Are you thinking about switching your Content Management System (CMS) to something more robust, flexible and easier to use?
Where to Start?
This is no simple task and it’s hard to know where to begin. If your company is going to invest development time into the CMS, you want to know that it will be the right fit for your Marketing Team.
There’s a huge amount of material online comparing the various CMS options on the market. However, so much of this tends to be from a web development perspective rather than the end-user. This can make it much harder to evaluate a CMS if, like me, you’re non-technical.
You want to be confident that it will be easy to manage day-to-day once the website is live. You need to know that you’ll be able to manage and update your website yourself—and have complete control and flexibility over the content that that you want to create and publish.
As a marketer myself, I’m probably a typical example of a non technical CMS end-user in a B2B business. We use Umbraco CMS at Chorus (and I love working with it), so I’m going to give an overview of Umbraco from the perspective of a B2B marketer.
User Interface and Sections
We’re currently using Umbraco version 7 for the Chorus website (7.9.3 to be precise) and the user interface (UI) looks great—it’s clean, simple and it has a crystal-clear navigation menu.
Using the navigation isn’t rocket science—your content lives under the ‘Content’ tab while all of your images, videos and graphics are stored in ‘Media’. If you decide to use ‘Umbraco Forms’, these can be accessed here and you’ll get a breakdown of all of your different forms and the data on how they’re performing (e.g. number of submissions and subscribes).You can also review the submissions and download any material attached to a submission.
Unsurprisingly, your web pages will live under ‘Content’. Umbraco displays all your pages within your site’s ‘tree’ navigation structure, which is extremely helpful for visualising where your pages sit in relation to others and organising them. Because Umbraco is a page-focused CMS, it helps you decide how you want your pages to be organised. CMS alternatives such as WordPress aren’t always so intuitive ‘out of the box’. With WordPress I’ve found that you have a long list of all your pages, which you then must add to the different menu levels that you create manually. To get the same visual tree-structure function of Umbraco, you might need to install one of the various plugins for this—highlighting one of the shortcomings of WordPress against a purpose-built CMS like Umbraco.
It’s so easy to create, edit, publish or remove pages with Umbraco. You are presented with a simple list of options which also allows you to rearrange pages, rollback to previous versions of a page and set things such as access permissions.
Click Create and you’ll be presented with a list of page types that your web developer will have built for you. For example, if I want to create a new post in the Chorus CMS, I can pick one of these page-types.
Once you’ve selected your page type, you’ll be presented with a screen that allows you to enter information and other metadata about your page such as title, subtitle, header images, date of publishing and author. N.B. this page can be customised by your web developer to have whichever fields you want. The example below is for a blog post page.
Once you’ve done that, it’s time for the fun part—creating your content! In the Article Content tab, our developers designed it so we can pick the layout for the content we want to add. Our devs designed our pages to use a grid layout (using the doctype grid editor package) and therefore gave us the option of adding rows which are either ‘full width’ or ‘50:50’. Of course, yours can be any layout you choose and your website team will build your CMS to fit with your intended designs and layouts; making everything as flexible as possible to give as much power to end users as possible.
You can then add content to the grid layout. All you need to do is choose the content type from a menu and then add text/images as you wish. These content types include out-of-the-box variations (such as image or rich text editor) but your web team will also create custom components to fit your requirements; for example, a statistics panel, or a case study display panel.
Creating content is as easy as using word processing software like Microsoft Word. You can use the rich text editor to write or paste text and format it using various headings and styles. You don’t need to know HTML and how to code, it’s absolutely designed for non-technical users.
Uploading and maintaining your media library is extremely simple. The library can hold a wealth of media items, so you can experiment with images, videos, PDFs, GIFs etc.
All you have to do is upload your image and use pre-built image croppers to make sure the image will look right in different areas of your website. The image automatically scales to the right size and you can just drag the image to the right place to make sure you’re happy how it will be cropped. Again, your web team will create any custom crops to fit with any layouts you have so that you can be sure your imagery fits perfectly and you have the power to choose your focus points for all imagery.
Stylesheets and Templates
Using Umbraco becomes more technical once you begin to make changes to the stylesheets and templates that will determine the appearance of your website. Most non-technical end users and marketers won’t even need this functionality—and most likely won’t even see the options to make changes.
If you’re a marketer that has decided to dabble in a bit of code, you might sometimes venture here to change information in the headers and footers; or change fonts, sizes and colours in the stylesheets—the basic things compared to the work a developer would do. If you needed anything more substantial changing, then you might decide to speak with your developers to make the changes.
Packages, Add-ons, Extensions
Umbraco is an open-source CMS and has a great developer community behind it (we’ll discuss this more later). Lots of add-ons and extensions are available to use which have been built by the dedicated developers in this community. Examples include the likes of ‘SEOChecker’ which makes SEO creation and management simple, while packages such as ‘Umbraco Forms’ provide features such as website forms. This can save significant costs on CMS development as your developers won’t necessarily have to develop new features if they’ve already been built elsewhere in the Umbraco community. In case these packages / add-ons don’t quite fit your specific CMS needs, they are extensible and your developers might decide to tailor these packages to fit your own requirements.
When you publish a webpage, you want to know that it will work well and look professional. Umbraco allows you to preview the final webpage (before it’s published), so you know exactly how it will look once it’s live and publicly available. The preview function allows you to view the page as it would appear on multiple device-types i.e. you can preview the page using desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile layouts, so you can literally click and check in seconds how it will look on different devices. You can even preview the mobile device layouts based on horizontal or vertical orientations (depending on how the user would be holding the device).
Umbraco is highly customisable, so you really can create unique bespoke websites with great integration possibilities - without having to sacrifice a simple to use CMS. For the techies out there, this means lots of exciting possibilities; for a non-technical user like myself, this means that when I ask our developers if Umbraco can do something, they normally say ‘yes!’.
Community and support
Umbraco is known for its thriving community. This is what lies behind Umbraco’s self-proclamation that their community-base is “the friendliest CMS community on the planet”.
We agree. Umbraco is about being easy to use, straightforward and enjoyable to work with. These values are in everything Umbraco do—even their login screen brightens your day!
Members of the Umbraco community (or ‘Umbracians’) are an exceedingly friendly and enthusiastic bunch. When you attend any Umbraco events or meetups, it’s clear that the development community are true Umbraco evangelists and care passionately for the platform and the work they’ve contributed to the growing shared knowledgebase. We’re Umbraco Gold Partners and we contribute around £12,000 per year to the continuing development of Umbraco as a CMS – reflecting our confidence in Umbraco as a platform now and in the future.
As an end user, having quick access to information is crucial for finding fast solutions. If you’re already using Umbraco, or will be soon, there’s an end user manual for content editors here: https://our.umbraco.org/projects/website-utilities/umbraco-7-editors-manual/. If video is more your thing, then head to Umbraco.tv here: http://umbraco.tv/videos/umbraco-v7/content-editor/
While it may seem biased to review the web CMS that we build on, the reason why we build our websites on Umbraco is because we believe it’s the best CMS on the market – for end users as well as developers. Personally, after nearly a year of working with Umbraco, I am convinced that it stands up against the competition. Umbraco is the best CMS I’ve used and it certainly makes my day-to-day so much easier. With the likes of WordPress, I often found myself having to tweak web pages and find workarounds, whereas with Umbraco I find that it just works.
If you want to find out any more about Umbraco, please visit their website here. If you’re interested in seeing Umbraco in action or have any questions around web development or adopting a new CMS, please contact us.