Coding and managing content on websites
Development · May 01, 2014 · 7 minutes

Umbraco 7: Four of our Likes and Dislikes

Josh Doolan, CEO Mudbath Digital
Josh Doolan CEO

The much-anticipated Umbraco 7 is out, and developers are either grumbling or embracing the changes since its release late last year.

What is Umbraco?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Umbraco, Umbraco is a Content Management System (CMS). It is open-source, built on Microsoft ASP.NET and to date has over 200,000 installations landing it in the top010 most popular open-source tools. It is incredibly extensible, and it allows for complete customisation making it a valuable tool for any agency looking to build custom web development projects.

At Mudbath, we deal with a wide range of CMS platforms. However, I have chosen to feature Umbraco in this blog and highlight some of the ups-and-downs that we’ve experienced with it since its v7 release.

First, lets jump straight in and get the dislikes out of the way, but before I do so, I want to point out that a lot of the dislikes (or more frustrations) that I've experienced come with positive trade-offs (featured in the like section below) and I am aware that many of these may have been fixed in future releases since the time of posting this blog.

My writing tone (i.e. surly old developer who LOVED v6) may come across as overly critical and for that, I apologise!

Dislikes

The Timeout: Unless the timeout is explicitly set - you write tones of content, forget to save it, it logs you out and the angular framework seems to have a kink in the logic – which brings you back to the root content mode – content gone!

Mobile: The new layout is quite slick, and on a tablet, it looks great. However, on a phone, it’s simply unusable! Ok, ok, I know - you won’t be building stacks of content and administering this from your smartphone. I also know v6 wasn’t mobile optimised; however, at a pinch (excuse the pun) – you could toggle a checkbox, or switch a template, or check a status. Now, the left-to-right UX in Umbraco prohibits the right-view panel from loading at all due to the menu width.

Non-enabled list view: Now don’t quote me on the fact that this feature may have crept into a late v6 build, however, the ‘enable list view’ feature in Umbraco 7 never seems to work for me. It looks to me like the motivation behind this view toggle is ultimately to move away from the Tree Node Picker view which Umbraco is so famous for. If your menu is on the right, you get a complex node structure that is several levels deep – it’ll just keep pushing further and further to the right. The enable list view moves to a traditional style of table list view, which you see in most CMSs. In theory, this would be better for this use case – if only one could just get it to work!

Their new website: Okay, this isn’t technically a dislike, but can someone please tell me what’s going on with the lady and the dude, and the photos and the stairs!? What was wrong with the smiley toothless kid? No doubt it’s working for them, so I can’t really be critical here.

Likes

Doesn’t it just look great! Finally, that old, clunky UX is gone and we’ve got a fluid backend office that looks stylish and is fast (thanks to Angularjs).  This has been the major update in this Umbraco version release. In fact, it's probably the most significant improvement to date, in my experience with Umbraco over the years. It is now responsive, allowing you to use the Umbraco back office on various different screen size and resolution. The navigation icons cleverly shift based on size and priority and the menus slide in and out, resulting in a rich UX. I’m a fan.

The media picker: With a click of a button in your article, the new Media Manager slides in from the right and you are met with a slick ‘folder explore type navigation’ allowing you sort through your media with ease. Along with all of this - wait for it - you can add a media item right there! This is huge! No more going back to the media section, uploading your media, going back to your article and adding it. Now you simply add it and it will append to not only your article but the Media Manager as well. A much-needed improvement.

It's fast: Plain and simple – everything is pretty much loaded in via ajax (behind the scenes) – so it's really seamless in clicking through the back office itself. It's built on frameworks developers know and love, which is really awesome news. Umbraco have adopted the AngularJS for their JS framework and Twitter Bootstrap for their CSS framework. This makes for incredibly easy customisation of views and components along with the support of a massive community around these frameworks alone.

Search Navigation: this is big – if you have a large, complex, deep node and content structure, don’t worry – there is now Search, and it works really well. Through the adoption of Examine the Wrapper for Lucene.Net indexer it simply just works.

 

Ultimately the good definitely outweighs the bad, and I'm a fan. No doubt, Umbraco will see to the small dislikes above, as they have a history of doing. Exciting times ahead for the Umbraco community!

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Mudbath is a 40+ person digital product agency based in Newcastle, NSW. We research, design and develop products for industry leaders.

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