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Umbraco 8 - how a fantastic CMS just got even better

What is Umbraco CMS?

Umbraco is a content management system (CMS) known for its flexibility and great editing experience. It’s Microsoft's number one open source installation, and has been the CMS of choice for hundreds of thousands of websites - from start-ups to large corporates like Carlsberg, Mercedes-Benz, Heinz and Microsoft themselves.

By the way, if you’re unfamiliar with the Umbraco CMS, now's a good time to pop over to our page on Umbraco websites, or take a quick look at our blog article, 10 reasons why an Umbraco Content Management System is crucial to your business website.

 

"Umbraco 7 was (and still is!) a fantastic bit of software and version 8 only improves on that. V8 is an exciting release not only for its new interface and improved editing tools, but also for its future possibilities."
- Chris Brown, Senior Developer & Umbraco Evangelist, Intuitiv Digital.

 

Umbraco 8

Here, at Intuitiv Digital, we’ve been using Umbraco 8 since its release on 26th February, 2019, so we thought it was high time to reflect on this hotly-anticipated update.

Umbraco 8 has been five years in the making. So, if Umbraco is already famous for its flexibility, great intuitive editing experience and friendly community, what’s so special about Umbraco 8?

Well, Umbraco say:

“With every version of Umbraco, we strive to make things simpler. Simpler to extend, simpler to edit, simpler to publish - simpler to use, simpler to enjoy.
With Umbraco version 8, we give you a major dollop of simpler - all to make you, and everyone involved with your Umbraco project, smile... more.”

To be specific, Umbraco have introduced three significant features with Umbraco 8:

  • Infinite Editing

  • Language Variants

  • Content Apps

In addition, the CMS interface has been made even clearer and more intuitive than Umbraco 7, and, for developers, they’ve carried out a massive clean-up of the codebase.

No wonder Umbraco 8 was five years in the making!

We’ll now take a brief look at each of the new features, highlighting what they mean in practical terms.

 

Infinite Editing

Infinite Editing gives you the ability to edit content and media without losing your place in the Umbraco CMS. This means less time jumping between menus and tabs, hunting around to find content and media, and more time creating engaging content - all in one place.

Those of you who use a CMS to edit website content frequently, will be familiar with the frustration of wanting to edit the content or media (e.g. an image) that sits on a page, but find you have to drill down and click around the murky media depths of your CMS, losing context of the page you’re working on. 

Well, Infinite Editing removes that pain!

With Umbraco 8, you can edit a page on your website, click on, say, an image, make changes in the same window, and return seamlessly to editing your page. Helpfully, the changes you’ve just made to that image are effective across your whole website.

Umbraco 8 provides an easier editing flow, allowing you to work seamlessly and intuitively. It’s often referred to as a ‘frictionless’ editing experience.

Here’s a short video from Umbraco explaining Infinite Editing.


Language Variants

The introduction of Language Variants into the Umbraco CMS means it’s much easier to edit and manage multilingual content. Under the surface it’s an incredibly advanced feature, but, typically, Umbraco makes it feel simple for the content manager.

Some of the new built-in features include:

  • The ability to switch between languages in preview mode for easy comparison.

  • Side by side mode when editing two different pieces of content at the same time.

  • The ability to set up mandatory languages. So, if your main markets are Germany and Sweden, you can create a rule that content for both languages must be in place before you can publish.

  • The ability to choose which content variants (i.e. languages) to publish.


“Language Variants offers a fantastic improvement to multi-lingual websites, but it’s core feature is segmenting content that will allow for large flexibility in content personalisation. The marketing possibilities for your content could be endless, allowing editors to create variations on personalisation metrics such as whether the user is on desktop or mobile, has viewed the content before, etc.”

- Chris Brown, Senior Developer & Umbraco Evangelist, Intuitiv Digital

 

Language Variants allows you to provide your website visitors with a more relevant and personalised experience. This, of course, leads to higher website engagement and potential customer contact. And, as it’s Umbraco, content editors get a simple, easy-to-use editing experience.

