Choosing Umbraco As Your CMS Platform

15 Jul 2014

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Here at Avenue Digital we like to offer our clients the flexibility and choice that is offered from the many content management systems that are on offer over the web. 

About Umbraco

Like Sitecore and Umbraco is a fully-featured content management system with the ability to run anything from small campaigns or brochure sites right through to complex websites and systems for some of the largest companies in the world. Umbraco is an open source content management system (more about that later) and it’s this collaborative approach and the desire to help each other that has created a CMS that is extremely intuitive to use and wants to give both the editors of a site and the developers every tool possible to help them create awesome sites.

Some of the features that Umbraco boasts include:

An Easy To Use Interface:

This is one of the areas where Umbraco comes into its own when compared with other content management systems, as it’s designed to help you get up and running as quickly as possible. When you first log into Umbraco, the first thing you see is an easy to understand tree-view of the pages and structure of your site. Each page boasts easy to use and familiar tools such as a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) page editor (aka Microsoft Word), and an easy to use media library which makes including that media a breeze.

A “Bare Bones” Approach To Out Of The Box Functionality:

Rather than installing absolutely everything that Umbraco has to offer (as this is vast!), Umbraco starts with the basics of what you need to get started. From there you then choose what functionality you want to add on to the site. So you want a blog? No problem there’s a package for that. You want an ecommerce shop? No problem there’s several packages to choose from for that. You want a forum? No problem there’s… you get the idea! Umbraco of course is not limited to just what packages are available to it officially, it is a massively extendable system that can be tailored to anything that you could want.

Scalability:

One of the best things about Umbraco is that it is a master of scalability and being able to expand as the needs and wants of your site expand. Umbraco will exist quite happily providing a framework for a small brochure site right up to (and beyond) providing a rock solid foundation for the sites of Fortune 500 companies and some of the largest media companies in the world. Whether sitting on a single web server or a cluster of servers, Umbraco will handle this for you out of the box.

Performance:

With built-in content cache and dynamic cache for macros your site is given a huge performance boost, ensuring a great experience for your site's visitors. You'll also have a great editing experience due to back-office CSS and JavaScript Optimization.

Complete Control Over Markup:

There’s nothing worse than having spent a great deal of time designing a beautiful site with fantastic SEO optimization and the latest HTML5 wizardry, to then find that your CMS system is calling the shots over what markup you should use (I’m looking at you WordPress!). With Umbraco there is none of that, you have complete control of what markup it should use whether it be one designed by our fantastic team of designers or one of Umbraco’s starter kit designs, the choice is yours!

Umbraco +

So Umbraco can tick all the boxes when it comes to content management and providing all the bits and pieces that one would expect of such a system, but can it “step up” and do the more complex stuff? Sitecore is well known for its ability to personalise content based on user interaction within the site (the Sitecore DMS module for those who are interested) and Kentico can provide all kinds of interesting features such as e-commerce, so can Umbraco do all of that as well? Well as mentioned earlier, Umbraco takes a “bare bones” approach to its initial set up and allows you to add “packages” which contain encapsulated pieces of functionality to bolt on extra functions and abilities to your site (an App Store would be a good analogy).

It’s within these packages that we can include such things as:

  • Full e-commerce solutions
  • Personalised content
  • Blogs
  • Forums
  • Social media integration
  • User managed forms

Of course there is always a level of configuration and occasional development to get these packages working exactly how we want for each project (as would be the same for any CMS) but they are all readily available and integrate seamlessly with Umbraco.

Even with all these fantastic packages that are available, extending Umbraco doesn’t stop there, not by a long stretch! Umbraco is built upon the .Net platform and is fully compatible with the latest technologies that .Net has to offer such as MVC and Razor. This means that not only do we ensure our developers stay at the “bleeding edge” of software development, but also that we can extend Umbraco in any way that our clients would like.

From developing a simple carousel of images or videos to full API integration with clients such as Salesforce, SharePoint, JustGiving, etc or to providing secure REST services utilising the Umbraco API, these are all requests that we have done and accomplished using Umbraco. In fact there’s not much that we’ve found we can’t do with Umbraco and one thing that helps us in this is the fact that Umbraco is Open Source.

The Advantage Of Open Source

Being an Open Source product, Umbraco benefits from the combined minds of hundreds of developers around the world that are all working and pulling together to improve it. This doesn’t mean that it’s a free for all, with developers adding in random bits of unhelpful functionality, degrading the overall performance of the code or in a worst case scenario, making the system unsecure! Umbraco is overseen by Umbraco HQ (which is a fully limited company) who evaluate what code makes it into the core of Umbraco after a period of evaluation.

Packages as well are checked and evaluated by developers at the HQ to ensure that nothing can be added to an Umbraco system that would compromise its ability to be the fantastic CMS that it is. So the massive benefits that come out of this community approach is the combined brain power of hundreds of developers improving Umbraco and making it more secure, that non Open Source CMS providers simply can’t match! Here at Avenue Digital we boast a talented team of Umbraco developers, including those with Umbraco Certified Developer status, who contribute to the Umbraco community, so we not only offer it as a solution, but we also strive to make it better for our clients!

And… It’s Free (If You Want It To Be!)

No this isn’t a typo or the raving of a man who’s been typing furiously for hours, you read that correctly that Umbraco is free! When you install Umbraco it will cost you not one unit of currency for your efforts and you could have a site up and running that is completely free of all licence costs. In addition to this, the majority of the packages that you can install to add functionality to your site are also free. There are however are a few exceptions to that rule and some packages do require a licence to operate, but even the most expensive one is priced in the low hundreds with the majority of others being under the hundred mark (and this is a lifetime licence, so no yearly renewals).

So Can I Have Support Like Other CMS Providers?

Yes you can, Umbraco also offer a full support package Umbraco Confidence, that boasts support from the Umbraco core team themselves on any issues with the site, advice on the best way to design your site architecture and a smattering of free licences for the more popular licenced packages all for a very competitive price.

We do however find that the community model of support has always been more than acceptable to our needs and that of our clients. The Umbraco community is very active in helping each other and identifying any improvements or fixes that need addressing and this can be far more rapid than waiting for an organisation to fix the problem which normally needs to go through an official release process.

Conclusion

For sites big and small, Umbraco can provide a solution at the fraction of the cost of other content management systems. Whilst it may not necessarily have every single component available from the point of installation, it does have a vast array of add on packages that make it a match for any of the other CMS’ out there today.

In choosing Umbraco, you’ll be joining the likes of Carlsberg, Sandisk, Red Bull Stratos (which had to handle 22 million visits and set a new record of the most people watching a single event online: over 9 million) , Take That, Abba, Wired.co.uk, Heinz, Tesco Plc, Henri Lloyd, Sainsbury’s, Harrods, Bentley, (my personal favourite) Microsoft’s ASP.Net site and many, many other big name brands that trust Umbraco and have found it delivers the capabilities that it needs.

Here at Avenue Digital we love Umbraco and building awesome sites with the power that it gives us, so talk to us today about building your next Umbraco site!