Over the years, we have built many sites for our clients, and in many cases, we maintain the sites for them as well. That’s one way to ensure your site is up-to-date and looks professional: have a professional update the content. To remain relevant, most sites need to be updated frequently – and they also need to retain the professional look and feel while keeping costs in line.
Enter the content management system (CMS). Most CMSs share a lot of the same features: the ability to edit content, add pages, upload photos, etc. But there are also a lot of differences between them. How do you know which one’s right for your needs?
Flavors of CMS
There are a variety of CMSs available, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. We work with a number of popular CMSs, such as Drupal, HubSpot, SharePoint, and WordPress, and we have even created our own proprietary content management systems.
Through our experiences, we have found the most important difference between content management systems is the ease of use. If it’s difficult to update your site, you won’t do it.
Why We Like Umbraco
For many clients, our recommended solution for a CMS system is Umbraco. Umbraco may not be the most popular or most well-known, but it’s great for creating sites that are very easy to maintain. It’s easy to use and simple to customize, which means it’s easily adapted to suit a wide range of needs, and the learning curve for our clients is short.
Umbraco is an open source Content Management system build on ASP.net and runs on a standard Microsoft IIS web server. Our developers love ASP.net, especially when using the Model-View-Controller (MVC) framework. MVC is a software architectural pattern that separates an application into three main logical components: the model, the view, and the controller. The combination allows you to write clean code that’s easy to maintain. Umbraco has supported the MVC framework for several releases.
For the developer of a website, Umbraco is extremely flexible and easy to customize. For the person editing the website, it’s very easy to use. If you are on your own and building a website from the ground up, Umbraco may not be the best solution, if you don’t like to code. Certainly with WordPress you can build a site and apply a theme pretty quickly without knowing anything about HTML or CSS. With the security concerns of WordPress, you need to keep your site up-to-date with the latest patches.
When you want to create a site that’s custom, unique and looks great, you really need to be able to control both the HTML and the CSS. It’s possible do this with other CMSs, of course, but Umbraco really shines when you can write some code.
As developers, we love the fact that we can precisely control both the HTML and the CSS, which means we’re able to give our clients the ability to focus on the content while behind the scenes, we can focus on presenting it in a consistent, professional manner.
More than editing pages
In the early days of the web, a CMS would allow you to add and edit pages. For editing, you’d be given a form similar to Microsoft Word where you could make updates. You only worked with pages. If you wanted to do anything fancy, you had to learn some basic HTML and do it inside the page. For example, if you wanted to have a photo with a caption, you’d have to insert your image into the page and then place the caption below it, using HTML.
Content types are important
You can think of a page as the most common content type. The “page” content type may be defined by the page title and the page content. But with Umbraco, we can build custom content types that are more granular and powerful. For example, we could create a content type for a photo with a caption that encapsulates everything you need:
With these options defined, we have everything we need to place it on the page. You shouldn’t have to worry about the HTML or CSS needed to render it on the page. That’s my job as a developer. With Umbraco, I can program the web site to generate the HTML code and CSS to place the image on the page properly.
As an editor of the web site, you just need to answer a few prompts and click “publish.” Once this content type is defined, it’s easy to add them to your website.
When we develop a website we look for common patterns of content that can become the content types.
These content types become the building blocks for maintaining the content.
Umbraco is extensible
Being an open source platform, there is a worldwide community of developers who are constantly working to improve Umbraco and provide tools that can be used with your website, like Umbraco Forms. This module allows users to easily create powerful forms and add them to the website, without requiring any programming knowledge. If you can create content for Umbraco, you can create Forms with Umbraco. It also allows you to implement a workflow when a form is submitted to trigger an action, such as sending confirmation email or displaying a thank you message.
We’ve been very impressed with how customizable Umbraco is, as well as how well it suits client needs –from small-scale websites to complex, content-heavy sites with thousands of pages. We’ve found we can often simplify website maintenance for our clients by creating a custom content type or modifying existing content types. The robustness and maturity of Umbraco means that we can always find a simple solution to a complex problem. The end result is that our clients have an easy to use CMS, a current, professional website, and effective resource management. It’s a win all around.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Sanger & Eby can build you a great-looking site that’s easy to maintain, get in touch.