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Kentico 8 is finally here (almost) – My first impressions

Written By: Virgil Carroll
Posted: 3/14/2014

So I have been eagerly awaiting the release of the new version 8 of Kentico CMS for the past many months.  As a Kentico Gold Partner, I’ve been keeping abreast of many of the new changes planned for this version and was excited to get my hands on the final pre-release build before launch in April.

After some back-n-forth with Kentico Support (still one of the biggest rock star support teams out there for software), I was able to get Kentico 8 installed on my laptop to take a peek (had an issue which ended up the installer I downloaded was corrupted – go figure).  So this post is to give you some of my first impressions.  I plan to write further as I have time around observations I make over time.

When installing Kentico, I decided I wanted to look at 3 of the various sample templates that come out-of-the-box: Ecommerce, Community and Blank (the last being the one we use the most to start building our client’s sites).  When I went to the website location, Kentico had automatically selected to show the Ecommerce template, as you can see below.

You can see from the start, Kentico 8 goes for a much cleaner, modern look for even its starter templates.  Even though we tend not to do a lot of ecommerce, I have always appreciated that Kentico is one of the few commercial grade content management systems that have a very sophisticated solution built right into the product.  Navigating through the pages show an interface with a lot of the bells and whistles you would expect from a from a modern day ecommerce site. (I will do further reviews of this later)

My next step was to log into the administrative interface and was pleasantly surprised to get this screen.

As you can see the administrative side of Kentico has been completely revamped.  One of the most significant changes includes a unified administrative interface (it’s about time!), so there is no more switching back-n-forth from CMS Desk and CMS Site Manager.  Now all functionality is located in one interface, so administrative users can easily switch between the multiple functions they can perform. (This will be security trimmed based on the admin user’s settings, so they only see what they can do)

You also see that Kentico, like many other Microsoft vendors, have tailored their design experience around the new ‘tile’ standard.  Whether you like this or not, it does provide a much more modern and much less cluttered interface than what we’ve been used to in the past.  That fact being one of the most exciting parts to me, is that Kentico actually did some extensive usability studies around the new interface to build something much more intuitive and user-friendly than in the past.

Using the tiles, an administrator or content contributor can access many of the most common tasks that might be needed, including working with site pages, web parts, as well as users & roles.  Clicking on the Kentico logo in the top left corner reveals a much more thorough administrative menu where you can access all administrative links to the various CMS areas.  I like that administrators can now use one, unified navigation (versus the ribbon interface of the past) to quickly jump around from area to area.  I also really appreciate the quick tips that show during roll-over to give users an understanding of what functionality awaits behind each link.  It’s this careful attention to detail that shows how much time and effort Kentico put into the user experience.

I also noted in the Content Management area of the menu, it includes a lot of new reports out-of-the-box for administrators to easily see the status of content throughout the system, including recently updated, checked-out and outdated (probably the most important for sites that want to stay fresh).  This definitely reflects a better understanding of what is important to content managers (and reflects a frequent request we get from customers) and will give them better options to maintain the integrity of their website content.

The last area I wanted to check out for this post was the functionality that most administrative users will work with on a daily basis – Pages.  The pages area basically replaces what was the main functionality in the CMS Desk of versions past.  This is where administrators go to manage their content, structure and page designs.

As you can see from the screenshot, the interface continues the cleaner, modern look but overall will feel quite familiar if you’ve used previous versions of Kentico in the past.  You still have the standard page tree navigation in the left hand pane as well as the various tabs to manage the various components of the item settings.
One interesting thing I found from this side is the loading animation that pops up on the screen when a page is taking some time to load.  Where it would always be ideal that a page loads up quickly, in reality, when you have a software product of this complexity, fast load time of administrative systems are not always possible, therefore the loading animation is a welcome addition to provide administrators with feedback on the load progress.

Well I could write for hours on all the new stuff, but this gives you a brief overview of some of the things I saw.  In future posts I plan to dive deeper into some of the new functionality and how existing features have changed.

In the meantime, here are some other new features I really like that I will explore more in the future.

  • Built-in support chat – really cool new feature where you can enable your administrators to provide chat support to website visitors
  • Device targeting – where this was available in previous versions, the new interface has dynamic ways to not only set-up device targeting but preview on-the-fly during page editing
  • Personas – You can now create personas to better segment your marketing efforts via the online marketing suite
  • Contextual help – FINALLY, when you click on help, the first support documents to show up are ones related to the topic
  • Document type scopes – not totally sure about this one and will have to explore further, but appears to give content managers the ability to segment content ranges by document types.

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Chad's Bio Coming Soon!

More About Virgil

Virgil Carroll is the owner and president of High Monkey – based in Minneapolis Minnesota. Virgil also wears the multiple ‘hats’ of Principle Human Solutions Architect and SharePoint Architect.

Virgil is one of those rare individuals who can dive deep into technical topics while speaking clearly to the business owners of a project and never forgetting that the end user experience has the highest priority. He calls it using both sides of his brain. Virgil is passionate about leveraging technologies ‘out of the box’ as much as possible with a focus on the strategic use of content to create websites that deliver the right content to the right audience on the right device at the right time. Virgil brings high energy, an ironic wit, and a sense of grounded perspective whenever he speaks to an audience. Virgil regularly speaks at conferences and user groups throughout the United States and occasionally in Europe.

Posted: 3/14/2014 12:00:00 AM by Brian Haukos | with 0 comments