sdl tridion cms review 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, SDL Tridion 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 analyst firm, 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. This Quick Take Review is an overview of SDL Tridion R5.2 with a detailed summary, full of "meat," at the tail end of this article.

SDL Tridion R5 Basics

Vendor Name: SDL Tridion Product Name: SDL Tridion R5 Product Category: Enterprise Web CMS Typical Scenario: SDL Tridion R5 is typically a choice for multilingual and marcomm websites

Company & Product History

SDL Tridion -- simply “Tridion” at the time-- was founded in 1999 and is headquartered in Amsterdam, Netherlands, with offices in the UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain and Sweden. In 2007, Tridion was acquired for €69 million by SDL, a leading provider of Global Information Management (GIM) solutions. The oldest version of the product is R3, as far as anyone can remember. It was followed by a number of new releases, including the latest R5.3 that was launched at the end of 2007. Its most commonly used predecessor is R5.2 SP1. However, some customers, who have to date been unwilling to brave the upgrade pains, are still running on R4. SDL Tridion’s strengths lie in multilingual/multi-site support using the product’s BluePrinting feature. Tridion R5 is recognized as leading Content Management Solution by Forrester, Butler and Gartner. R5 separates Content Management from Content Delivery. Content management products include: * Content Manager Explorer -- main interface * SiteEdit -- inline editing interface * WebDAV Connector -- access to content via Windows Explorer * Word Connector -- allows users to create content in MS Word Content Delivery products include: * Presentation Servers -- machines where published content resides * Dynamic Content Broker -- assembles dynamic pages Additionally, there’s a range of such tools as: * Archive Manager * Content Porter * Business Connector * Content Distributor

Market & Pricing

SDL Tridion R5’s target market is mostly concentrated around interactive marketing, marketing and communications sites and global enterprises with multiple language support requirements.

Price Range

Given the fact that SDL Tridion’s pricing model can be very complex, it is hard to pinpoint a typical deal price. It may vary greatly depending on the package, which at the very least includes three environments (development, test and production), several Presentation Servers, Content Broker, Content Porter and named user licenses -- for content authors, developers, system administrators, etc. The license also specifies a limit on the number of CPUs on each machine where the product is installed and features like BluePrint depth, Complex Schema support, binary document search support and Workflow support. And this is without optional modules like multilingual interfaces, Communications Statistics, Word Connector, Translation Manager or WebForms. There are about a dozen of language packs you can add to your package, including Japanese, Spanish, Dutch, German, French and others -- all with native spell-checkers. Customer support, new releases and maintenance fees are usually around 20% of the entire package price and are charged annually. Depending on the time of a given fiscal year, you can expect to cash out anywhere from US$ 80,000 to … sky is the limit. Locating a sales representative should be easy, as there are several SDL Tridion sales offices in APAC, EMEA, North America, South Africa, etc. The highly recommended engagement of SDL Tridion Professional Services for technical training and implementation support will cost you another “penny,” depending on the level of your consultant’s expertise and the length of engagement. Braving your way through a typical tech training module will take about five full days.

Partner Network

Numerous implementation partners worldwide include: * Accenture * Capgemini * HintTech * Siteworx For a complete list, go here.


There are around 500 SDL Tridion customers in the world, including big shots like Ricoh, Lexus, Toyota, KLM, Canon, Renault, Alitalia, Emirates Airlines and Scania. Their North American customer base includes AIG, MetLife and Hanley Wood, among others.

Product Root / Original Business Problem

For a European vendor located on the crossroads of various countries speaking different languages, it was a logical choice for Tridion in its early days to concentrate on the localization and globalization sides of web content management. Since the emergence of Internet as a global communication tool, there evolved a need for technology that could facilitate localization and better cross-market, global communication. Corporate branding strategy often required the message and look-and-feel consistency for corporate websites spread out around the world (e.g., Toyota, KLM). This is where Tridion found its niche and developed a product with strong localization support through the CMS and the BluePrinting technology that facilitates sharing and re-use of common content and design elements across multiple sites. Soon after the acquisition by SDL, the company released Translation Manager v2.0 in 2008. This product integrates with SDL Translation Management System (SDL TMS) and the SDL Tridion R5 CMS, enabling users to send content stored in the R5’s Content Manager to SDL TMS for translation.

