Review: SDL Tridion R5 Web CMS

Aww, one of my first steps at the entrance into the world of CMSWire.com.

I heart Tridion CMS. I think it can be magical (when implemented properly). However, no one said everything was perfect.

It was just an attempt to put several years of working with Tridion into a journalistic perspective that is honest, direct (just like Dutch people are — at least that’s what I’ve heard Tridion folks say) and, hopefully, packed with useful information (beyond marketing fluff) to help those poor souls, who are in the process of selecting a CMS Vendor. Been there myself a number of times, and I know that any help is welcome.

What is Tridion? Or is it Trillian, Trideon or Tridian? What can we say, it’s tough being a Euro web content management vendor in the U.S. market.

After conquering most of Europe, SDLTridion started its Web CMS quest in the U.S. in 2006 with their flagship CMS product — Tridion R5 — an offering that has received accolades from such critics as Gartner. R5 comes with a myriad of standard Web CMS features, like inline editing using SiteEdit and some unique functionality such as the Translation Manager.

Here’s a summary table of the review:

Feature Description Rating
Core Technology .NET, Java/J2EE, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, Unix, VBScript, XSLT, JavaScript, SOAP, ASP .NET 3/5
Content Entities Building Blocks, multimedia support, SEO support, can be intricate when going into dependency levels. 3/5
Content Versioning Fairly basic, meets average requirements for content managers. 3/5
Workflow Configurable, optional e-mail notifications, comments 3/5
Multilingual Support A strong point for the product. Native integration with a Workflow and Translation System is optionally supported. 4/5
Editorial Features Good usability, poor Web 2.0 support, content previewing, good metadata support, spell-check, digital asset repository 3/5
Content Delivery Architecture Very complex, configurable, scalable 4/5

While it may seem like this review brings up many of the SDL Tridion R5’s weaknesses, the goal here is to provide information otherwise unavailable to potential customers. All the praises and accolades can be found on SDL Tridion’s web site, where the agenda is understandably different from mine.

In the development world, if we were to hold a contest on the most annoying Tridion error message, we probably wouldn’t be able to decide between the wonderful in their randomness “null is null and not an object” and “object doesn’t support this property or method” messages. Some developers working with R5 are often disappointed with the (un)available developer tools.

R5.3 — the latest product release — has Modular Templating, Visual Studio integrations and beefed-up workflow.

Another thing to keep in mind is that for developers learning the product it will be a steep learning curve and very little support. SDL Tridion’s Achilles’ heel in the U.S. is clearly the fact that knowledgeable Tridion experts in the U.S. are rare and hard to find. Having said that, be prepared for a possibly long and stormy implementation route.

To SDL Tridion’s credit, the company’s Customer Support and Professional Services divisions in the U.S. are constantly expanding. But, realistically, it takes about 2 years to ramp up a new consultant to the point where he/she is billable and useful to customers.

Aside from the fact that a web-browser based and very PC-centric CMS that is only compatible with Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0+ and 7.0+ (and even then, it requires substantial configuration), Tridion R5 is a great Web CMS product, especially when it’s compatible with your IT infrastructure and business goals. No, R5 doesn’t work on Mac’s — don’t even try. Firefox is out of the question as well. It’s IE and IE only, and don’t forget about Trusted Sites and other multiple steps of messing around with browser settings.

Overall, SDL Tridion R5 is a well-rounded Web CMS. This is especially true, if you have time to devote to a proper deployment and good acquisition and implementation budgets in addition to a team of dedicated IT folks who are quick learners. It can be pure magic, when implemented properly.

Full article on CMSWire: Quick Take Review: SDL Tridion R5 Web Content Management System

12 thoughts on “Review: SDL Tridion R5 Web CMS

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  2. Martin Paris says:

    Irina,

    Nice overview! I have both been working with and for Tridion over the last 5 years (also in the US), and I can agree with a lot you are saying.

    I have a few remarks:
    1. What should be done in each of the categories to et 5/5?
    2. 2/5 Content versioning? I think that should be at least 4/5?

    Kind regards, Martin Paris

    • Hi Martin,

      Thanks! The ratings scale is actually something used at CMSWire.com, where my Tridion review was originally published. Ratings are all mixed up in the two sources ;) I proly should straighten that out ;)

      1. What should be done in each of the categories to et 5/5?
      — There’s no perfect CMS, wouldn’t you agree?
      2. 2/5 Content versioning? I think that should be at least 4/5? — see above, it’s actually 3/5. Why do you think it should be higher, if you run a comparison of Tridion against other WCM vendors?

      Cheers,
      Irina

  3. Hi Irina,

    A solid review and I agree with your scores on most points. However I was wondering what score you would give to “editorial usability”.

    From my perspective core technology should get a 2/5. E.g. the GUI and some modules (webforms should be first) would benefit from a thorough overhaul.

    Best regards,
    Albert

  4. Hey Albert,

    Editorial usability: There are better, and there are worse CMSs out there from this perspective. Overall, I’d say it’s a 2.5/5. Aside from all the Tridion-specific terminology, I usually see authors and editors respond well to Tridion.

    GUI: It may look outdated, but at least it doesn’t break ;) Everyone is going very AJAXy on the GUIs lately, look at Day’s CQ5, for example.

    Core technology: Can be debated for hours. You’ve worked with Tridion, you know its “guts.”

    Webforms: Enuf said about this thing in my review.

    ttyl,
    I.

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  7. Hi,

    Thanks Irina, Its very good Info….So excited..

    I feel the same situation in APAC region, especially India…Hard to find experts for Both Tridion and DAY CQ….

    I think, most of the projects are running in Europe region only

    Thanks & Regards
    Anbu

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