Choosing a DXP: Kentico Xperience or Umbraco CMS

Kentico Xperience and Umbraco are both very popular .NET DXP or CMS platforms. They bear many similarities, to the point that many digital agencies specialise in both platforms due to the similar skillsets required for implementation and support. Here's our in-depth comparison and guide to why you might choose one or the other for your project.

Andy Thompson pulling a funny face

By Andy Thompson & Emmanuel Tissera, 8 minute read

Kentico Xperience vs Umbraco - why?  

This post has been written to help our clients (and you the reader) make the right decision when choosing a new CMS or DXP. Xperience and Umbraco are two common platforms that we find our clients comparing so we thought we'd sum up our viewpoint and share it with the wider world. 

Why trust our viewpoint? 

Well, unlike the many technology analysts out there, we've actually implemented projects on these platforms and have specialists (and in the case of this Xperience and Umbraco comparison, two MVPs!) carrying out these comparisons for you. 

Point in time comparison

These platforms are in active development and have strong roadmaps, so it's important to note exactly which versions or releases we're comparing in this post as of October 2021.

Kentico Xperience is the flagship DXP product from Kentico Software, headquartered in The Czech Republic and with a global presence. We're looking specifically at the latest version 13, Refresh 3, released on 14 September 2021. We presume you'll be using the MVC development model as recommended and as the only model available in Xperience 13+, and .NET 5 (Core) as your underlying Microsoft Framework for your website project.

Umbraco is 'the Friendly CMS' with open-source and licensed cloud editions, headquartered in Denmark but popular with developers and customers worldwide. Version 9.0.1 was released on 12 October 2021.

Kentico Xperience 13 dashboard screenshot
Umbraco 9 back office screenshot

CMS Comparison Matrix

In our How to choose the right CMS article, we provided a blank, editable CMS Comparison Matrix to help you do an apples-to-apples comparison between two CMS or DXPs, for your specific needs.

The good news with this Xperience vs Umbraco comparison, is we've filled out most of that Comparison Matrix spreadsheet for you! But in this post we also dive into a detailed discussion of the similarities and key differences. Often many of the 'standard' features of a DXP are matched quite closely by competing platforms, so it's these differences which tend to drive decisions between them.

The completed, downloadable copy of the CMS Comparison Matrix is available at the bottom of this post.

Technology Research Services

Many customers look to independent third-party research organisations to provide unbiased recommendations for software platforms. 

Kentico Xperience is listed as a Contender in the Forrester Wave: Agile Content Management Systems report and as a Niche Player in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms, publications which focus on mid-tier and enterprise-level platforms.

Umbraco is also a very popular CMS with reviewers, with both platforms showing strongly in the G2 Summer Report 2021 for Web Content Management.

Key similarities

Both platforms are ASP.NET MVC Content Management Systems, with strong active development, a roadmap for future versions, and support the latest .NET Core MVC (specifically .NET 5+) Microsoft technology for development.

Xperience and Umbraco both provide strong and flexible content management features, supporting structured content and more visual or 'WYSIWYG' content editing experiences. Real-time preview and on-page, in-context editing of non-published content is available in both platforms, while the options available for building content pages differ slightly as you'll see in our detailed comparison sheet.

The two platforms provide all the other typical content-management modules/features out of the box, such as versioning and workflow, search, and form builder. 

Developers find working with both platforms to be a good experience, with full support for multiple environments, and plenty of tools available to aid with team development and deployments between environments.

Both platforms offer strong support for running multiple sites from one installation, as well as multiple languages or culture variants for your websites, and for the CMS interface itself.

Both respect PII and privacy laws such as GDPR with dedicated functionality or modules to deal with the typical scenarios website administrators are likely to face dealing with these kinds of issues.

Umbraco and Xperience both perform very well on relatively smaller-scale infrastructure compared to some other .NET DXPs, which translates to relatively low hosting costs, but also ease of environment setup for developers and DevOps engineers.

Both have global implementation partner networks, and a local presence in Australia.

Key differences

Price

Possibly the most well-known and understood differentiator for Umbraco is that it is available free and open-source. It's worth noting however, that this is just one option. The free edition is available for download and you manage your own hosting.

