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Optimizely (EpiServer) VS Umbraco

Optimizely (EpiServer) VS Umbraco

Optimizely (EpiServer) or Umbraco

What is the article about?

Being a software house working both with Optimizely (Episerver) and Umbraco, we got numerous questions from customers about the differences between the two CMS platforms.  If Umbraco free and Optimizely is costly, why some clients still choose Optimizely? Which platform is better for editors? Which could be the ideal choice for the project?

The article is not supposed to be a detailed comparison of each CMS features. It is a subjective analysis based on our experience.

Is Umbraco and Optimizely equiparation possible?

Despite Optimizely and Umbraco are both created on .NET, and are built with a hierarchical page structure stored with a relational database, these two products are very different.

To compare them we can draw an analogy between a licensed ocean liner to an experimental watercraft.

Both water-carriers could perform great in their own field, but they’re suitable for different purposes and requirements.

In spite of not a full match of this symbolism, it still provides the core ideas: the experimental boat is agile and could be affordable even with a tough budget, the owner can change the craft, but it is already pretty couth. Just like Umbraco. The ocean liner is almost infallible, it’s maintained by a solid manufacturer with all possible guarantees, is steadily checked and improving and it looks great. But, it is rather more expensive to obtain, maintain and operate.

Thus, the question is not about which platform is better, but which does fit your requirements and needs better?

Umbraco or Optimizely. The user's perspective

As we've mentioned, Umbraco CMS is open-source and cost-free. It is developed fast and constantly by the core team and its big development community. The community is quite helpful if you face any difficulties. But, despite continuous improvements and updates, Umbraco can't brag on being as solid and stable as Optimizely.

The user interface of Umbraco is simple and easily customisable with page properties. But the customisation and perfection seem not as smooth as Optimizely's. Though the functionality of Umbraco covers all the Optimizely's features, the user experience with Optimizely is far more enjoyable.

But it doesn't mean that Optimizely is better than Umbraco? The preference of choice depends on the project, costs and requirements. Each CMS is easy to edit and has great APIs and configuration options for development.

Umbraco is powerful but mostly every feature of Umbraco Optimizely performs a little better. And there’s nearly nothing Umbraco can do that Optimizely can not.

Optimizely (EpiServer)

Main differences for developers

Templates, stylesheets, scripts, and more in Umbraco are all managed via Umbraco UI. Optimizely is based around a standard ASP.NET website or web app project  

Editing template markup through the Umbraco UI

  • Umbraco uses one site structure per language, Optimizely maintains language versions of pages
  • Optimizely offers versioning for its built-in file and document management, Umbraco doesn’t
  • Umbraco WYSIWYG editor is TinyMCE, Optimizely uses a self-engineered one which requires Internet Explorer.
  • There are for Umbraco provides several website “packages” for a new user, Optimizely offers a single and very basic, website template
  • Umbraco is open source, Optimizely is proprietary
  • Umbraco supports page type inheritance natively
  • Optimizely has a more extensive plugin system for extending and adapting the CMS User Interface.
  • Umbraco projects versioning and collaboration
  • Optimizely is based on .NET standard concepts, and all logic and markup can be edited with Visual Studio. It simplifies collaboration and versioning with Team Foundation Server and similar systems.

Working on Umbraco project you need to separate website files and a Visual Studio project. To copy user controls and binaries to the Umbraco website location your VS project needs to contain some form of post-build script or equivalent.

Standard versioning usage (such as TFS or SVN) is a bit difficult it such model.

Optimizely vs Umbraco: content management

One more point about every CMS to keep in mind is how it's managed. No doubt, even the best-performing website overall is leveled with Content Management processes: are they editor-friendly or not? Because the development is only a small part of the overall work, The Content means a lot for users' retention, marketing campaigns, sales, and so on. Both Umbraco and Optimizely are very editor-friendly, so we can wholeheartedly recommend them. But there are some differences.

Umbraco is rather content management-oriented, which means you can get probably the best experience working with it as an editor. It's quite easy to learn how to edit and manage content, even to create brand-new pages using blocks. So it's a good choice for a small business that doesn't have branched structures and is commonly managed by one or two persons. On the other hand, Umbraco can't provide too many features without additional plugins or integrations, thus it could put some limits on operations without developers.

Optimizely, in turn, provides many more features without any integrations. If you take a look at the Capabilities page, you may find a huge list! It's not just another CMS, but a complex platform for big eCommerce players and enterprise media with thousands and thousands of visitors and advanced monetization strategy. Thus, it's too much for a humble company or family store at the beginning of its success. So, here comes a question: do you really want to pay for advanced visitor intelligence or free Google Analytics tools are enough?

To summarize, the choice between Umbraco and Optimizely lies not between platforms but needs and, maybe, ambitions. If you want to have a perfectly managed editable CMS without big investments, Umbraco is your option. If you represent a nationwide retailer or similar company, Optimizely suits you perfectly.


Both Optimizely and Umbraco are awesome: in UKAD, we love both. They are developer-friendly and provide a great user experience, but it's necessary to understand a share in the budget to spend on CMS purchases. If you can spend several more thousand euros on the license, and you realize the necessity of numerous analytical, creative, and marketing features, choose Optimizely. Otherwise, it's better to put more effort into design and integrations to get almost similar editorial experience with Umbraco. Anyway, if you feel confused with all these content management systems, let UKAD help you!

Daria Rolina

 Author: Daria Rolina


  • Umbraco
  • Episerver
  • CMS Development
  • Optimizely
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