Matt Jones Matt Jones | 24 Jan 2023

Ten years ago, the reasons for picking Kentico, Sitecore, Episerver or Umbraco over WordPress were very different. 

Gartner and Forrester placed them far ahead on feature sets, but there was the scaremongering argument: WordPress was more vulnerable. 

What’s changed?

Fast forward to 2023, and the following has happened:

1. WordPress developers have repeatedly proven that you can do amazing things with this platform. Many of them have also demonstrated that as long as you use the right bits of WordPress, it's not much more vulnerable than a closed source .Net solution. It's even been in Gartner's magic quadrant since 2018.

2. The business model for the old .Net platforms has changed. They are no longer blazing a trail on marketing automation and on-page personalisation. As the world has digitised, the 'internet of things' has meant that running all your personalised user experiences from a CMS is, in many cases, no longer viable. Kentico, Sitecore, Episerver and Umbraco have refocused on their core capabilities: content management.

Why pay for a CMS?

So, if the arguments for buying software rather than using open source have been proven wrong, why would you pay for your CMS in 2023?

Most of the organisations we work with are mid-market businesses. Many are recognised brands, but they have an aspiration to grow their businesses.

They are constantly on the lookout for new ways to be innovative. They like the agile principles of iterative development and collaborative solution design. 

Choosing headless over WordPress

Many of them have chosen headless CMS over WordPress for the following reasons:

1. During website build on a conventional CMS like WordPress, all the page templates must be built before the content can be added. This makes the content population stressful and eliminates the opportunity to design user experiences with 'real' content.

2. Older data structures constrain website speed, a big challenge with so many web pages, including video, these days. As an aside, even if you embed your website videos from YouTube, this does add to your page weight and total load times. 

3. There is a relationship between the underlying CMS and the designed presentation meaning sometimes user experiences are compromised.

4. Content syndication to other platforms again visual and performance limitations. This often means that iframes are your only way to embed your content in apps or aggregators.

5. Portal developments that allow users to build profiles and manage their service use become very complicated. This is because the bloated CMS feature set of WordPress core and plugins get in the way of it being an effective content presentation tool for data held in CRM or ERP systems.

6. WordPress core and plugin upgrades must be done carefully. This can mean significant projects taking lots of time and budget to keep standing still. 

These are technology barriers that slow things down and present dead ends. 

The advantages of headless

A headless CMS's advantage is removing all these things that stop rapid innovation. The more modern architectures make for unrestricted, lightning-fast user experiences. Like any other cloud first based platform, deployment of new features is continuous and non-disruptive. This means more budget can be spent on creating new value. 

In our business, this has been the single biggest platform change of the past 20 years. It has led to an explosion of options from entirely new players like Contentstack to CRM owned tools like Salesforce CMS. For organisations wanting to build websites with manageable content, there is now almost too much choice.

So why would you go for a .NET headless CMS?

We like the .NET ones because our developers are mostly .net trained. Most of our clients come to us because they need their websites to link with other Microsoft based technologies, such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM or bespoke financial applications. Our view is that using familiar technologies improves the overall robustness of these business-critical integrations.

Does all this mean that investing in conventional CMS like WordPress (or old school Kentico, Sitecore, Episerver or Umbraco) is now not worth doing?

There are still situations where a single system solution can be a good fit. 

The combined CMS plus CRM / ERP solution isn't for everyone. 

Looking at the requirements of the business

Businesses with small customer data volumes often prefer one main digital platform. Many residential property letting and sales companies use WordPress for this very reason. Their customers tend to be transient, and the data they hold on them is relatively surface-level. WordPress has a well known and well featured Rightmove integration plugin, which makes it a 99/100 pick.

We still see enquiries for Kentico CMS and Umbraco CMS in particular. Frequently their requirements include an element of eCommerce. WooCommerce has often been ruled out based on feature fit or integration suitability with their order fulfilment/logistics systems. Magento usually has been ruled out on cost. 

Incidentally, for organisations who want a similar like-for-like e-commerce only platform, we offer BigCommerce, which in our experience, comes at a lower total cost of ownership to comparable Magento builds.

Can I see what my competitor's websites are built with?

Yes. BuiltWith is a tool that everyone can access that crawls websites to show what technology they use. What you frequently see is that multiple CMS platforms exist on a single web domain. This is often a symptom of organisations needing to take a long-term consolidated view of their web technology.

Has this article left you with more questions than answers?

If so, don't worry. Many people struggle to get their heads around why this niche area of web technology has changed so much. To arrange a call with a member of our team to talk about whether a headless .net CMS or conventional .net CMS is suitable for your project, contact us.