Software Development

What is Umbraco CMS & What is it used for? A Beginner’s Guide

18 października, 2021 0
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It’s hard to argue that WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS), and it’s easy to see why. PHP is one of the most widely used programming languages on the Internet, and because of this, most websites are built with WordPress.

However, WordPress isn’t the only CMS in town. There are a growing number of options available, and this is where Umbraco CMS steps in. This post will explore a more advanced Content Management System (CMS) called „Umbraco CMS” that goes beyond WordPress and other simple solutions.

Below I’ve gathered some of the essential things you should know about this robust platform from Denmark.

What is Umbraco CMS?

Umbraco is a free and open-source content management system (CMS) that allows you to build beautiful, responsive websites and data-driven apps which can be accessed from any device or browser.

Umbraco has been around for a long time – was initially released in 2004 as a community-driven project, and since then it has grown into the leading .NET CMS framework in today’s market. After years of code improvements – Umbraco has become a mature CMS with a vibrant community of developers and designers.

Umbraco is award-winning CMS

Umbraco CMS has won a number of awards including:

Big players use Umbraco

Umbraco is built over Microsoft’s .NET Framework, so you probably won’t be surprised if I tell you that Microsoft uses it to manage their websites. Besides Microsoft, Umbraco is also utilized by big businesses, including Sony, Avon, Warner Brothers, Peugeot, and Vogue, to name a few. These companies have consciously chosen to work with this CMS.

The client market is expanding over time – Umbraco CMS is becoming more and more popular. According to the official Umbraco website, since its initial release, the platform has had over 731,000 active installations. Okay, let’s be honest, maybe it’s not on the same level of popularity as WordPress, but Umbraco is unquestionably more flexible, scalable, and secure.

Umbraco is flexible and simple to use

Umbraco is easy to use and offers practically unlimited possibilities in terms of website development, content management, and customization. It is one of the most solid CMS technologies on the market and has proved its stability and security. I personally believe it’s more a Content Management Framework rather than a standard Content Management System.

One of the biggest strengths of Umbraco is that the website can look and work exactly as you planned – I can completely agree with the description on the official Umbraco website:

Our main goal with Umbraco is to give you a platform where you have the freedom to do and manage things your way. Every project has different needs and requirements, and instead of packing a system with options and buttons that may or may not be relevant for you, we’ve kept it neat and open.

Umbraco is built over powerful Microsoft .NET Framework

The Microsoft .NET Framework is a general-purpose development platform that can be used to build any application. It enables developers to produce high-performing, secure, reliable, and easy-to-manage code.

Umbraco CMS is written mainly in C# and uses ASP.NET technology (an open-source web framework) which was created to allow developers to quickly build robust and secure websites, services, and apps with the full power of the .NET platform.

Umbraco is a well-documented, built-on object-oriented architecture, which provides users with a high level of comfort when building and customizing websites. Umbraco works fully with Microsoft technologies and can take advantage of many ready-to-use libraries – therefore, it allows to implementation of any business requirement in a reasonable timeframe.

What project can Umbraco be used for? 

I had the chance to work with various Umbraco versions, from version 4, all the way up to version 9. Over the years – I had the opportunity to deal with complex business cases and create a wide range of projects. Umbraco CMS may be used to build almost any type of internet application – from small personal websites, mobile apps to sophisticated enterprise portals or e-commerce stores.

Umbraco can be a good choice for:

  • Enterprise portal that serves as an intranet for employees and partners.
  • A corporate website with information about the company’s portfolio, products.
  • An online store for selling sports equipment, clothes, books, etc.
  • Huge websites will a lot of content pages (articles, news. etc) and files.
  • A local community web portal.
  • A personal site or blog.
  • Data-driven CMS to expose content to multiple apps, devices.
  • Any web solution with lots of integration.

Umbraco is perfect for marketing agencies who want to work with small businesses or enterprises looking for a scalable framework to manage their content. Users can manage their website directly, which helps improve the overall customer experience and makes it easier to stay up-to-date with any changes.

Integration with other platforms is easy

Modern CMS needs to work together with a variety of software. Umbraco is flexible enough to integrate efficiently with all kinds of applications and platforms such as:

  • Web analytics and statistics tools – to collect data about online traffic and website visitors (ex. Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics).
  • CRM platforms – to manage customer relations (ex. Salesforce, SugarCRM, Microsoft Dynamics).
  • ERP systems – to manage internal processes such as accounting, invoicing, or payroll (ex. SAP Business One, Oracle E-Business Suite).
  • Payment gateways – to create secure payment pages, process transactions (ex. PayPal, PayU).
  • Social networks – to share content on social media (ex. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn).
  • Email marketing software – for creating, sending, and tracking emails newsletters (ex. MailChimp, SendGrid).
  • Customer service software – to automate customer service (ex. Zendesk, Freshdesk).
  • Business intelligence services – to manage business data and statistics.
  • SOAP/REST APIs – to connect with other software via API or web services.
  • Marketing automation tools – to manage inbound marketing (ex. HubSpot, Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot).

Umbraco is open source

The Umbraco CMS is open-source and the code is publicly available on GitHub, which means that developers can easily collaborate and contribute to its development. The open-source project creates an atmosphere for collaboration and access to code. It also encourages innovation and allows people to contribute to improving the software. Bugfixes, security patches, and new features are discovered by the community much faster.