Umbraco also offers a relatively low-cost Umbraco Cloud offering, which not only includes managed cloud hosting for your site, but also includes a number of features and 'improved developer workflows' not available in the free version.

Kentico Xperience offers offers only an annual subscription licence, at a higher cost than Umbraco. This does not presently include managed cloud hosting for your site, however a full Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering is on their roadmap for the next generation of Kentico Xperience.

Unified v Modular platform

Xperience offers all of its comprehensive feature set 'out of the box' - there are no additional modules to purchase separately and install for features such as advanced workflows, marketing automation, optimisation/testing, commerce, analytics, reporting, and forms. These are all built and supported by Kentico Software directly, and have a consistent interface and unified documentation and support.

Umbraco embraces a modular ecosystem, where it provides only the essential core content management functionality out of the box. This means no in-built support for advanced workflows, marketing automation, optimisation, commerce, analytics, or reporting, but you can easily bolt these features on by choosing from a number of first- or third-party extension modules, such as UCommerce or Vendr for commerce. Many of these have separate licence costs and support channels, and are not directly supported by Umbraco.

Open- v closed-source

Umbraco is open source, providing a very gentle learning curve for developers, and typically a higher number of developers with exposure to developing on the platform worldwide. It also makes customisation and extension of the platform particularly straight-forward and developer-friendly.

Xperience provides the option of source code licences for an additional fee, and has a number of open source libraries, packages and integrations, but its core libraries are closed-source.

Community and marketplace

Umbraco has a very strong open source community with a large number of actively maintained packages, and a very strong ecosystem of paid/proprietary third-party add-on packages covering the vast majority of extension use cases for customers.

Umbraco packages selection screenshot

Xperience has a limited open-source community, supported largely by their own in-house DevRel team, and a small number of MVPs. A relatively smaller number of notable, well-supported third-party licensed packages such as BizStream's Toolkit for Kentico are available.

Partner network

Xperience has a large, active partner network in Australia with a number of tiers, competencies, and a Quality Expert certification program where Kentico themselves audit the quality of partners' work.

Umbraco has a similar tiered partner network, but with far fewer active partners listed, particularly in the Australian region. It's worth noting that this is partly due to the nature of free licences and open source software, and its usage by smaller agencies or individual developers. This means not all Umbraco-capable partners or developers are listed prominently on the Umbraco website.

Why would you choose Kentico Xperience?

The primary reasons we see a customer going for Kentico Xperience rather than Umbraco are:

Unified platform

Kentico Xperience uniquely offers a complete suite of content management, online marketing, and commerce features out-of-the-box, in a single unified platform supported by a single vendor, with a single licence fee.

Kentico Experience feature overview

Mid-tier sweet spot

Middle-sized enterprises (not small, but not huge either) who want an enterprise-capable DXP with very strong local support and SLAs from a licensed vendor, typically find the price of Xperience to be very competitive against its enterprise-tier competition.

Partner network

Kentico's very strong implementation partner network, particularly in Australia, makes finding expert agency assistance quite easy, and gives customers confidence that in the future they're going to be well supported.

Why would you choose Umbraco?

Put simply, the main reasons customers usually choose Umbraco over Kentico Xperience are:

Price

Customers with a preference for open-source software or a free licence are often drawn to Umbraco. Alternatively, those looking to keep costs low with a relatively low-price, fully cloud-managed PaaS CMS will find the offering attractive.

Developer experience

Teams with existing internal development team with Umbraco experience, or those looking to leverage a community of potentially low-cost contractors, will find it easier to recruit developers, and get them to hit the ground running quickly with quick project setup times.

Smaller project with flexibility

If a project's requirements are initially fairly basic but there is scope to grow in the future, the modular ecosystem can be attractive. Features can essentially be evaluated, purchased and added on, on a one-by-one basis over the course of years as the project grows.

Two solid options

Umbraco and Kentico Xperience are both very strong options for building a content-managed website on the Microsoft .NET tech stack. Umbraco offers modular flexibility and an unparalleled developer experience for very low cost, while Xperience offers larger organisations a feature-complete, unified platform with very strong vendor and partner support.

We hope we've been able to help you with this comparison!

Download our detailed comparison of Kentico Xperience and Umbraco

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