However with the growing web, websites are no longer just a bunch of dynamic web pages. Webmasters running online stores, community websites, social sites etc. continuously face the challenges of developing, monitoring, upgrading, deploying and maintaining their sites. On an enterprise level, organizations face a daunting task of keeping up with the advances of the Information Age. The volume of content generated in the form of Emails, documents text files, images, spreadsheets, instant messages, audio, video, presentations, XML documents etc. is enormous, making it a challenge to manage this information.
To address these challenges, website developers and enterprises started using a special software called Content Management System (CMS). In simple words, a CMS is a software used for collecting, managing and publishing content. A CMS can be used by an individual/group to create a Personal/Community/Content Site or by an Organization, to create E-Commerce or Corporate Sites. Further, an Enterprise Content Management System (ECMS) helps organizations make better decisions faster by organizing and storing documents, managing content and its workflow, optimizing processes and enabling compliance.
Kentico CMS Review
I recently got the opportunity to review a CMS made by Kentico. The Kentico CMS is an ‘Enterprise Ready CMS’, which allows you to create personal and corporate websites with ease. When I decided to review the Kentico CMS, I thought of first listing some key features that I would look for while choosing a CMS and then evaluate these features with the Kentico CMS and see how well it performs. Since I was reviewing the software, I needed a version which contains all the features. So I downloaded the Trial version of the Kentico CMS. You can even download a FREE Editon. There is also the option of a Live Demo for those who do not want to install anything on their machines.
Choosing a CMS – What to look for?
Here are some must-have features to look for (in no particular order), while choosing a CMS. The features have been listed keeping in mind the requirements of a Webmaster(Individual) as well an Enterprise.
Ease of Installation
Easy, Robust management interface, with the ability to create new templates and pages
Flexible Content model and Template engine. Easy File Management
Workflow management with Versioning and Process Compliance
Scalability and Availability
Implementation of Standard Web Practices, SEO etc.
Extensible framework. Create new plug-ins
Search Structure/Unstructured documents across repositories
Collaboration, Social software utilities with multi-language capabilities
Documentation and Customer Support
Let us now compare these features with Kentico CMS.
Ease of Installation
The installation of Kentico CMS went smooth with the help of easy-to-understand wizards, supported by good documentation. The entire installation takes time, so you may want to grab a cup of coffee (probably more) and sip it through the installation process.
Here’s the entire installation process represented graphically.
Once the setup is complete, you have the following choices of templates to choose from – Corporate Site, Corporate Site ASPX, Ecommerce Site, Personal Site, Community Site, Blank Site, Blank Site ASPX. I chose a Corporate Site Starter Kit.
The result is a fully functional corporate website as shown below.
I tested the layout and some functionality on the latest browsers (IE, Firefox, Chrome) and there were no issues. So Far So Good!
Easy, Robust Management Interface
Here’s where I would want a CMS to go on a Diet. A simple GUI, with the ability to create new content as well as manage existing content with ease and without requiring much technical knowledge, is what I would desire. I jumped to the Site administration section and found the GUI to be clean, along with a ‘CMS desk’ which allows users to edit, preview, schedule and archive content. A MSWord like WYSIWYG editor looks familiar and is easy to use. You can even paste text from a Word document and the editor automatically detects this and formats it for you. I find this very useful as I am a frequent user of MSWord.
Flexible Content model, Template Engine and Easy File Management
For webmasters who do not have programming abilities, a CMS should ease the process of site creation whereas for developers, it should provide a template based model that can be customized as needed. The Kentico CMS lets you create a full web site without writing any code, and for the experienced ASP.NET developers, it provides standard ASPX pages to use as templates and customize them as desired. The powerful template engine enables you to create Page templates and reuse them as many times you want. Since it is based on the ASP.NET platform, it supports master pages. It also allows you create your own document type with meta data support.
The File management module lets you batch import a directory and manage site assets like the media libraries, graphic files etc. with ease. The inbuilt Image Editor supports all basic features like Image resize, rotate, convert, trim etc., which eliminates the need to use 3rd-party editors.
I could not find a Multi-file uploader nor found the support for dragging and dropping files from the desktop to the uploader. I think it would be a nice-to-have feature.
Workflow Management with Versioning and Process compliance
A Workflow is important to enterprises and the Kentico CMS allows you to customize workflows and define your processes. You can notify owners when new documents arrive for approval and also let them edit documents with an exclusive lock. You even have the ability to compare document versions as part of the workflow process. This allows content approvers to review documents and see what changes were made. Nice!
