Choosing an open source CMS: Umbraco vs WordPress

We’re often asked why we choose Umbraco as a foundation for our websites when cheaper solutions like WordPress are available. After 15 years in the business, and having built hundreds of websites of all sizes across dozens of industries, we’re confident in our choice.

Umbraco and WordPress both offer open-source content management system solutions. As Umbraco Gold Partners, we’re strong advocates of the Umbraco CMS and always recommend it’s use to our clients over WordPress for building larger, more complex and integrated sites. But how have we approached this position? Why do we choose Umbraco for the work we do?

Umbraco is an easy-to-use, yet powerful CMS for building simple websites to large, bespoke solutions. It’s not bound by plugins, so can be configured to meet very specific or diverse needs, meeting the demands of sites of all sizes, offering a robust, responsive, back-end user interface.

Advantages of Umbraco

Limitless Design and Functionality

A big advantage Umbraco has is that it’s not bound by any templating or layout requirements; the design and functional capabilities of an Umbraco install are endless. You can run multiple websites with entirely bespoke designs off just one install and can even support multiple applications (such as websites, web applications and mobile apps) off a single install. This allows for much greater flexibility and freedom in design and build in comparison with WordPress.

Performance and Scalability

When set up correctly, Umbraco outperforms WordPress. Without using too much developer speech, Umbraco utilises caching and indexing to optimise its performance and the delivery of its content. Incremental improvements and optimisations of the Umbraco codebase help to ensure it runs as fast as possible for both CMS users and end-users across all modern browsers and devices. In the latest version of Umbraco (v8), the codebase has been significantly overhauled and includes a new approach to caching to improve performance, reliability and stability.

Umbraco’s performance benefits become even more apparent when considering high user volumes, more advanced server set-ups and cloud hosting solutions.

Security of Umbraco

Umbraco is one of the most secure CMS platforms on the market, and significantly more secure than WordPress. Umbraco’s codebase undergoes regular penetration testing and 3rd party auditing. If issues are found, Umbraco patches as many versions as possible, even going back to the very old versions.

The latest version of Umbraco includes new updates to bolster protection of both CMS- and end-user data, and also streamlines GDPR compliance. Through built-in health checks, developers are also alerted to potential problems in the site’s configuration, meaning that our team can deal with security issues before they arise.

Ease of use

Umbraco is clean, modern and highly user-intuitive, making it easy for CMS users to edit and content manage websites. There’s no need for coding knowledge and, assisted by Umbraco’s visual approach (including page preview) and admin tools, content contributors can work confidently in Umbraco with minimal training. The latest version of Umbraco has a new ‘infinite editing’ experience to allow content editors and developers to transition uninterrupted through the various aspects of the back office.

Built using the .NET stack

Umbraco is built on Microsoft’s .NET framework, a robust infrastructure that’s both extensible and flexible, making essentially anything possible during the development of a solution, as well as being future-proofed for ongoing feature development.

Microsoft’s ‘strongly typed’ languages allow developers to detect errors early at compile time and allow for the creation of unit tests to validate components of the site perform as expected

Third-party integration capability

Umbraco is also packaged with an API platform that can be used out-the-box for friendly integration with third party systems, such as CRMs, marketing suites, payment gateways, event booking systems, and more. This ensures that integrations are easy and intuitive from both a front end and back end perspective.

Active developer community

Umbraco is supported by a dedicated, global developer community who are highly active and collaborative, offering ongoing improvements to the core system and supported packages. This includes a global network of Gold Partners such as Screenmedia.

Umbraco isn’t standing still either. New features benefit from strong and consistent approaches to development and review by the community, resulting in robust backwards compatibility. There are generally few breaking changes between versions, all of which are highlighted and noted in Umbraco release notes / community forum.

Multi-site CMS

Unlike WordPress, Umbraco can be easily modified as a multisite, multilingual solution, allowing CMS users to look after multiple applications, in any as many languages as required, all in a single system.

Disadvantages of Umbraco

Requires startup configuration

Because Umbraco is so flexible as a CMS, out-the-box the solution is effectively a blank canvas and requires development effort to configure the solution to meet your needs. Whilst this tends to mean that Umbraco solutions are costlier than WordPress, it results in a better, more bespoke solution tailored specifically to your requirements (rather than a modification of a blogging platform through a variety of plugins).

