Sitefinity vs. Umbraco: A Comparison for Users and Developers
By: Jonathan Read
Before coming to Aptera, I worked as a Web Master for two and a half years at a company where my duties included managing the corporate website. When it came time to do an overhaul of that site, we chose Umbraco as our Content Management System (CMS). Working with Umbraco was probably one of the things that made my transition to Sitefinity so easy since both CMSs are based on ASP.NET. And, now that I’ve been working with Sitefinity for over eight months at Aptera, I can see that both CMSs have many of the same features, like Model View Control (MVC) widgets for instance. From a user’s perspective, though, I know one of the most important points of comparison is cost, and a standard Umbraco license is only about half as expensive as the least expensive Sitefinity license.
The reason Sitefinity costs more, though, is that it comes with a lot more features right out of the box. So you have to ask whether an investment in these features will pay off. In this post, I’m going to give you some examples of the differences I picked up from my own experiences working with both CMSs to give you a sense of how you might answer that question. Even though I’ve arranged the points into those on the developer end and those on the user end, you’ll want to keep in mind that they’ll all ultimately impact you as a user because anything that makes a CMS harder to work with translates into higher costs and more time spent on development.
More Page Types and Functions in Sitefinity:
The last client I built a website for with Umbraco needed a way to create newsletters and announce when they were released via emails. Sitefinity has functions for doing both of these right out of the box, but with Umbraco, I had to incorporate a third-party plug-in. As often happens, I ran into some snags with the plug-in, and that meant dealing with the support staff for the company who owns it. In this case, the third-party was MailChimp and they’re generally pretty timely and helpful, but it was still an added source of complication.
Sitefinity provides the user access to templates for newsletters, blogs, calendars, and branded emails. And you get tools for building and navigating through all the page options on the standard taskbars. With Umbraco, not only does it take me, the developer, more time to build in the tools you need, but you also have to cover the costs of third-party services like MailChimp or HubSpot.
Page Fields in Umbraco:
There was one thing I routinely did with Umbraco that is more difficult with Sitefinity. One of my recent clients had a chat bubble built into the master page for their website. The master page serves as a kind of template for all the pages on the site. But there were a few pages the client didn’t want the chat bubble to appear on. With Umbraco, I could have created a page field with a checkbox for all the features on the page. So, for the client to remove the chat bubble from any of their pages, all they would’ve had to do is uncheck the box for that feature. Since I was using Sitefinity, however, I actually had to go in and write custom code for the pages.
While Sitefinity makes it much easier to create commonly used types of pages like blog posts and newsletters, it doesn’t have the page field feature like Umbraco. Using page fields, I could’ve even created a page type for blogs, but it would’ve been much harder than doing it in Sitefinity. The bottom line is that you have a little more freedom to differentiate individual pages on your site with Umbraco, but that comes at the cost of making the types of pages you’re most likely to use more difficult to create and manage than they are with Sitefinity.
With the release of Sitefinity 11.0, you can even build mobile apps and create responsive pages, so the out-of-the-box functionality covers an entirely new category of web activity and marketing. Umbraco doesn’t have any tools for managing mobile web pages or mobile apps.
You may think that Umbraco might be good for developers who are willing to get their hands dirty by tinkering around with the underlying code. But really Sitefinity has the advantage here too because it’s a far more robust system that’s been tried and tested countless times over the years. So you’ll encounter a lot fewer random database errors to trip you up.
The first thing that has to be said is that Umbraco’s UI is really clean, really intuitive, and really easy to use. I’d say it rivals Sitefinity’s UI—or even surpasses it. But you have to keep in mind that Sitefinity incorporates a lot more tools so it’s not a completely fair comparison. Bottom line here: both CMSs are really easy for non-technical people to use.
When it comes to creating or managing pages, though, Sitefinity is much easier to use. You get almost any type of base template you could possibly need, and customizing them is a really simple and straightforward process. The starkest difference is in the WYSIWYG display on Sitefinity, which lets you drag and drop elements onto your page templates to create an overall style for the site.
Most of the support I got for Umbraco was from the community forum, and I have to say it was a pretty helpful and reliable network. But here too Sitefinity wins hands-down. They have the same type of community forums, but Sitefinity’s own tech support staff is much more active on them. Plus, you can contact them directly for a guaranteed response within 24 hours.
When Umbraco Might Be a Better Deal
As is probably obvious by now, I’m really sold on Sitefinity. Even if you’re a decent developer who’s just managing your own site, I would recommend starting with the community version of Sitefinity, which you can get started with for free. But there is one thing you can do with Umbraco that you would need a really expensive Sitefinity license to do.
Let’s say you own a donut shop business and you have three locations. You can have your IT guy develop an application in his local server, copy it to a staging server, and then copy it again to a production server so it will be accessible at all three locations. Syncing multiple environments like this with Umbraco is really easy. You can do it with Sitefinity, but if it’s the only thing you need the CMS for you may as well save some money by using the less expensive option.
When Sitefinity is the Way to Go
If you’re a large business or anticipating rapid growth, Sitefinity does things like load balancing for higher traffic sites. But, even if you’re a tech person managing your own site, Sitefinity is probably going to be a much more useful tool for you. There’s that in-between realm where you might want to do multi-environment syncing, in which case Umbraco is perfect, but for pretty much everything else I like Sitefinity.
About Jonathan Read
Jonathan is an experienced custom website developer and is experienced working with Sitefinity, C#, ASP.NET, RadControls, jQuery, Kendo, and SQL Server. Before coming to Aptera, he worked as a Web Master for two and a half years.