When talking about open-source projects – the bigger the project’s community is, the better. The numbers of Umbraco active members are constantly growing, and it means that you will get fast feedback if you encounter any problems or bugs while building your website. Because there are so many users and developers, it’s more likely that the framework will be supported and updated on a regular basis.

Does Umbraco require a license?

No. Umbraco CMS is totally free and open-source under MIT license. MIT license is one of the most common open-source licenses, and it allows you to do whatever you want with the source code, so you can use it for commercial projects.

There are no hidden costs or license restrictions – you can start building your website right away with no additional fees. This can be a big plus for your budget, for example, a Sitecore’s license is expensive – pricing starts at $40,000 and generates extra cost each year.

Umbraco can be extended by packages

Umbraco, like other popular CMS platforms (like WordPress, Drupal, or Sitecore), may be expanded with add-ons to its greatest potential. No matter what kind of website you’re trying to build – you should visit Umbraco marketplace, where you can find community-driven packages with extra features that you need. You can install these extensions in two ways: directly from the admin back-office panel or via the NuGet.

If the extension you require is not available in the repository, you can easily build your own package. You just need basic knowledge of C#, .NET, and some web development skills (HTML, AngularJS, CSS). See Umbraco CMS must-have packages to discover my list of favorite Umbraco extensions which I use heavily.

Umbraco can work as Headless CMS

Headless CMS, as it is the newest trend in the world of content management systems, enables you to build a highly scalable and modular content delivery system. Umbraco can work both as a monolith and headless CMS, so you have the freedom to manage multiple websites and platforms with the same ease as one – adding or removing any type of data you want. The difference is that a headless CMS doesn’t display pages on its own. Instead, it serves data over a REST API and enables to consume, render and use it according to even the craziest requirements.

For example, instead of using Umbraco to display site pages on the frontend, a headless CMS will send content in a JSON format and deliver it to a custom app. This is an ideal case when you are working with an experienced frontend team proficient in modern technologies such as React, Angular, Vue, and Ember.

Umbraco is perfect for business

WordPress was brought to life as a blogging tool, and it works well. In turn, Umbraco was designed as an all-purpose, flexible CMS for creating everything from simple blogs to fully functional corporate apps. Business loves Umbraco. As the statistics say, nearly 20% of all websites based on Umbraco CMS are typical business websites – popular industries include computer electronics, finance, science, travel, and e-commerce websites.

Speaking of e-commerce, let’s stop here for a moment. Umbraco is an excellent content management platform for building robust shopping websites, because an e-commerce store:

  • should be fast, lightweight, and scalable – to ensure optimal performance for peak traffic times or during product promotions.
  • should be secure – it stores personal information about customers, including credit card data.
  • should easily integrate various payment methods – Stripe, PayPal, and others.
  • should be SEO optimized – Google likes websites that are fast and mobile-friendly.
  • should have no downtime, because every second of downtime can cost a lot of money, and business reputation.

Because of all these factors, I strongly believe that Umbraco is worth considering for building e-commerce sites with a wide range of capabilities: correctly integrating payments, tax calculation, inventory management, shipping services, and web analytics.

Umbraco is cross-platform with .NET Core

For many years, the most frequent accusation against Umbraco (and possibly the reason for the relatively low popularity of this CMS compared to WordPress) was the lack of .NET Core support. Umbraco relied solely on a Windows server from the outset so that it couldn’t be operated on Linux. But! This ‘little’ drawback is history. When Microsoft announced .NET Core 3.0, Umbraco’s developers decided to migrate as well. However, they wanted to wait for a more mature and balanced version of the core, so it took some time to deliver the mature product.

After the launch of Umbraco V9 on September 28th, 2021, it is officially possible to run Umbraco CMS on top of the .NET 5/ASP.NET Core stack. This is a big deal for many reasons:

  • .NET Core gives you a true cross-platform architecture for deploying/hosting applications. It allows you to run your Umbraco website on a platform of your choice: Windows, Linux, or macOS.
  • Tech stack is free and open-source software with no licensing fees attached.
  • It enables you and your team to use modern development tools – Visual Studio, Visual Studio Code, JetBrains Rider, .NET Core CLI, etc.
  • .NET Core ensures better performance, scalability, security, and cleaner architecture.
  • No technological debt in Microsoft technologies.

To put it simply, Umbraco v9 with .NET Core support unlocks the potential of the cross-platform ecosystem for your website. No doubt – it is a big step forward.

All the above benefits make Umbraco a great choice for building scalable and lightweight applications that can be easily deployed to any environment.

Key takeaway

At this point, Umbraco is a mature CMS with a solid codebase, and moving to .NET Core is a game-changer. If you’re planning a new project or just thinking of replacing your old CMS, Umbraco is a must-be on your consideration list. Certainly, more and more companies will decide to migrate soon.

If you want to learn more about Umbraco and find the right resources to get started with CMS quickly – read my article Great Resources to Learn How to Use Umbraco Like a Pro.

Piotr Bach
Autor: Piotr Bach
Senior .NET Developer & Umbraco Master, you can find more on my personal site

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