Is Umbraco the right CMS for my website?

 

In this article I’d like to consider the merits of choosing Umbraco CMS for your brand or brochure website. This article is useful for business owners, marketing directors, marketing managers and IT managers who are thinking about what Content Management System (CMS) to use for a company website.

 

Background

We’ve been producing websites for many years now and have worked with a number of different Content Management Systems (CMS) platforms extensively including WordPress, Drupal, DotNetNuke (DNN), Joomla and larger Enterprise CMS systems like Ektron.  We have even previously built our own CMS solutions; so we know a lot about what makes a CMS good.

I have reviewed the most common requirements that businesses have when they are thinking about what CMS to choose, and below is a list of these requirements and why we would choose Umbraco.

 

“The company’s website is a reflection of the brand and needs to be secure – from a brand trust perspective but also so we minimise the risk of a cyber-attack from the website.”

Umbraco is Secure

Umbraco is built on Microsoft .Net technology which means it naturally inherits a range of .Net security features not present in PHP-based CMS systems.  It comes with checks and balances in place to ensure malicious code doesn’t make its way in.

Umbraco also has extensive security vetting and penetration testing: https://umbraco.com/products/umbraco-cms/security/

The proof is in the frequency of CMS security updates that are produced.  WordPress security updates for the core application are usually every couple of months.  However, the issue with WordPress is the prevalence of third party plugins that usually have to be used. Most sites get compromised via out-of-date plugins, and if the site uses a lot of plugins, it may require daily updates to keep it safe.

With Drupal, only last week, we received notification of a massive security vulnerability that will need patching.

Compare this with Umbraco which has had just 8 security updates in the last 6 years!  The last one was in 2016:

https://umbraco.com/products/umbraco-cms/security/

This means your website is considerably more secure and less prone to being attacked if it uses Umbraco instead of WordPress or Drupal.  Not only does this protect your brand and network, but it also means less support cost running security updates and fixes.

 

“Website speed is a Google search engine ranking factor and is vital for in audience engagement. My website needs to be lightning fast.”

As previously mentioned, Umbraco is built on Microsoft .Net technology. .Net is built for speed and for the web, it delivers content lightning fast.

With other CMS platforms, it can sometimes be the case that page load speed is hampered by too much erroneous code that doesn’t need to be present. An Umbraco site’s web pages can be coded to be extremely light-weight.

Umbraco also comes with built-in caching for all published content meaning to load a web page requires less database calls.  This means a faster page load speed.

By also using services like Cloudflare, we ensure the hosting infrastructure the site lives on is optimised for site speed.

 

“The CMS needs to be easy to use for the website administrator”

Unlike other CMS platforms where you have to work around and wrestle with how the system and plugins work, the Umbraco CMS is a single unified system, built up to support how you want to manage the content.

A great example of this recently was a campaign microsite we did for Amazon.  The campaign had different phases that required different versions of the microsite.  By using Umbraco, we were able to build each campaign phase up in advance for approval.  Then to switch them live, the administrator simply moved the live one to the top of the page list.  It made phase transitions really easy.

Without needing extra plugins, Umbraco comes with really useful core features like being able to copy content blocks, or entire pages; replace media files; approval workflows; advanced WYSIWYG editing and form-building.  All fundamental requirements that often need third party plugins to do with other CMS platforms.

 

“Our site has a particular unique feature.  The CMS we choose must allow for new features that are not available ‘out-of-the-box’”

I am not going to go in to comparing the Umbraco feature list with other CMS platforms in this article.  I’d expect any popular CMS to come with all the key features you’d need to be able to fully manage website content.  However, some do not.  Some you have to use a range of third party plugins to just perform fairly rudimentary CMS tasks.  The term ‘third party plugin’ refers to additional features and functions that another developer has produced that ‘plugs-in’ to the CMS to fulfil a particular task.  With Umbraco, so much of what is needed is part of the core application.

As an open-source CMS, it is also designed to allow additional features to be developed.  This is called extensibility: if the system can’t do what’s needed, can it be extended to do that task.  With many other CMS systems, extensibility is done through adding third party plugins. With Umbraco, we can extend the core functionality to fit the requirement.

Why is this important?

  1. An over-reliance on third party plugins can be a risky tactic long term, as sometimes the developer that produced it stops supporting the plugin which means it can become both out of date and sometimes vulnerable to attack.
  2. It can add unnecessary code to the website, slowing page load speeds down. We once produced a project in Drupal that had to rely on so many plugins (and modules), that some older browsers simply couldn’t load all the additional files.  This meant the site pages couldn’t load properly.
  3. Sometimes there can be conflicts between different plugins which then causes bugs. These are often fiendishly difficult to solve and add time/cost on to the project.
  4. If there’s a bug in the plugin, it can sometimes be very hard and time-consuming to get the third party developer to support the fix.

With Umbraco, because so much of what is needed is part of the core CMS, the issues listed above never really come up.  When plugins are necessary they are usually paid for under a license and come with support.

Umbraco also provides updates and fixes to the Umbraco CMS for no extra charge, so any platform issues that do arise are usually handled by an update.

 

“I don’t want to pay a license fee for the CMS: it needs to be free to use”

The Umbraco CMS is free to use.  Umbraco also offer exceptional Cloud Hosting which we like to use because it is designed specifically for Umbraco websites and helps us better support and maintain our clients’ websites.  However, the core CMS is free.

 

“The website needs to share some content with other sites and apps both inside and outside of my organisation. “

Umbraco has an API – out of the box!

Quite often a website or a web based platform needs an API so it can either be used as a management platform for another digital solution (like an mobile App for instance), or it needs to be integrated with other websites.

Umbraco has the facility to expose a REST API straight out of the box.   The benefits of this feature are literally boundless.

 

“The website needs separate staging and production versions that can be synchronised”

It is important to at least have two website versions that are hosted:

  1. A ‘staging’ website that isn’t publicly accessed. Staging is used for testing and client approval, and can also be used for managing and approving content pre-live.
  2. A live or ‘production’ website that is public facing.

There is a challenge therefore: how do you keep the two website versions in-sync when content or functionality is changed on one of them?

With a lot of the most popular free CMS systems, without using a plugin the developer has to literally copy files and database between the two versions.  This can be time-consuming and is prone to error.

A better solution is where it is possible to synchronise different aspects of the websites with one-another, whether that is just content, and/or code files, and/or database.

Umbraco Cloud hosting is capable being set up to synchronise set versions without the need for a third party plugin.

 

In summary

So, why do we love Umbraco?  There is no big difference in development time between using Umbraco and other CMS solutions.  The reason we recommend Umbraco is to do with the quality of the application:

  • It is based on .net technology that’s designed specifically for web development and is fast
  • Umbraco itself is a highly secure system
  • The way the CMS is built up means it is very easy to use from a web administrator’s point of view
  • Umbraco comes with a vast array of core features meaning much less risk of having to rely on third party plugins
  • It comes with an API out of the box
  • Unbelievably, it is free!

I hope this has been helpful.  If you would like to get in touch to discuss an up-and-coming project then contact me back.

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