Umbraco: The do-it-yourself framework
February 15, 2016

Umbraco: The do-it-yourself framework

Matthew Hardesty | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 7 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

Overall Satisfaction with Umbraco CMS

Other than helping to implement Umbraco for some of our clients, we use Umbraco CMS as an alternative to WordPress for a couple of our microsites. We typically only consider Umbraco for our clients (and teams) when they have one or more tech-savvy resources to help instruct and troubleshoot issues when they come up.

From a business perspective, Umbraco is very flexible (and open source). It allows for more freedom in design and data architecture (vs WordPress). For some clients, that is a necessity.
  • Umbraco has a lot of design/layout flexibility.
  • Umbraco provides a lot of control for customization.
  • You can maintain your data (product, page, entity) in a structured way.
  • Umbraco can initially be challenging for new users with limited or no development experience. After initial installation, there is a lot more work required to 'see' a site.
  • Umbraco isn't stable. For example, even on a fresh new site sometimes you'll get errors when trying to save something in the admin panel. It's not common, but it happens often enough to be annoying.
  • No out of the box contact forms. Umbraco sells their forms plugin that we've used in the past, but the plugin is disappointing. It isn't well maintained and it's very buggy. Making a new contact form with the paid plugin can take a lot of time to get everything right (fields, validation, confirmation emails, etc). This is especially frustrating for new users.
  • Documentation / resource links frequently 404. Umbraco seems to change their site URLs often enough that, when you encounter an issue, you're likely to find a number of bad links in Google's search results. This makes it difficult to research solutions to a problem.
  • Posts often go unanswered or without resolution in their community support forums. Hopefully this will improve as the community grows.
  • The update process is clumsy at best. Many people are familiar with the simple WordPress upgrade button for the core and plugins. This doesn't exist at all for Umbraco. Instead, you'll need to select specific files to overwrite and potentially update any old code references.
  • Migration between development environments is clumsy. Umbraco offers a premium plugin to address this because, as they state on the premium plugin page, deployments are "complicated, headache-inducing"
  • When used for the appropriate clients, Umbraco typically helps get a customized layout and data structure to market faster than some competing CMS platforms.
  • For clients that may not understand data relationships on the back end, the content management in the admin panel helps them visualize what's happening.
Umbraco vs WordPress
Umbraco has more flexibility and customization options, but less features, reliability/stability, and community support.
WordPress offers less customization for data and content, but it is immensely more stable, has better features /plugins, and includes an enormous amount of community support & documentation.

Umbraco vs Kentico
Both are intended to be customized after installation (flexible design and data management)
Kentico is more robust, reliable, and feature rich. But, it requires more effort to get a site up and running.
Umbraco is less stable than Kentico. But, it is often easier to get a site up and running.

We use Umbraco CMS when clients need design flexibility, more tailored content management, and structured data. Umbraco CMS is not for clients with little to no budget for technical/developer assistance. We don't recommend it for most small companies because they don't have the budget to maintain (read: troubleshoot and work around bugs) a platform like this.

Umbraco CMS Feature Ratings

WYSIWYG editor
Code quality / cleanliness
Admin section
Page templates
Library of website themes
Mobile optimization / responsive design
Publishing workflow
Form generator
Content taxonomy
SEO support
Bulk management
Availability / breadth of extensions
Community / comment management
Internationalization / multi-language
Role-based user permissions

Evaluating Umbraco CMS and Competitors

Yes - Umbraco occasionally makes more sense (in terms of flexibility vs time to market) than some of our custom frameworks or WordPress.
  • Price
  • Product Features
Umbraco seems to serve a market between WordPress and Kentico. That void can help clients that would otherwise be stuck with the other options.
We evaluate the requirements of our projects and clients from the very beginning before recommending a platform. If they are comfortable working with a less stable platform and have the budget to accommodate technical assistance and development teams, then Umbraco is the way to go. If they don't, it's best to stick to WordPress or fork up the license costs for Kentico.

Umbraco CMS Implementation

Spend the time to wireframe the content structure prior to diving in. This helps speed the process of implementation and it serves as documentation for end users.
Yes - 
  1. Requirements gathering
  2. Data architecture
  3. Design
  4. QA
  5. User acceptance testing
  6. Launch

Change management was a big part of the implementation and was well-handled - Data architecture can consume a lot of time if the requirements are not clearly defined and agreed upon at the start of the project.
  • The premium contact form plugin from Umbraco is very buggy and unreliable.

Umbraco CMS Training

  • Online training
  • Self-taught
Online training is often based on older versions of the platform. So, you'll have to fill in the gaps on your own.
Learning how to use Umbraco requires an investment of time and interest. It's also contingent on being tech-savvy or having experience with other CMS platforms. People new to CMS platforms should subscribe to in-person training and have a few developers accessible to answer questions.

Umbraco CMS Support

Support for Umbraco-owned paid plugins is nonexistent.
Support understands my problem
Slow Resolution
Poor followup
Problems left unsolved
Not kept informed
Difficult to get immediate help
Support doesn't seem to care
Slow Initial Response
No - Umbraco paid support is often cost prohibitive for clients.
Yes - The root issue was never fixed. The resolution was to "do it over again and see if it works" quality.
So far, Umbraco has not provided quality support for their premium/paid plugins.

Using Umbraco CMS

Many end users will be overwhelmed with the admin interface. Some common functions are buried in menus.
Like to use
Requires technical support
Not well integrated
Slow to learn
Feel nervous using
Lots to learn
  • Adding new pages is relatively simple.
  • Editing / deleting content (users/pages/products/etc) is straightforward.
  • Code reuse is easy and straightforward.
  • Contact forms are buggy to work with.
  • The admin panel interface will occasionally feel sluggish to respond after clicking or performing an action. Performing another action during this time will almost guarantee an error.
Yes - The admin panel is responsive, but still needs some work. It's not as fluid nor intuitive as WordPress.

Umbraco CMS Reliability

Without significant development, the product does not scale well.
Occasionally, errors will appear in the admin that make it impossible to work without developer support.
Working in the admin panel (adding / reviewing / editing content) is very slow.
The public facing site speed is dependent on what the pages are doing and how well the code was written (whether it is optimized for speed).

Upgrading Umbraco CMS

Yes - The process has the potential to be smooth. But, any complete site implementation will require developer assistance in order to update code. Without that support, the site will encounter errors after upgrade.
The upgrade process itself is not straightforward or automatic. It involves copying over files and changing code according to the very limited instructions provided with the update.
  • Umbraco now supports element and class styles in the TinyMCE. This satisfies a few specific use cases for our clients.
  • The latest release fixes an issue where some images would be lost when uploading to the media library in bulk.