We talk about content management systems a lot here, and we do that for a reason. Your website is where the first and often, the majority of your conversations with customers take place.
And for your staff, the experience of updating your site can be the best part of their day… or the worst.
A CMS can make or break how smoothly your organization runs — this is why making sure you choose the right one is absolutely critical. Hence, in this article, we take an in-depth look at Sitefinity, one of our favourite CMS platforms on the market.
In 6 questions, we’re going to answer:
Is Sitefinity right for me?
What is Sitefinity?
First, let’s get some basics straight. What is Sitefinity?
Sitefinity is a .NET based CMS run by Progress, an enterprise tech giant whose products are used by huge companies in every vertical. Currently, Sitefinity is used by more than 11,000 organizations all over the world, including a significant number of the Fortune 500. Sitefinity is regularly included in Gartner's magic quadrant for CMS solutions.
Technically, Sitefinity is a proprietary .NET CMS. That means that the program it is built on is .NET, a framework designed and run by Microsoft.
It means that developers have to work within the Microsoft ecosystem. Since Sitefinity has a WYSIWYG editor, most users of the CMS won’t notice; however, this is a major variable (pro or con) for IT or implementation teams.
While this ecosystem has expanded in recent years, odds are, .NET developers will work on mostly a Windows platform.
This is in contrast to WordPress, the largest CMS on the internet. It’s based on PHP and MySQL, both open source technologies.
The proprietary bit means this: Sitefinity isn’t free. It’s software owned entirely by Progress, the parent company. You have to pay a fee to use the software itself. Other open source programs, like WordPress, are free at their core, but usually, require at least some paid functionality (oftentimes quite a lot of paid functionality) to get up and running.
There’s a whole world of .NET vs other frameworks out there, but broadly speaking, in the context of Sitefinity, here’s where the pros and cons settle.
If you opt for any .NET technical product, Sitefinity included, then you’ll integrate brilliantly with Microsoft and other enterprise solutions. There will also likely be more included add-ons and functionality, but fewer third-party plugins and widgets.
If you opt for open source products like WordPress, you’ll have a nearly limitless number of plugins, widgets, or apps that you can install and connect to your CMS… but many of them are substandard, and the good ones are usually paid.
And while your solution will (usually) integrate well with other open source technology or modern SaaS products, enterprise solutions like Salesforce, Marketo, and others usually require either a paid upgrade to your integration technology.
Now, the question on everyone's mind is: Is Sitefinity right for me? Here’s what you need to ask yourself.
1. What specifically do I need my website to do, and how important is my site for my business/organization objectives?
The first question you need to ask is: what specifically do I want my website to do?
This needs to be the first question for a couple of reasons.
First, it will help you define the scope and inform your answers to the rest of these questions about things like cost, security, and customization.
Second, it will help you define if Sitefinity is capable of doing what you need your site to do.
Sitefinity is a flexible CMS solution with robust support for almost any website. Core competencies include:
- Multilingual Content Management
- Online Community Support
- CRM integration
- Content and asset management
- Form captures and lead gen tools
- Business rule/workflow creation
What these functions mean is that Sitefinity can be used comfortably for:
- Content-driven websites (e.g. associations websites)
- E-commerce sites (e.g. online stores)
- Lead generation sites (e.g. B2B products/services)
- Online community sites (e.g. help centers, knowledge bases, forums, etc…)
If you want a site that will scale as your business grows, then Sitefinity is a great option.
If you’re looking for something like a personal blog, a social platform-based e-commerce store, or a small site that’s not super-critical to your business, then you might be able to get away with a less robust solution.
2. How much (and when) do I want to spend on my website?
We’ve given you the cliff notes above, but when it comes to cost, you’re probably going to be choosing between an open source or a proprietary website.
We’ve talked about cost before when it comes to open source, but it’s worth revisiting when it comes to Sitefinity.
Sitefinity is a proprietary software. That means it’s a software that can’t be edited and forked by just anyone.
Generally speaking, a proprietary website will set you back a little more at the start. Getting the software purchased, deployed, and then getting the website actually built will likely cost more than a low-cost, open source solution like WordPress.
But over the long run, the costs balance out.
- Proprietary software is unlikely to break and when it does, support is fast and responsive, so there’s less risk of downtime and thus lost business (opportunity cost).
- Open source solutions regularly require expenditures over time to do things like buy new integrations solutions, add-in premium plugins or reskin premium themes. It means costs are spread over the long term.
So when it comes to looking at the cost of Sitefinity, it’s less of a question of total lifetime cost, and more of when you spend the money.
If you rather a one-and-done purchase, then Sitefinity is the way to go. However, if you’d prefer expenses in dribs and drabs over time, then Sitefinity might not be for you.
Because at the end of the day, you get what you pay for. For a great site, you need to invest, but the return is well worth the investment.
3. What is the rest of my tech stack?
The days of a single solution provider are long-over. Which means that one of the critical aspects of choosing your next CMS isn’t just what it can do, but what it can integrate with.