Requires more in-depth planning

Umbraco’s limitless extensibility requires a phase of upfront planning and specification to understand your solution needs, write these into CMS specifications, and for the development team to implement. This up-front solutions planning can again add additional cost, but the end result is a more bespoke and tailored solution.

WordPress started life as a tool to allow bloggers to quickly create a personal blogging platform, but as its popularity grew it was customised to become suitable for other website requirements. It’s primarily engineered to create basic publishing websites and blogs, using templates and plugins in unison to spool up rapid solutions. It thrives on its simplicity and is supported by large global developer community.

Advantages of WordPress

Wide range of free plugins

There are a wide range of plugins available in the Wordpress.org library (over 50,000), many of which are free or inexpensive to install, offering all types of functionality enhancements from custom form builders to search engine optimisation (SEO) add-ons to more complex e-commerce solutions.

Low setup cost

Wordpress is best suited to smaller websites with limited functionality but has also been harnessed by many big-name brands. The initial set up cost of a WordPress site can be very low for clients who don’t have any bespoke functionality requirements (such as 3rd party integrations, member login etc). A basic install of WordPress is configured to meet the needs of a personal blogging platform and uses 3rd party plugins to modify this experience to allow extra functionality.

Disadvantages of WordPress

Security vulnerabilities

The biggest disadvantage of WordPress is its security. Wordpress has numerous well-documented vulnerabilities and it has been estimated that up to 75% of WordPress sites have been compromised in some way. With its heavy reliance on third-party plugins and themes, and its vast network of users, Wordpress exposes a large attack surface that is difficult to analyse, manage and maintain.

While there is certainly a use for plugins to quickly obtain functionality, being overly-dependent on drop-in solutions developed by different individuals/companies can introduce security issues and malicious code. Plugins require regular updates to avoid security issues and mitigate attacks. When plugins are no longer supported, they may need to be swapped for alternatives to maintain core website functions and prevent security breaches.

The statistics below from CVE Details, a security vulnerability database and information source, highlight the vulnerability statistics of both platforms, with Umbraco recording a significantly lower tally of vulnerabilities each year:

Design restrictions

For all websites, the process of discovery and planning is integral to delivering a successful, future-proofed solution. It’s also in discovery where the limits of WordPress become exposed and the true benefits of Umbraco become clearer as a business solution.

As the WordPress front end fundamentally runs off templates, this can greatly restrict what is possible in design. The design process with a WordPress site is very much to understand the technical limitations and work backwards to design. This is the opposite of Umbraco where virtually anything is possible.

Over reliance on third-party plugins

WordPress is developed in PHP and heavily relies on the success of plugins to deliver additional functionality. Some plugins work very well and are actively supported, but further bespoke development can be constrained by what’s available or can require shoehorning multiple solutions to achieve desired results.

Managing a suite of plugin dependencies can be both time-consuming and costly. This is particularly true when plugins become unsupported or break due to upgrades or compatibility problems with other dependencies.

Performance and scalability

Due to WordPress’s reliance on third party plugins to provide everything but basic publishing functionality, a large-scale website with a large volume of plugins can suffer from significant performance issues and degradation. Plugins can introduce erroneous code and ‘bloat’ which can lead to inefficiencies in the codebase and can reduce the performance of both the back and front-end of a site. As these plugins are third party, there are also limited options for a developer to improve performance without removing functionality or writing custom plugins.

No native multi-site CMS

Unlike Umbraco, WordPress does not natively offer the functionality to run multiple applications/websites from one core install. This means that users either must choose to maintain multiple websites with different CMS backends and logins, or use an additional suite of plugins to achieve this functionality which must be updated and maintained to avoid performance, stability and security issues.

 

While WordPress’s expansive list of third-part plugins and low setup costs make it a perfect fit for small independent businesses looking to take their first step in creating a website, it’s disadvantages (particularly its security), become a clear issue when looking at larger, more scalable and future-proof solutions for websites and mobile apps. Umbraco’s flexibility, scalability, and customisability, on the other hand, allows for bespoke design and functionality on a site and is why it has grown to become one of the world’s most used CMS solutions.

As Umbraco Gold Partners, we specialise in delivering flexibility, creativity and scalability when building your bespoke Umbraco web or mobile solution. If you have a project in mind, get in touch, we’d love to hear from you!

Ryan

Project Manager

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