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Interview with CSI Media on Sitecore and Umbraco

Clutch spoke with Martin Blackwell, the Systems Architect at CSI Media, about the comparison between Sitecore and Umbraco – two CMSs to consider when building a website

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Introduce your business and what you do there.

CSI Media is a digital agency in the northwest of the U.K. We design and develop websites, built on bespoke CMS’s for companies across a diverse range of sectors (travel, retail, automotive, education, legal, manufacturing), as well as booking engines for the travel industry. Starting from the ground up, we handle all graphic design work in-house, through to the HTML implementation, logic implementation, and testing. I am the systems architect of the company.


What is the typical challenge a customer will be trying to address when looking to build a website?

It really varies across our customer base. We can work with clients who simply don’t have an online presence at all. They will be looking to get on the internet for the first time, and get their business out there.

We do also get clients with legacy systems in place who are looking to either refresh their look or have a more streamlined way of working, in terms of getting content out there onto the site. No two days are the same.

Are there any factors that someone should consider before choosing a platform for their website?

Unfortunately, we do have the overriding factor of budget. Sitecore is an expensive solution. We have to pay a very large upfront license fee, before we’ve even hit the ground running in terms of development.

We also consider what is important to the particular client: is it functionality or style? Someone can have a very impressive website that is just content-based, which doesn’t do much in the ways of user interaction. We could also have plainer-looking websites that are very functional and easy-to-use in terms of delivering a service or an actual product.


Please give an introduction to Umbraco and Sitecore, explaining what they are and what makes them different to other platforms out there.

In a nutshell, Umbraco and Sitecore are CMS’s. They allow users to manage the inceptions of pages within the websites themselves, without having to approach an agency for simple text and image changes.

Umbraco is an open-source platform, which means that all of its source code is freely available. Users can go in and make changes and add feature improvements. I am an Umbraco source-code contributor myself. Every Umbraco site in the world—whether it was done through CSI Media or not—will ultimately have a bit of my code in it.

Sitecore is a licensed CMS. It takes CMS functionality to the next level, including a high personalization of content, using the content the user has looked at as a basis for what they will see. It also uses their point of origin for this—whether they were referred through Facebook, for example. Sitecore also allows users to serve different versions of the same page, in order to run what are called “experiments” in terms of optimizing website hits and conversions.

Is there an ideal client for each platform?

They are both good industry-wide. I would say that Sitecore starts to take over for more enterprise-level clients. It caters to worldwide access, a need to deliver highly-personalized content, and a need to deliver multiple content versions—having the same site in English, Russian, Swedish, and so on.

Are there any people to whom you wouldn’t recommend the platforms to?

No. I think that CMS functionality is suited, regardless of the industry sector. I wouldn’t recommend Sitecore to a new business startup because of the capital needed up front in order to hit the ground running with it. Apart from this, they’re both suited to everyone.

Does a business need to have a technical background in order to run a Sitecore and Umbraco site? Do they need to have in-house developers?

It depends on what level of control they want within the CMS. We can have a what-you-see-is-what-you-get type of system that can be used by anyone who can use Microsoft Word. We can also have more highly-adaptive, build-your-own-page setups. These don’t necessarily require technical background but having a bit of internet knowledge would be a benefit.


Are there any special or unique offerings within either platform?

I do like Umbraco’s grid editor, which is a build-your-own-page tool. Rather than having a set area of text, users can choose to have text on the left and images on the right, or vice versa. They can include YouTube videos, single images, and image galleries. This is impressive, especially given that it’s an open-source platform. This functionality is being given away for free, which makes the entire package very impressive.

Sitecore is focused on user content personalization—showing users different content, depending on what they’d looked at. It has its own page builder, similar to Umbraco’s. Theirs is a bit more polished. It has a clicker user interface, which in itself becomes impressive when being used.

Are there any services which haven't performed up to your expectations, or is there any tool which you'd like to see implemented within either platform?

Umbraco’s personalization of content, along with their multilingual setup—whilst having both an English version and a Russian version of a site is possible out of the box on Umbraco, as well as with third-party extensions, it can become cumbersome to set up. Depending on the site of the actual website, in terms of the number of pages it will have, this can become a bottleneck in terms of performance.

Are there any steps someone can take in order to ensure that their site is as secure as possible?

Firstly, users need to make sure that they are running under an SSL security certificate. Currently, the Google Chrome browser will serve warnings left, right, and center for any site without an SSL certificate, saying that it potentially might not be secure.

Other than this, it’s important to make sure we’re up to date with updates from both Umbraco and Sitecore. They both rely heavily on third-party pieces of code, whether those are code written by Microsoft or other development companies, which are continuously releasing security updates and patches. Umbraco will roll those changes into their releases. Keeping on top of these is always beneficial.

Are there any cost factors that clients should keep in mind when considering either option?

The platform will have to be hosted somewhere, which is the first external cost factor. Our company can build high-performance sites but putting those on low-cost server-infrastructures will not yield very good performance out of the actual website.

Have you had interactions with any of their support teams or support resources?

I haven’t personally had any interactions with Sitecore’s support network, but I’ve had interactions with Umbraco’s community, which is highly active with both people working for the company, as well as people who’ve simply developed using the framework. They’re supportive, they have good ideas, and they like to just chip in.

As an Umbraco Gold Partner, CSI Media has direct access to Umbraco’s support, which is fantastic. They have first and second lines of support. If required, we can escalate the matter to the in-house developer from Umbraco, who wrote the piece of functionality.

Do you have any final comments for either CMS?

Overall, someone venturing down a CMS avenue should consider what level of control they want. It’s very easy for clients to say that they want the ability to control everything, only to ultimately end up making the site look not quite as good as it should. This is done by either entering too much content or having too much content that can be changed in terms of color schemes. This is a boundary that needs to be found through a requirements-gathering session.


We have five additional questions. For each of these, we ask that you rate Umbraco and Sitecore on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best score.

How would you rate each platform for its functionality and available features?

Umbraco – 3.5 – It’s a bit limited out of the box. Its extensions quickly bring it up to a full-blown CMS, with all the bells and whistles.

Sitecore – 4.5

How would you rate them for ease of use and ease of implementation?

Umbraco – 5

Sitecore – 4

How would you rate the platforms for support, as in the response of their team, and the helpfulness of available resources online?

Umbraco – 4

Sitecore – n/a

How likely are you to recommend them to a friend or colleague?

Umbraco – 5

Sitecore – 4.5

How would you rate the platforms for overall satisfaction?

Umbraco – 4

Sitecore – 4