First impressions of the @Kentico CMS platform
What is Kentico?
Kentico is a .NET web platform for building content managed websites. Kentico provide many services for building sites such as marketing and e-commerce, but we will be primarily focusing on the content management side of things.
Installation with Kentico CMS is surprisingly easy, with no additional IIS or database configurations required. The only needed action to get running with Kentico is to run the installer. From the installer, you are given multiple options for a default sample site to start off with. There is a number of pre-defined installation options including:
- Corporate site
- E-commerce site
- Personal site
- Community site
- Intranet portal
- Blank site (Portal Engine)
- Blank site (ASPX)
Once installed, the selected template website is immediately loaded. From here, you are prompted to login with an administrator account so you can begin working with the CMS.
Once you have followed the instructions to sign in as the global administrator (the login is provided as simply ‘administrator’ with a blank password), you are immediately greeted with an ‘Edit Page’ button in the top-left corner of the screen.
After pressing the ‘Edit Page’ button, the various elements on the page can be edited and moved around to however you see fit. Text content is easily editable and new pre-defined widgets already built by Kentico can be inserted into the page. The interface is very clean, simple and most importantly, easily navigable.
After having a quick play around in the Page Editor, I quickly found myself in the Kentico Dashboard. Those of you familiar with the Windows 8 Start Menu will be familiar with it. The global administrator dashboard comes with all functionality enabled, so you can edit a whole host of features that come with Kentico.
This includes editing page templates, forms and web parts (the primary components of the platform’s Portal Engine) which come with a host of pre-made components to start building a fully-featured website out of the box.
The ‘Sites’ panel contains a list of Kentico managed websites that are on the system. This means that only a single installation is needed per computer.
New sites can be added from this section, including the following options:
- Create from template – Using the same templates as provided in the installer
- Create with a wizard – Setting your own custom options for the site.
Sites are also configurable from this area, meaning that there is no need for painstaking IIS configurations and setup. Any site you setup will work straight out of the box, providing that two running sites don’t share the exact same domain.
Users, roles and permissions
Kentico provides various default roles and permissions for users of your website including Administrators, Editors, Readers, Facebook Users, LinkedIn Users, Marketing Managers, Designers and any other roles you can think of or add.
It is also possible to personalise the user interface and dashboard configuration based on roles.
Adding/Removing/Editing Widgets and Web Parts
The Portal Engine is a big selling point for the Kentico CMS, which they are very keen on pushing forward. It allows visual programming and design of a fully-fledged enterprise website without touching ASP.NET or C# code too deeply.
The Engine uses atomic components called Web parts, which are used as the building blocks for the pages on a site. Pages are created from templates which define their layouts, design and style.
Templates are broken down into individual zones which can contain any number of widgets and web parts. There are two kinds of templates available from Kentico:
- Ad-hoc templates: Templates that are bound to a specific document. These are automatically deleted if the document they are bound to is removed.
- Re-usable templates: Named templates that can be shared by a multitude of documents across multiple sites created with Kentico.
Templates can be built using ASCX layout pages with C# code-behind or with HTML. Each zone in a template are custom ‘cms’ tags with a unique identifier usually wrapped inside a ‘div’ tag. Once defined, any amount of web parts can be dynamically added to the page via the designer.
Web parts are ASCX controls with C# code-behind files. They can be modified in the editor to define properties, modify their layout and customise the CSS and themes. Documentation can be built directly in the CMS for other users to help their understanding in relation to the site being constructed.
Widgets and Web Parts
Kentico includes a wide range of built in widgets that give content editors the option to add more to the page than just text.
The extensive selection of widgets include:
- Dynamic content and more…
Giving this option to the user grants them more flexibility in the functionality of their website and allows them to edit the overall design/layout of the page without the need to ask the developer to tweak the page design for them.
Furthermore, included in each widget are a set of configurable options to set things such as where it can be used and which user has access to that widget. This offers a large amount of control and security, making sure the user can only edit the widgets you give them access to.
New widgets can also be created using visual studio if none of the existing widgets have the required functionality and a widgets default feature set can be enhanced using web parts.
Kentico also includes 250+ web parts which include anything from navigation menus, data lists, forum controls and shopping carts for e-commerce. Web parts can be added to a page by dragging and dropping them to the web part zones using a web browser. They are built using standard ASP.NET user controls (ASCX) so editing or making new web parts can be simply be done using visual studio. Once dropped onto the page, they also allow for the modification of HTML they render through the web browser.
Kentico also has a marketplace where community created widgets and Web Parts can be found for a wide range of prices.
Listening to the trends in today’s market, Kentico have provided direct support for Microsoft’s MVC Framework to build sites with. Using MVC allows you to have full control over your site, with Kentico as your content backend. All routing is handled manually and the live site itself is generated by the MVC code that you write. Due to this, Web Parts are not supported with MVC in Kentico.
Kentico offer competitive pricing when compared to other Enterprise CMS’s. There are various packages provided by Kentico to cover a wide range of possibility, but we’ll go over the licenses that cover a single website.
- Base License – £2,299
- Ultimate License – £4,899
Full pricing information can be found here.
In summary, Kentico is a very powerful and robust CMS for the .NET platform that is worth looking into for constructing enterprise sites. It is provided at a very competitive price without comprising on its heavy feature set. With a sleek, modern interface, content and user management is simple. Altering page content is a simple drag of the mouse if you use web parts and if you’re more technically savvy, you have full control over how you build your site with either regular old ASP.NET or MVC4.
This article merely touches the surface when it comes to the wide array of features that is provided with Kentico. For more information, visit them at their official site.