Sitefinity is designed for the enterprise tech stack, so integrates readily with enterprise technology. This includes:
- Salesforce CRM
- PayPal PayFlow Pro
Of course, most of these can also be integrated into virtually any CMS with an integration engine like Zapier.
The challenge is, something like Zapier is priced per integration occurrence. So every time someone fills out a form and the data gets transferred into Salesforce, the customer gets charged.
This works fine for smaller websites but significantly limits the scalability over time.
On the flip side, many organizations don’t need this tier of software. There are plenty of less robust CRMs out there – like Hubspot, Base, SugarCRM, and more – that will do 90% of what Salesforce does without the costly integration.
If you’re using enterprise technology, or want to scale your business to the point that you require that enterprise technology, then investing in Sitefinity now is probably a good idea.
4. What are my marketing needs?
How sophisticated are your marketing campaigns? Do you rely heavily on email marketing and complex automated nurture campaigns to deliver results?
If so, then Sitefinity might be for you. Email marketing software, either strung together with Mandrill, Mailchimp, and Zapier, launched through a CRM like Hubspot, or run through a dedicated provider like Pardot or Marketo, can be a tremendous cost for a marketing department.
First, the technology needed might be expensive. Pardot and Marketo, while powerful, aren’t cheap. Second, it might take a significant amount of time and manual data translation to go from idea to execution, and often, powerful analytics fall between the cracks.
Sitefinity includes powerful email marketing tools for email design, creation, deployment, tracking, and A/B testing as standard.
So if email marketing forms a core to your marketing activities, then Sitefinity can save you a lot of time and money
5. How many websites do I have?
For organizations in Canada (and elsewhere) serving multiple countries or with multiple languages, multisite support is a continuing thorn in IT and dev teams.
The challenge is this: Either organizations build completely separate sites, or they build one site with two languages.
Separate sites make it easier to design and build the sites (fewer requirements per site) but make it more difficult to maintain and keep them updated because they’re inherently disconnected.
On the other hand, building one site with two languages puts significant constraints on the design and deployment of the site, and can push timelines out as there are more moving parts. But once that baseline is built, it’s easier to keep things up to date.
For us, we recommend Sitefinity for multi-site support for two main reasons.
- Organizations can have multiple front-ends managed with a single back-end.
- Organizations can deploy dynamic content, making it easy to support multiple, specific content for specific regions.
If multi-site management is a key concern, then Sitefinity is a great option. If you’re only managing one site now and for the foreseeable future, then other CMSs might be a better fit.
6. How important is security and customization for my organization?
Finally, the nitty-gritty details: how important is security and customization for your organization?
Sitefinity, as a proprietary product, offers excellent security, support, recovery and protection. Basically, you get a dedicated security team — something that other CMSs do not provide.
Second, customization. Sitefinity is designed with enterprise needs and requirements in mind. That means custom solutions to specific, unique problems.
What’s more, Sitefinity can do this sort of customization without hard-coding solutions, keeping your CMS flexible enough to update and adapt to organizational needs over time.
However, not everyone needs this level of security. WordPress, for example, offers a number of excellent hosting and security solutions that can keep your site clean and safe. And with endless plugins and themes to choose from, most organizations can find the solution they need without writing a line of code… so long as they’re willing to minimize hyper-specific organizational needs.
6-point evaluation summary: is Sitefinity right for me?
Here’s a quick 6-point summary to see if Sitefinity is right for you.
- Sitefinity is great if you want to spend more money up-front and less money over the lifetime of your CMS. If you want to spend in chunks, and piece together your ad-hoc solution, then a CMS like WordPress might suit your needs.
- If you want a robust solution for a content, e-commerce, or lead gen website that’s core to your business, Sitefinity is a great solution. If you’re looking for a CMS to launch a personal blog, a social media-based e-commerce site, or your site isn’t essential, then you might get away with the simplified product.
- If you’re using (or will eventually scale to use) enterprise solutions like Salesforce, Marketo, Pardot, or SharePoint, then Sitefinity should be on your shortlist. If you’re looking to use free or ad-hoc tools or aren’t processing a high-volume of transactions and can rely on something like Zapier, then free solutions might work better.
- If you rely on email marketing in a big way, then Sitefinity might be for you because it includes email marketing and A/B testing functionality. If email marketing isn’t as important for your organization, then other CMSs might suit you better.
- If multisite functionality is key for your organization, Sitefinity is a must-have solution. It makes it easy for you to manage and dynamically change content, which means you can essentially build one ‘container’ and then fill it with the right stuff automatically. If you’re a single-site organization, then other CMS solutions are equally viable.
- For those who need granular control and best-in-class security, then Sitefinity is a great option. For those who are willing to rely on less support and third-party security plugins (and probably take on more security responsibility themselves), and are willing to embrace a more templated website presence, than other CMSs will likely work just fine.