Having worked with Umbraco since 2008, I’ve seen this product evolve into one of the most user friendly and strongest supported Content Management Systems (CMS) I’ve ever worked with. Umbraco is an open source, free CMS that allows users to download it and use for their own needs. It was developed by an individual from Denmark named Niels Hartvig. There is a strong developer community and forum where users can post issues and help each other out. The Umbraco community also contributes packages such as blogs, form generators, back office tools, and much more. Its versatility allows Umbraco developers to offer both quick out of the box solutions, and customized solutions for specific business processes.
How it started
Prior to getting involved with Umbraco, Redengine (my former employer) had their own CMS system called RCM that they spent years developing. Maintaining and upgrading RCM to keep up with other CMS’s required a lot of time and resources. At the time we discovered Umbraco, they were quite small and not very well known. After doing some research we discovered it was a superior CMS relative to RCM in every aspect. User friendly, performance and speed, upkeep and maintenance, and also a free tool with source code available. One of the main Umbraco guys (Paul Sterling) facilitated training for all the employees and after just 1 training session, we were comfortable rolling out websites in Umbraco. We always had a point of contact in case we ran into unique issues, but almost every issue we’ve run into we could find someone with the same issue on the community forum with answers. After committing to Umbraco, the feedback we received from clients was overwhelmingly positive. Almost everyone raved about how easy it was to use, and it made my training sessions so much easier because of how intuitive it was designed and structured. Also having the Umbraco team responsible for bug fixes and updates removed that work and cost from us. Umbraco also has their own documentation on how to do installs, upgrades, and patch updates. All can be found here:
Community and Codegarden
The Umbraco community is extremely active and it is amazing to see how generous they are with their time and how much they want to help people who either have issues or are just getting started. Last summer I was in Copenhagen (Denmark) for their annual conference called “Codegarden”. During the keynote, they announced that they were scrapping Umbraco 5 and declared it a failed project due to the decision of keeping the development of it in a small group instead of involving the community. Admitting to their mistake, they took feedback from the attendees and collected information on what issues people wanted fixed, and things that people wanted to see in Umbraco 6. The biggest feature that the developers insisted was having Umbraco run in MVC. Using the feedback they received, a Roadmap (http://our.umbraco.org/contribute/roadmap) was created that contained features and target dates leading up to the release of Umbraco 6 and minor versions after. Umbraco 6 was a huge success. It included a new improved data access layer as well as the ability to run the project in MVC rendering mode and a lot of other improvements.
Codegarden 2012 keynote. If you look at the far left hand side, you’ll see me!
Where Codegarden takes place.
Today they are wrapping up Umbraco 6 and ready to release Umbraco 7 (called project Belle) in November, 2013. This version includes a back office redesigned interface with minimal effort to upgrade Umbraco 6 installs to 7. They have also been working with the Microsoft Azure team to develop a solution to have automatic version upgrades and ways of making staging and production deployments easier.
A preview of what Umbraco 7 back office interface looks like.
As a developer, the thing I love most about Umbraco is that it doesn’t restrict my ability to do anything. It’s a tool for users to manage content and only adds to what I’m building. It allows developers to build without restraint or restrictions and allows them to be as creative as they wish. It allows designers to design and build sites freely using whatever type of tools or frameworks they are comfortable with. Being open source and having a strong community backing, they get great honest feedback and the Umbraco core team actually listens to their users. It’s amazing to be involved with Umbraco while they were small, and watching them over the last few years evolve to what they are now.