Here’s a video from Umbraco explaining Language Variants in Umbraco 8.

 

Content Apps

Content Apps is a new extension option in Umbraco which helps focus on high-quality content. Umbraco describe a Content App as being a companion whilst you create, edit, publish and update your content:

 “A Content App is not directly part of the editing experience but can give you information and feedback on the content you are creating as well as statistics and results of the impact of the content you have published. It can even bring you suggestions on how to improve your content while you’re creating it. No need to jump to external platforms or checklists to get these insights - now you’re able to get it right where you need it.

Umbraco add:

“A Content App can be anything related to content creation in Umbraco, examples of such functionality could be:
- Analytics integration for details on adoption, engagement, audience etc.
- Support tools with information and analysis of composition and structure of content.
- Information from 3rd party applications in relation to the content (e.g. ecommerce statistics).
Workflow support tools to guide an internal process for content creation and review.”

For example, the standard Info app - which you can see circled below - provides the editor with information on links, status and history of this particular content node. Other Content Apps can be integrated and would appear next to the Info app, as an additional content companion.

 

 

The great thing about Content Apps is that any developer can build their own app and make it available as an Umbraco extension - offering almost limitless flexibility and customisation.

 

Clean-up of codebase

Along with the new features, Umbraco have also carried out a huge clean-up of the codebase for Umbraco 8.

This has rather nice benefits for Intuitiv Digital as developers:

  • Much easier for us to create and install packages.

  • A lot easier for us to follow best practices.

  • Easier to incorporate up-to-date technologies.

  • The Umbraco CMS is more stable with improved performance.

And, what benefits us at Intuitiv Digital, will benefit our clients too. It enables us to offer our clients a more powerful CMS, but one that is even easier and faster to use.

For those who are fluent in techie-developer speak:

“The vast tidy up of the codebase, removing a lot of legacy V4 and beyond code, paves the way a .NET Core version in the future. With the recent announcement from Microsoft that .NET 5 will be a single version, dropping the traditional Framework and only running with .NET Core 3.0, this is a promising and welcome first step.  
From a development point of view, the large refactoring to bring a Dependency Injection container into Umbraco Core is great, with the Component initialisation offing a flexible new entry point for our packages and modules. Sprinkle in the improvements to Nested Content with the distinction between published Content and Elements, the built in Log Viewer, and this feels like a very good major release to a great CMS tool.“
- Chris Brown, Senior Developer & Umbraco Evangelist, Intuitiv Digital


Interface updates

Just when you thought CMS life couldn’t get any better, Umbraco have simplified the editing interface even further. It’s even clearer and more intuitive than before - and it was a joy to use then.

The navigation is even more obvious, with section headings moved from the previously rather busy left hand side panel to the top. This improves the hierarchy and flow of information, following how your eye naturally sweeps the page.

For example, here's Umbraco 7:

 

 

And below is Umbraco 8. The cluttered tabs at the top of each page in Umbraco 7 have been removed. Instead there’s a simple drop down menu when you hover over ‘Content’. These links slide you down to the appropriate block of info for that page e.g. header, SEO, content etc.

 

 

Attention to detail increases usability.

 

Previously, for example, to save (and not publish) a piece of content, you had to click on ‘Save and publish’, then ‘Save’. The ‘Save’ was hidden - not very intuitive and prone to accidental publishing.

Umbraco 7

In Umbraco 8, just click ‘Save’!

Umbraco 8

There’re too many subtle updates of the interface to mention here, but we can safely say that the result is far, far greater than the sum of its parts!

 

Conclusion

At Intuitiv, we love Umbraco. That’s why we’re an Umbraco Certified Partner. In our opinion, an already great open-source CMS has just got even better with Umbraco 8. With its new features, the clean-up of the codebase and the interface updates, Umbraco 8 has definitely been worth the wait!

If you like the sound of a super-powerful, mega-flexible CMS that’s focussed on beautiful simplicity for the user, send us a message on our contact page, or give us a call on 01844 858 858.

You can also read about some of our recent Umbraco projects below.


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