Annually, the information technology research firm Gartner publishes its magic quadrant report comparing web content management systems (CMS) at the enterprise level. At this writing, the most recent report places Acquia/Drupal, Adobe Experience Manager (AEM), and Sitecore as the three leaders in the field, based on both their completeness of vision and their ability to execute on organizational requirements.
How two CMSs compare depends largely on the perspective of the type of stakeholder. Stakeholders can include content authors, marketers, developers, decision-makers, and more. Part 1 of this blog series focuses on comparing Drupal and Sitecore from three perspectives: the Content Author’s perspective, the Marketer’s perspective, and the Business perspective. Part 2 focuses on the IT and Community perspectives.
An obvious caveat: as a long-time Drupalist and Mediacurrent employee, I’m a biased observer. However, I endeavor to be objective in this blog post. Indeed, Sitecore has plenty of strengths, as will be explored in the upcoming sections.
CONTENT AUTHOR’S PERSPECTIVE
In Sitecore, content authoring is handled by two components: Sitecore Experience Platform and Sitecore Experience Accelerator. Sitecore Experience Platform offers two editing tools, the Content Editor and the Experience Editor.
The Content Editor is a fully functional, behind-the-scenes editor that provides fine-grained control over content elements, organized as objects in a content tree. The author can select an item to edit its fields. Note in the image below that the UI is reminiscent of that of Microsoft Windows. This is by design; Sitecore offers an easy usability transition for Windows shops.
Sitecore’s Windows-like Content Editor
Sitecore’s Experience Editor, in contrast, allows for in-place editing. The content author need not leave the page to edit an item.
In-place editing with Sitecore’s Experience Editor. Any item on the page can be made editable.
Drupal offers similar editing options. One option is to go into a full edit mode, as depicted here:
Any content item can be made WYSIWYG-editable, thusly:
WYSIWYG editing in Drupal
Another option in Drupal is in-place editing, with its Quick Edit module. Specific items are selectable to be edited, as in these two images:
Drupal’s Quick Edit module allows editing in place.
Sitecore’s drag and drop authoring interface
On the Drupal side, a combination of Drupal modules can match this functionality. Drag and drop functionality can be achieved either with the Panels module, or by using Acquia’s Lift service and accompanying Lift Connector module.
Acquia Lift’s drag and drop authoring interface
With Sitecore, content is broken up into small pieces, rather than one monolithic body. This allows for more granular control and reuse of content. In Drupal, monolithic content can be broken up with the Paragraphs module, a favorite of Mediacurrent’s. This module enables end users to choose on-the-fly between predefined Paragraph Types independent from one another, where a Paragraph Type is any unit of content (e.g. a text block, image, slideshow, etc.).
A Drupal Paragraphs example, demonstrating paragraph-level editing and control.
Drupal’s Entity Construction Kit module provides alternative means of editing with more granularity and reuse.
At a higher level, a key capability of any CMS is to flexibly display groupings of content items. Sitecore does this via its Search utility. Search terms can be ANDed and ORed together, and filtered down via facets. Search results can be displayed in a number of view types, including list view, image view, and grid view.
Sitecore’s search interface
Search results can be filtered further by a number of elements, including author, field, tag, and more.
Sitecore search filtering
Drupal provides more power and flexibility in the display of groupings of its content because of its combination of highly-structured content and its Views module in core, but at the cost of a steeper learning curve. Beyond basic filtering, Views can also filter on context, for example, who the logged in user is, what parameters are passed into the url, and more. Views can further display a grouping with elements of two or more disparate data sources with a common element, for example, a grouping of articles written by authors from a particular set of newspapers.
Drupal’s Views configuration UI
Layout configuration in Sitecore is straightforward. Though it doesn’t allow for in-page layout editing, it does offers a wide variety of multi-column grid layouts to choose from, with each column being customizable. Sitecore offers a tool called a Splitter to create row regions and customize columns. Page elements are definable to span any number of rows and columns. Any layout is further customizable with CSS.
Sitecore allows the setting of different columns for different devices
Sitecore’s Splitter tool allows for further column and row customizations
Layouts in Drupal can be done by developers for situations that require strict adherence to design mockups. However, Drupal offers a couple of author-controlled layout management as well. The Layout module allows author-controlled layouts across multiple devices by decoupling layouts from developer-created themes.
Drupal’s Layout module gives authors layout control across multiple devices
Drupal’s Display Suite module allows content authors the ability to place fields (e.g. paragraphs, images, etc.) in any desired region of the page, and further select from a number of predefined layouts for any content type.