Security is one feature I am very particular about. A CMS should provide out-of-box security as well as give the owners, the flexibility to fully customize the authentication system to suit their needs. Kentico CMS has a granular security model which incorporates the standard ASP.NET security features. It also supports SSL/HTTPS. Here’s a summary:
Authentication – Forms and Windows Authentication supported. Windows domain and Active Directory import facility.
Authorization - Granular level of permissions possible for documents and modules, with the ability to create secured site sections and content.
Membership – Easy to use Membership features with customizable user fields. Additional support for Double-opt-in registration, mass mails, avatars, site badges and much more.
Customization – You can customize the authentication system to use any authentication service. Out-of-the-box support provided for Facebook, LiveID and OpenID.
Scalability and Availability
Although I could not test the scalability of Kentico CMS, I believe it is optimized to work with 1,000,000 users and 100,000 documents in the database, with native support for web farms. That’s a good number that makes it Enterprise ready. Since it is built using ASP.NET, you can use the caching techniques you are familiar with, to improve site performance.
I was looking out for an in-built Health Monitoring support which could detect failures and notify the administrators. I am not sure if Kentico provides one, as I could not locate it.
I also tested the Demo Page using YSlow and observed that although the built-in templates follow most of the best practices, there were pages that did not make use of CSS Sprites or combine multiple scripts into one. Doing so will result in faster page loads and better performance. Anyways this is something that can be considered and fixed easily.
Implementation of Standard Web Practices and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
I found the following web standards supported in the Kentico CMS
· Built-in support for XHTML 1.0 compatible pages in the WYSIWYG editor
· Support for both table and CSS-based layout and positioning
· Support for CSS-based menu controls
· Support for providing links and images with additional alt/title information
· follows the recommendations listed in the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 and U.S. Government Section 508
Apart from this, you have support to build SEO optimized websites with the support for friendly url’s. You also have the choice to create dynamic and custom URL’s with tracking support too. I find the tracking feature useful for sites running marketing campaigns. You can also provide title, keywords and metadata information for any page, to improve SEO.
Extensible Framework, built-in Modules
Although a CMS lets you create fully functional websites, we at times need to extend the existing functionality to suit our needs. The Kentico CMS gives you full control over the rendering, so you can completely customize the structure and layout as well as define new events, operations and handlers.
I found a few built-in modules and you can even roll out your own. Although the number of modules provided is not overwhelming, they provide the most important ones that you would need.
Search Structure/Unstructured documents
Access to information, as and when it is required is the lifeline of any organization. I found the Kentico CMS offering full-text indexing and search support. You can search common Office documents like .doc, ppt, xls and pdf or search the Database content. You can even customize your search. For eg: you can prevent certain documents to come up in the search results and so on. You need to have SQL Server Full-text Search Engine installed on your machine to enable full-text search.
Since the Kentico CMS allows classification of data and supports metadata creation and taxonomy, the search accuracy improves.
Technology Support and IDE Integration
Since the Kentico CMS is a standard ASP.NET project, you can open and modify it using Visual Studio or the freely available Visual Web Developer Express Edition. Since I am a .NET developer, I find it easy to work with a familiar tool and environment, as it increases my productivity.
The latest version of Kentico CMS 5.5 also support VS 2010, .NET 4.0 and Sharepoint Server, which shows that they support and leverage new technologies, as and when they are available. Nice!
Collaboration, Social software utilities and Multi-language capabilities
With support for blogs, forums and message board in a CMS, content sharing and collaboration becomes easy. Moreover if you are running a community site or a user group, in addition to the collaboration tools, you should have built-in support to send newsletters, meeting notifications, polls, surveys, job postings, online forums and so on. The Kentico CMS offers all of these and much more.
Their RoadMap shows that they will soon be adding support for a new Intranet Site (based on the Social Networking Package) and an On-line Marketing Package as well.
I could not find a Wiki framework and it will be a nice addition to the CMS, if they include one.
Documentation and Customer Support
The Kentico CMS is well documented with a step-by-step approach of explaining new features. You have a separate guide for creating different types of website using the CMS like Ecommerce, Personal Site or a Community site, which I feel is helpful for a webmaster.
For Developers, you have documentation about the Database structure, Webparts, Controls, API References and so on.
Although I did not try out the customer support (since the documentation solved most of my queries), with the trial version of the Kentico CMS, I got 10 free support tickets by Email, free of cost. I think it’s thoughtful of providing a trial Edition and also supporting you, when you get stuck. I also got an mail from the Customer support informing me of this available support.
The Kentico CMS looks promising with the capability and flexibility to serve the needs of an individual or an organization. You should definitely check their Roadmap which contains details on how they plan to grow bigger and better!
Download a Trial Version of Kentico CMS or a FREE Edition of Kentico CMS and try it out.