Comparison: WordPress and Umbraco

This post details my first impressions of WordPress and Umbraco. I recently learned how to use Umbraco in one of my projects, I also played around with WordPress in this blog(only as a power user though at the moment). Now let’s take a look at what I believe are the pros and cons of each.

WordPress

Pros:

The ease of setup is the biggest reason to use WordPress. Because of all the themes available, this blog was up and running the same the day I hosted it. I didn’t touch any code

There are a lot of plugins to choose from to add behavior to your site. This is very good if you are a business owner, or a blogger who doesn’t want to write code

It runs on an open source tech stack. A site running on open source software usually means hosting is cheaper. It is also easier to find hosts ( I recommend FastComet for hosting by the way).

It is very popular. I’m sure WordPress became popular because of the ease of setup. It means if you broke your site somehow, it would be easier to find someone who can help you fix it.

Cons:

WordPress being popular and easy to use I believe is the main cause of my negative feedback. A lot of free plugins and themes to choose from also means a lot of bad code. Now this is the biggest negative issue I found, most of the popular plugins I installed added tons of inline JavaScript to my site and some of the plugins are unnecessarily bloated as well. In my view, things like that are a no-no. I could let it slide if the code won’t be used by anyone else and there are no big performance issues. However, releasing bad code for public use is something I strive to avoid.

I feel that because of all the not-so-well-made themes and plugins, a WordPress site meant to have lots of content, user interactions, traffic, etc. will experience speed and maintenance issues if someone is not very careful. And I’m guessing most of our WordPress users belong to the I-cant-be-bothered crowd when it comes to technical topics so there is a good chance some of them will have a hobbling site later on.

Umbraco

Pros:

It seems to have been built to be a Content Management System. When I first used it, I felt Umbraco was not made as a blogging platform that later had CMS capabilities added to it

It is fast. Well this is coming from a new user, the default Umbraco install I had compared to the default WordPress install is faster (the WordPress install even had a faster host)

It is highly customizable when it comes to theming a site. Umbraco can start off as a completely blank slate, your site can look exactly how you want it.

Extending a site’s functionality is completely controlled by you. Umbraco’s plugin population is like New Zealand’s, WordPress is like China’s. So you may just want to extend your site by yourself. Luckily, you don’t need to be a God-level developer to extend an Umbraco site, it is relatively easy.

Cons:

It feels like it was made with software developers in mind. Now to me that is a huge positive, but to most people who will actually need a CMS that could be a big turn-off. Umbraco won’t be as painless as WordPress when you use it without touching code, it is not at that level yet. However as a software developer, I am actually hoping for Umbraco to not be like what WordPress is now when it comes to that. Because let’s be honest, there are people who claim to be software developers yet the only thing they do is click and install plugins.

It is not as popular as WordPress. That means it could also be harder to find someone who can build a site to your liking. It could be tricky to find someone who can fix your site as well in case something breaks.

At the moment, it does not run on an open source tech stack. Umbraco itself is open source, however the Microsoft tech it runs on is not (unless Umbraco can painlessly run on .NET Core, use MySQL, and be served from a Linux machine). That means, hosting an Umbraco site will be a little more expensive compared to other setups like WordPress.

When should you use WordPress or Umbraco

When you know you only need a blogging platform or an information site about your services – pick WordPress. I believe it will serve you well when you just need a blog or other simple sites. You don’t need to be too worried about security issues, speed issues, etc. when you have something simple with low impact to your business. Pick a theme and install plugins, done. You might ask why did I use Umbraco for a simple site. I really wanted to learn how to use Umbraco that’s why 🙂

When you want a site with a lot of functionality – pick Umbraco. However, because Umbraco is not very friendly to regular users, finding a decent/caring developer might be needed for a bespoke site. In my opinion, it will serve you better in the long run. “You get what you pay for” is what they say. Please note though that paid solutions are not always made with pragmatic design decisions, some are also bloated and atrocious.

We can also say that you can hire a developer to build your bespoke site for you using WordPress, with all the features you want. Yet when something is popular like WordPress, there is a greater chance of interacting with someone who sells snake-oil, just be careful of that as well.