Drupal’s Display Suite module in action
Content authors have another option with Drupal’s popular Panels module, which allows the user to pick and choose layouts without leaving the page.
Modifying a layout with Drupal’s Panels module
Sitecore’s signature capability is in its marketing functionality. Sitecore allows the setup of marketing campaigns via the tagging of content along with a campaign tracking code for tracking external interactions like email campaigns or traffic from an external web site.
Sitecore campaign setup
Once a campaign is set up, campaign analytics are built in to report on the campaign’s effectiveness, for example, tracking the number of contacts visiting the site, and the level of engagement of the traffic.
Campaign analytics in Sitecore
Another facet of Sitecore’s marketing capabilities is targeted, personalized content. Sitecore uses a rules-based interface to allow marketers to target content to certain users under certain conditions. Personalization is taken one step further with a feature called Engagement Plans, which goes beyond targeting content to employ actions and triggers upon certain conditions being met. Sitecore further maintains Experience Profiles for users, containing information on each user’s devices, online interactions, and even offline activities like stores visited and purchases made.
Sitecore’s personalization interface
To identify overall user behavior and usage trends, Sitecore provides dashboards and reports collected from internal and external data sources. Marketers can use these tools to monitor metrics such as page views, conversion rates, engagement value, and more. Sitecore can further use multivariate testing to allow marketers to compare usage analytics.
Sitecore’s Experience Analytics dashboard
As a content management framework, Drupal core has little of the marketing and analytics functionality that is built in to Sitecore. However, as an open source platform, Drupal integrates well with every major marketing automation platform, for example, Marketo and Pardot, empowering marketing teams to use the tools that work best for their business. Further, the Rules module can create deep, personalized user experiences without developer involvement, and the Google Analytics module brings highly functional analytics and reporting capabilities into Drupal.
For sites that require commerce capabilities, Sitecore integrates with a suite of applications called Sitecore Commerce, for an additional licensing fee.
With Drupal, one can use Drupal’s integration with Magento, a popular, best-of-breed open source solution that has backing and partnership from Acquia. Another option is to use the Drupal Commerce suite of modules (again, open source), which offer comparable e-commerce functionality of its own. Both the Drupal solutions and Sitecore Commerce can provide rich online commerce functionality, including inventory management, shopping cart, wish lists, tax and shipping management, and much more.
It will be covered more in Part 2 of this blog post, but it’s worth briefly mentioning here that customization is a feature that applies to many marketers. As an open platform, Drupal is built to be customized, as evidenced by its thousands of contributed modules, and close to 3000 for Drupal 8 alone. With a proprietary system, the source code is locked, inhibiting the ability to extensively customize.
In addition to evaluating how well a CMS’s features meet functional and nonfunctional requirements, decision makers need to evaluate the return on investment when making a CMS decision. Drupal and its contributed modules are free, whereas Sitecore has a licensing cost starting at $40,000 for the first year of use, plus another $8,000 per each additional year. The implementation cost starts at $65,000, and support and other licensing fees costs around $10,000 ongoing each year. Organizations considering Sitecore will need to calculate when they can expect a return on their licensing investment. Sitecore’s website cites some large organizations that have decided to make that investment, including Danone Nutritia, Uponor, and P&G.
Drupal is not without its costs either. Like Sitecore, it requires costs for implementation and hosting. A key difference, however, is that Drupal has a vast array of hosting options at virtually every price point. If a client chooses to use Acquia’s Lift for example, there is a subscription fee for that (contact Acquia for pricing). Lift provides a great user experience for content authors comparable to that of Sitecore, for example, the drag-and-drop interface cited above. Lift’s features are well worth the licensing fee for many organizations.
Another long-held concern among decision-makers is that of the support and responsiveness of the people behind the software. In the early days of open source CMS’s, decision-makers were more likely willing to invest in proprietary solutions because should something go wrong, they had access to the software development team on the other end of the phone. Over the years at Mediacurrent, we have seen that’s not true with Drupal. Part of it is because, at the lower levels of the technology stack, there are a number of excellent Drupal hosting services who have a proven track record in hosting and servicing highly-scalable, highly-available Drupal solutions. At the higher levels of the stack, Drupal core and its commonly-used contributed modules are fully unit-tested, and any new security vulnerabilities are rapidly responded to by a dedicated security team. This combination of strengths has led to many Drupal success stories for a diverse array of enterprise clients such as The Weather Company, Travelport, MagMutual, and many more.
TO BE CONTINUED
Read on for Part 2, which will cover the IT perspective and the community perspective on the two CMSs. Part 2 will also provide concluding thoughts on which situations fit these technologies the best.