commerce functionality or those who want features such as personalisation, marketing automation and built-in analytics without the add-ons.
I asked Lee which platform he would recommend and why…
"For smaller organisations or start-up companies Umbraco is the better choice but whilst it’s an open source platform and generally free if you’re trying to build a complex solution with added features the cost can really mount up.
“So, if you’re serious about connecting with your customers and tracking their engagement and delivering personalised contextual marketing messages then I would suggest making the investment and going with Sitecore. You won’t regret it!”
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Having joined the agency in 2013, Sarah has been part of the agencies growth story and leads the marketing team in delivering great internal and external brand experiences, driving sales and developing relationships with key strategic suppliers.