CMS alternatives to AEM (Adobe Experience Manager) & Sitecore

Written by Finn Taylor on 22nd June 2020

(Last updated 5th July 2023)

Over the last twenty years or so Liquid Light have worked on quite a number of Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) and Sitecore rollouts for a range of diverse clients, in a number of different sectors. Although both of these enterprise class platforms share powerful features, there are also a number of reasons you might want to find an alternative.

Below we list our our top six reasons why you might want to find an alternative content management system (CMS) to AEM or Sitecore:

1. Expensive licencing costs and TCO (total cost of ownership) 

Our number 1 reason for looking for an alternative to Site Core or AEM is the exceptionally high cost of the licence and the ongoing cost of keeping this running across development, staging and production environments. 

It is not uncommon for clients to be spending >$100,000s per year just to keep their website running without any real world improvements/developments being applied. With this in mind there are many more cost effective content management solutions which are perfectly suited to enterprise. This need not be a capability compromise 

2. Difficult and expensive to recruit good developers or agencies

Due to the nature of expensive enterprise platforms, AEM and Sitecore are niche with relatively low numbers of licences/users. The net result is that you do not have a large active developer community who know the platform inside and out, and you will therefore find a much smaller pool of capable developers who know the platform.

On a practical level this not only increases cost as you have to opt for a smaller group of agencies and developers, but it also restricts capabilities, as the brightest and most innovative young web developers are not jumping into AEM or Sitecore development.

3. Functionally restricted

Whilst AEM and Sitecore toute a very complete set of features and functions in their marketing materials and the core CMS is unquestionably mature, in practice both platforms are far more restricted in what they offer compared to more active content management systems. 

Features and functions that are taken for granted in the likes of Wordpress, Drupal or TYPO3 CMS often require custom development as well as costly licence additions.
The lack of active developer community also hampers both AEM and Sitecore, resulting in a more limited extension/plugin community.

4. Lack of agility & rapid evolution

Due to the nature of enterprise platforms, the types of agency and organisational structure imposed often result in a slow and unresponsive development environment.
Strictly speaking this is not due to the CMS platform, however the guidance, process and platform specific best practice consultancy will push most clients into a setup which lacks the ability to respond quickly to new needs and requirements.

Even when (from experience) agile methodologies are applied, we can see AEM and Sitecore environments unable to rollout new requirements in anything less than a 6 to 8 week cycle, frustrating and hampering the ability to adapt and evolve. The true downside is that team members simply give up pushing for small updates or changes ultimately affecting the organisation's marketing and communication capabilities.

5. Poor front end performance in benchmarks 

Whilst most CMS platforms toute the ability to control the FE code layer (HTML/CSS/JS) exactly as you want, in practice this is not always the case, especially when using plugins and extensions.

In practice most AEM and Sitecore deployments suffer from horrendous performance when benchmarked by the likes of Googles Lighthouse & Page Speed Insights tools.

Whether this is due to platform limitations or the agencies abilities (or a little of both), the simple fact (from our opinion) is that the FE performance and build quality delivered in such builds is simply unacceptable and can really impact the websites Google ranking.

Onto our final reason (we did say 6) and also summary as to why you should be looking for an alternative to AEM - Poor user satisfaction!

Considering the cost implications, challenges in finding capable developers/agencies, functional restrictions, lack of flexibility and agility as well as general poor FE performance, this results in a distinct lack of end customer satisfaction. Whilst it is only anecdotal from the many site owners we engage with, it would be fair to say that these are not  loved platforms by its users. (Note - yes we know they have some glowing testimonials, however if ‘someone’ has just convinced the business to spend north of $200,000, then ‘they’ are going to tell everyone what a great investment it was!!)

User satisfaction and love is in many ways the most important point, as if your MARCOMS team do not love the website platform, it makes it harder to maximise what they achieve online.

We would be interested to hear your experiences and views as there are obviously good reasons to select AEM and Sitecore, as well as some of the downsides we have highlighted.

This article was posted in Development by Finn Taylor

  • Finn Taylor

    Finn Taylor

    Finn is a founding director of Liquid Light, and he still (after 22 years of web design) likes to get involved in projects. When he is not worrying about the clients, he is studying Chinese medicine, working with young criminals and doing spartan challenges.