Key Features and Ratings

Here, we will outline the key features of SDL Tridion R5. In each section, you will find product ratings between 1 and 5 -- 1 being poor and 5 being excellent. For a summary of features and ratings, refer to the Review Summary section at the end.

Product Core Technology

Rating: 3/5 SDL Tridion R5 works in both Microsoft .NET and Java/J2EE environments via WebServices using the SOAP protocol. APIs: SDL Tridion R5 supports Java and COM APIs. The latter is actually TOM (Tridion Object Model), based on COM. In 1999, it was all Perl. Databases: Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server and IBM DB2 Platforms: UNIX, J2EE or Microsoft .NET, IBM WebSphere, BEA WebLogic and Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) Supported browsers: Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0+ and 7.0+ Languages and protocols: * VBScript, XSLT, JavaScript, J2EE * Static and dynamic HTML, JSP, ASP and ASP .NET pages and/or XML/XSLT fragments * Several protocols are supported, including FTP, SFTP, HTTP and HTTPS.

Content Entities

Rating: 3/5 SDL Tridion’s famous Building Blocks represent the core of this WCM solution. Building Blocks are Component and Page Templates, Component Presentations, Components, Pages and Schemas. r5-building-blocks.jpg
SDL Tridion R5 Building Blocks

Content authors usually create Components based on certain Schemas (which define permissible content fields), followed by combining those Components with appropriate Component Templates, thus, creating Component Presentations. newEvent.jpg
Creating a new Component in R5

A Page may contain several Component Presentations. Every Page requires an appropriate Page Template in order to be rendered properly. There are two types of Components: Components storing text and links and Multimedia Components handling binaries (.jpg, .gif, .swf, .doc, etc.) Pages are created in Structure Groups (i.e., a website sections) in a corresponding Publication (i.e., website). As you can see, all this terminology alone may have the “deer in the headlights” effect on content authors and developers alike. As a result, it takes time for users to get used to the complex hierarchy of Tridion terms. R5 comes with a set of default Page and Component Templates, which, most likely, won’t be useful, as customized Page and Component Templates will need to be developed to fit the layout and code of your particular website. While tagging is not the strongest suit of SDL Tridion R5, certain metadata -- so crucial to SEO and internal searchability and findability of items -- can usually be handled either on the Structure Group/Page level, or through embeddable metadata Schemas. While the Building Blocks technology can be great for managing content, there are some pitfalls. Some users find it daunting while working with a big number of Building Blocks, when assembling a Page that can contain anywhere from one to thousands of Components. Try to keep it simple. The “Where Used” feature shows content dependencies in one or several Publications. From the development standpoint, all Schemas and Templates are created in a development environment and then transferred to test and production environments, using the tool called Content Porter, where they become available to end-users. Oh, Content Porter… This one deserves separate attention. We’ll get back to you later in this review.

Content Versioning

Rating: 3/5 R5’s Versioning is quite simplistic and can be used for two things: to view History and to Compare. The History feature provides data on all modifications on an item (user names and timestamps are included). Using the Compare tool, you can see the exact changes -- highlighted in various colors -- made to an item by comparing any two versions. VersionCompare.jpg
Versioning control in R5


Rating: 3/5 R5’s Workflow engine is pretty standard. The basic flow is Ready for Editing – Ready for Publishing, with the ability to modify and add other levels of approval. You can create and customize your Workflow in MS Visio armed with a Tridion plug-in and define your specific approval requirements. r5-workflow.jpg
R5 Workflow in Visio If you want to go further, there are additional modules (at an extra price, of course) that allow for inline and e-mail notifications. The standard, out-of-the-box version includes commentary capabilities. Tridion’s Event System can also be used to introduce a number of automatic (vs. manual) activities in the content management process. According to SDL Tridion, the newest product version -- R5.3 -- offers the new and improved Workflow capabilities described as giving you a “greater control over your workflow processes with more tools for website contributors to monitor and ensure the quality of their corporate communication, branding and marketing messaging.” R5’s Workflow is natively integrated into the GUI, which makes it easy to track where the content items are, providing a good bit of transparency to users. R5’s Workflow can also be integrated with Microsoft Outlook allowing a user to perform various activities from his/her inbox.

Multilingual Support

Rating: 4/5 This area is probably the strongest suit of SDL Tridion R5. Following the acquisition by SDL, Tridion can now offer new localization tools. With Translation Manager (TM), customers can set up that a TM for a certain Publication and specify target languages, as well as use Workflow to specify the translation process, as illustrated below.