Breaking down Umbraco

Hands putting together a jigsaw

There are – broadly speaking – three types of content management system (CMS): open source, proprietary, and software-as-a-service (SaaS). At Manifesto, we’ve used all three. But more recently, we’ve been using Umbraco, an open source .NET CMS which is a popular choice for building applications on the Microsoft stack.

Originating back in 2008, Umbraco is now on its eighth major version. It boasts more than 700,000 active installs and hosts some of the world’s largest websites – including the European Council’s. 


Why did we choose Umbraco?

Umbraco’s benefits are many. At Manifesto, we particularly enjoy its flexibility. Using technologies we’re already familiar with, the CMS allows our solutions to achieve a breadth of functionality and remain malleable post-production.

It also allows us to deliver a unique, custom editing experience which is tailored to our clients’ specific – and often varying – needs. A developer can use document types to detail the information architecture (IA), and property editors to define how editors enter content. Combined, these Umbraco concepts mean we can deliver an intuitive and easy-to-use platform to manage content.

From a development point of view, Umbraco provides the structure and basis for our websites without restricting what we create on them. This means we can drive the templates and the markup, exercising full autonomy throughout the build. Umbraco itself is built on top of the .NET framework, which means it’s easily extendable whilst maintaining a strong foundation. 

When the Manifesto team needs to create a new integration, Umbraco allows us to capitalise on our existing .NET skills. This paves the way for much more bespoke integrations, which can sit alongside, as well as work in tandem with, the core CMS layer. External data can be brought into Umbraco too, by using custom sections and dashboards. This way, the content editor gets a consistent experience.


A strong community

When you’re considering fresh product creation, one thing to look for is the documentation and long-established community which already holds up the software you’re thinking of using. 

This is an area where Umbraco excels. The CMS enjoys a number of worldwide meet-ups (I help run the one in Bristol) and conferences. They attract all sorts of individuals – from freelancers looking to pick up new skills, to business owners scoping out new technology investments. The community is incredibly friendly and supportive, sharing the common goal of wanting to share their knowledge, and ultimately, improve Umbraco together.

Being an open source platform, Umbraco allows for greater cross-team involvement and smoother co-creation during each project. This, in turn, opens up more exciting opportunities for collaboration which you may never have discovered using a closed, commercial platform. As a result, there are a number of packages and extensions built for sectors such as ecommerce, customer relationship management (CRM), and personalisation.


Umbraco projects at Manifesto

As an Umbraco Gold partner, Manifesto is officially Umbraco-certified. This means we have a large team of certified developers, and more than 400 Certification Points – earnt by attending official Umbraco Training Courses.

The Manifesto team already has a number of Umbraco projects under its belt now, and we’re seeing some great results. If you click here, you can scroll through one of our most recent Umbraco website projects with human rights-focused law firm, Leigh Day.

Manifesto’s certified developers work with the agency’s clients to understand their requirements. That way, we can provide a content editing experience tailored to each client’s needs.

Whenever Manifesto embarks on a design and build, the team implements a pattern library which provides a modular, flexible approach to content. This corresponds well to the block list editor, the free-to-use tool within Umbraco that allows an editor to quickly and easily create engaging content.

Being Umbraco practitioners, we’re keen to attend conferences and meet-ups to keep our skills up to date. As a creative agency, we’re in close contact with Umbraco HQ. This not only further supports our clients, but also builds a stronger relationship with the project team who are involved with creating the product roadmap.

When it comes to hosting, we specialise in architecting bespoke solutions using cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure or using Umbraco’s own platform, Umbraco Cloud. Both of which provide 24/7 platform support and the ability to deliver faster, more resilient and scalable websites. 


Plans for the future

Umbraco, for us at least, was an easy choice when we reviewed developing solutions. And we’ve got a whole host of plans to further evolve the use cases of Umbraco. Which, in turn, will solidify our partnership with the Umbraco team’s HQ. The community around Umbraco is incredibly active, and we’ll be looking to get ever more involved as time goes on. 

As the .NET horizon approaches, the potential for Umbraco will increase greatly. Particularly the ability to develop and host on multiple platforms. Currently on Version 8, the next Umbraco release will use the latest version of .NET. A beta is scheduled for the end of April 2021, and we’ll be giving it a spin once it’s available. As we explored in our previous post, .NET has a very bright future, and we’re excited for the benefits it will bring.

If you’d like to discuss an Umbraco project with us, then please get in touch.

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