Like most of the web, we tend toward discussions of Wordpress, Drupal and maybe a few others (Dot Net Nuke comes to mind).
What Enterprise Costs
We don't see much discussion of the big enterprise systems. For the last 8 months, I've had a chance to work with Sitecore a lot as a user, not a developer (more on that in a second). Sitecore pricing is a complete enigma. They don't post pricing on their site and I've seen developers say they have trouble even guessing at a ballpark number until Sitecore comes back with a cost based on the project. But my understanding is that you're looking at $150,000 or more for a license.
So that puts it out of the range of hobbyists and small businesses. In my opinion, that should put it out of the range of medium businesses too.
Given the cost of the license, the developer pool is much smaller than, say, Drupal, which is the open source platform that tries hardest to go toe to toe with Sitecore. This means that not only is licensing expensive, but developer costs are expensive too.
Sitecore Selling Point
In theory, the advantages are that it is a complete "customer experience" platform with built-in personalization available and A/B testing and more. And this gets to why this is not a small business tool - not only is it insanely expensive to license and develop on, but if you are going to actually realize its full potential, you have to throw a lot of money at it. In my experience, to really make use of the personalization, you would need at least a few full-time people managing your website.
So it's not only going to set you back $200,000 to license and build on the low end, if you don't have $150,000 a year in labor to throw at it, you'll not use it to its full potential. For example, I heard of one site that set up the personalization features, but then didn't have the personnel to run them. So instead of three (or was it five?) personalized versions of each page, they had one version that they now pasted into the four other now identical variants (or something like that - the story is third hand and all I know is it was eating resources that could have gone to better things).
My Experience: A Cumbersome System and Often Buggy
My experience trying to maintain a Sitecore site is that it is cumbersome, everything takes time and there are few if any bulk operations available.
For example, if you want to unpublish six pages, it's a multi-step process to go into each page and unpublish it. If I compare this to Drupal or Wordpress where I can check six checkboxes and hit an unpublish button, it's rather annoying. And it's like that over and over for all manner of tasks. Bulk image uploading, if available at all (depends on context) is buggy and a hassle (it asks you for the alt text, but then ignores it and flags a warning on all the images you uploaded. I've encountered a lot of other bugs.
A few other pleasures
- worst WYSIWYG editor I've ever seen. Terrible tag soup. Come on guys, just steal from Wordpress... except of course you can't because then your whole CMS would have to go GPL.
- no cron hooks by default. It's a Windows system, so I'm using the wrong terminology, but what I mean is this. I can schedule publish and unpublish operations, but they don't do anything on schedule. They wait until the next time I *manually* do a full site publish (which you should normal avoid because it's resource-intensive) and, if during the *manual* site publish, a givne page has a date flag that triggers, it too will publish or unpublish. I'm sure there are add-ins to fix this, but yes, the default system is this bad.
- Resource intensive. Just to get the admin end to work, we had to upgrade the dedicated server to 16GB of RAM and I think we eventually doubled it again and it's still pretty slow. This server doesn't even serve pages. It's just the editing/content management server.
- poor URL abstraction - the URLs match the content tree and the content tree matches the URLs. End of story. That's not that big of a deal, but I feel like it's emblmatic of the system in general, but that may be the system as given to me, not the system a developer would see.
- Takes over your browser. Tons of client-side scripting so, for example, you can't cut and paste text from a Rich Text area without opening the editor. Since that requires locking the page, that generates a new version in our system (that's a choice, but the versioning is awful).
- search and content filtering are also sub-standard
- Experience Editor is cumbersome. You can build complex page layouts using the Experience Editor. I avoid it if possible because it's so slow and cumbersome to use. I held off a long time in that judgment because I thought maybe I was just used to Drupal Panels and was prejudiced. At this point, I have spent far more time with Experience Editor than with Panels and there hasn't been one time I've thought "Wow, I wish Panels worked like this."
- Expensive to develop on? Here I'm at a disadvantage, because though I've done a lot of Drupal dev and have contributed patches back to the project, I only know Sitecore as a content manager. But I asked the developer to do something on our site that would be simple in Drupal. In fact, I did it for a Drupal client of mine in an afternoon using Views. The quote from our developer: $15,000, budgeting 110 hours. That knocked my socks off. This was a small tweak having to do with sorting events and how to sort and display events after the event date. Like I say, this was a few hours in Drupal.
I could go on, but at this point I'm more interested in hearing from someone who is a Sitecore fan. I know they have a great marketing machine and they are also very good at spreading FUD regarding open source options, but it must also have its merits that justify the price tag.
What is it that Sitecore does well? Who should consider using it?
I'm not sure we have a membership who can answer that, but if you have used it and, especially, if you've built sites with it, I'd like to know when it's the best option.