Warning - this is (obviously) a pro-Umbraco article, but I’m trying to be as fair as possible.
Literally thousands of articles have been written so far attempting to compare Umbraco with WordPress. Regardless of the side the author is on, the vast majority of them tend to focus on the following “key” definitions for each CMS (including positives & negatives in no particular order):
Umbraco: Secure, easy backoffice, hard to develop with, absolute front-end freedom, small market share, trusted technology stack, good in integrations, small developer community, expensive hosting, small numbers of plugin, very limited number of themes (starter kits).
WordPress: Extremely large market share, thousands of themes and plugins, vulnerable to hacking, lots of developers, cheap hosting, can be often poorly implemented, popular technology stack, SEO-ready, easy for content editors.
You’ve heard all of the above again and again. But there is one little element that is not being used very often as a measure for comparing the two platforms, either in combination with their other pros and cons or stand-alone:
Or, in other words, what you’ll use it for.
Let’s explain this in a little more detail. A client comes to your agency and asks for a “brochure” website (you know, the home - about - products - services - blah blah - contact kind of site that usually contains 5-15 pages). They are on a limited budget, and they want something up and running as fast as possible with little ongoing maintenance costs.
The answer seems obvious - an Umbraco based website would cost more, have more expensive hosting, and would require either a bespoke design or getting an HTML theme and transforming it to Umbraco templates. On the other hand, you can spin up a WordPress site with a theme that you’ll usually buy for peanuts, throw it on a Linux shared hosting plan at your favorite provider, customize some things here and there and you’ve got a happy client with minimum effort.
Decisions start to get more fuzzy when the client asks for something more complex, like for example a site that must present its product catalogs by consuming feeds from third-party web services, or a form integrated with their CRM.
It’s time for you to decide whether using a WordPress (PHP) developer will cost you more than using an Umbraco (C#) developer to create the required custom functionality. In most cases, the answer seems easy again - PHP developers are available in greater numbers, they are generally cheaper than C# developers, and the advantage of minimizing your other costs will possibly lead you to choosing WordPress once more. But you’ll think about Umbraco long and hard before you make your decision this time.
You understand where this is going, don’t you?
You now expect me to present a case of a website with a bespoke design, many difficult integrations and custom functionality, and assume that you’ll eventually decide to use Umbraco for this.
If you base your decisions on the pattern described above, you’ll still choose WordPress. It’ll still feel like a reasonable choice in terms of development costs, and you’ll always have a pool of relatively cheap developers to choose from available should you need to add features in the future. Plus, you could probably get away with some plugins that will save you a part of the work.
And your choices will be totally reasonable. After all, that’s what thousands of agencies all over the world currently do.
But that’s not the meaning of “intent” I have in mind.
THAT intent is what your client will use the CMS for. When I say “intent”, I really mean what YOU will use the CMS for!
Will you use it to win low-budget potential clients?
Will you use it to cut down on costs when dealing with complex projects?
Will you use it to offer more cost-effective long-term hosting solutions?
See the pattern here? Each decision usually only involves money. Never performance, never maintainability, never security, never extensibility. It all has to do with winning the client, and nothing with keeping them.
You may argue that you have all those in mind as well, and you may well do - it’s just that your CMS decision is probably not primarily based on those.
Now let’s forget the low-budget client where the dominant issue is, obviously, money, and take the rest of the categories described above. Clients in those categories are often willing to pay more in order to get a better return on their investment. So, what could you offer them with Umbraco that you can’t offer with WordPress?
The answer is easy: Peace of mind.
Your client will get a system that’s tailored to their needs, explicitly developed to cover their unique requirements, and which can be adapted and expanded fairly easily.
With Umbraco you’ll have total control over the functionality that you provide without relying on cost-effective, but difficult to customize generic plugins that break when your site is mandatorily upgraded due to security issues. And yes, although there are plugins available for Umbraco, they’re generally open source so you can easily modify them if you need to.
You’ll also have a very easy to maintain front end and back end that you can adapt to your client’s changing needs. Need a new list of custom things? Just add the document types to the back office, create your layouts on the front end, do a bit of coding magic and there it is. Suddenly the client needs to add some new attributes to their products, add tags or relations to their news items, change half of the site’s URLs to something entirely different or combine their existing item lists with some external feeds in a unified page? No barriers to what you can do - you’re in total control.
And “total control” does not only come with the ability to just write some code on top of the CMS. After all, you can also do that on WordPress more or less. With Umbraco, you’ve also got a powerful API together with services exposing every aspect of the CMS to the developer so that you’re 100% that the code you are writing is compliant with the platform. Makes things a lot faster too.
You won’t have to worry about whether your developer can stand by what they say they are able to do - which is a serious problem in the WordPress ecosystem, since there are so many people that work with WordPress that, while everyone deems to be an expert on it, in reality very few are. With Umbraco, on the other hand, you either know what you’re doing as a developer or not. You can’t hide behind plugins and pre-constructed CMS functionality that easily..
I’m not generalizing - of course there are talented people in both camps, but I’m talking about the ratio of semi- or non- talented to talented ones.
You’ll then set up your Umbraco web site on a (more expensive, to be honest) hosting environment that will respond to your client’s requirements, be it Umbraco Cloud, Azure Web Apps, or some other hosting provider, and you won’t have to worry about security issues since they’re so few that they’re practically non-existent compared to what WordPress installations have to deal with.
Oh, and Umbraco 9 will also run on Linux, so you can scratch the “expensive” part then. Or you can try UmbHost, which provides hosting for all versions at very reasonable prices and also offer our own uMazel Starter Kit as a pre-installed option.
Your client will be happy, and you’ll probably keep them for a long, long time.
I know there will be a lot of “ifs” and “buts”, especially from WordPress people. That’s understandable and totally acceptable. I don’t deem that Umbraco is the holy grail - I’m just pointing out where its strengths lie. After all, there are poor Umbraco implementations as there are great WordPress ones. It’s always heavily dependent on the skills of the people that work with the platform.