News | 24 October 2018

What CMS should we use?

I recall several years ago, a client’s Head of IT insisting on selecting a Content Management System (CMS) before a website rebuild project had begun, even before any scoping or requirements gathering phase. He was just adamant that the technology should lead the project.

I thought that was a terrible idea. I dug my heels in and said there’s no way we could select the correct CMS without a greater understanding of what we were setting out to achieve - what did we want this website to do? There’s bound to be functional and other requirements in the scope that will dictate which platform will be best suited for the job. We had a process to go through and we should make important decisions at the right time based on proper due diligence.

I think I was right for that project and I think it’s still a sound decision-making process today, however… when it comes to choosing the correct CMS, over the last couple of years, there’s been consistently one that comes out on top.

If we go back to that statement what do we want this website to do? Most projects we work on tend to have a similar set of key requirements:

Design flexibility

  • We don’t want a restrictive templated design
  • We want website that reflects our brand and is unique like us
  • We want the ability to include animation and video as part of the design and look and feel
  • We want separation of design and content, so we can easily update designs in the future

Content management and editing

  • We want to include different content types like text, images, videos, downloadable documents
  • We want to regularly update all content especially news and blogs
  • We’d like different administrators and editors to edit and manage specific areas of the site
  • We’d like a workflow approval process for the site management, so we have control on who can put changes live
  • We want to be able to update a staging website and then push changes to a live website and easily keep the websites in synch
  • We want to take full control over the site ourselves and be able to manage all elements of site content and structure

Multi-site / multi-lingual

  • We want to multiple sites for various business areas and marketing purposes
  • We want multi-lingual versions of the sites

And then some have the need for additional extensions

Integrations

  • We’d like to import segments and user groups from our CRM / Marketing Automation / Email platform, so we can set-up user segments
  • We want to bring in price data, documents, charts etc. from third party sources

Personalisation

  • We’d like the ability to personalise the content we present to a visitor based on their profile and how far down the customer journey they are

Mobile apps

  • We’d like the ability to publish content from the Content Management System directly to mobile app.

There are sometimes other considerations as well but that’s is a pretty good starting place.

So, if we take this list of requirements the next question is probably budget - if money is no object the likes of Adobe, Sitecore and EpiServer come into the mix and although these enterprise CMSs carry a big punch but they also come with big license fees, you’re talking many multiples of $10,000 per server and the fees are ongoing every year. Usually once you start adding in additional components and add-ons the fees for most mid-tier businesses become unattractive. Especially when open-source also packs a punch and doesn’t involve licenses fees (there are some components that might be licensed but we’re talking hundreds not tens of thousands).

Other big considerations are - speed and ease of development and of course security. This is where understanding the nature of implementation helps.

With Wordpress - the most used CMS around, scalability is generally achieved by adding third party plug-ins. If you want to extend the core CMS with extra functionality or services you can install plug-ins created by third party developers available via a marketplace, however these plug-ins require additional management and updates, Wordpress websites are constantly coming under threat from attacks on plug-ins where the developer hasn’t kept patching against known vulnerabilities - leading to potential compromise. Not to mention additional plug-ins also tend to drag on page load speeds.

Umbraco is an open source CMS but it’s built on Microsoft’s .NET platform and can therefore take advantage of the built-in security that comes as a key priority with that.

It comes with a really decent set of functionality in the core and then extensions are handled easily, either via licensed additions such as forms (licenses are hundreds of dollars rather than thousands / tens of thousands) or being based on .Net it’s easy to customise and add features and functionality. There’s a plethora of Microsoft programmers out there so finding good developers who can work with the CMS is not a problem.

The end result is a streamlined CMS that’s perfectly fit for the website being developed. It doesn’t have all the unnecessary features and costs of a hefty enterprise licensed CMS and it doesn’t have the reliance on third party plug-ins and all the vulnerabilities that come with that.

Umbraco is suitable for websites of all sizes, we’ve used it to create websites for:

  • Surrey & Sussex Police forces
  • Opus - a global vehicle inspection business
  • Atlanticomnium, Troy Asset Management and Citadel in the financial services asset management sector
  • Foundation Homeloans a specialist mortgage provider
  • Forward Trust and Become in the charity sector
  • Vacherin a corporate catering company
  • The MB Francis Bacon Art Foundations in the arts sector

And many more across all industry sectors.

Outside of our work, a search on Umbraco usage reveals lots of interesting use cases, I have found a few notable examples here:

  • Carlsberg group’s 500 brand websites
  • The Council of European Union’s website in 24 different languages
  • Microsoft’s own .net website

So, whilst we would still always want to review the website requirements before we make a CMS recommendation, I am 100% certain that Umbraco would be top of my recommendation list when you ask me which CMS should we use?

Further reading:

An interesting article on how to choose the right CMS, an Umbraco white paper that compares Wordpress, Drupal, Sitecore and Umbraco. https://umbraco.com/media/2106/how-to-choose-the-right-cms-umbraco-whitepaper.pdf

Author
Paul Wreford-Brown,
Digital Director