When I came to decide how Appetere should deliver Content Management Systems, there were a number of (non-exclusive) options.
The highest level of control would come through building our own CMS from scratch. But equally, this would be the most time-consuming option.
The other option was to use a CMS that already exists. This should speed up the implementation time, but introduces the concern that we would be stuck with someone else's way of doing things.
So I set down a wishlist to start the search:
- Opensource code. If ever we want to understand or modify the way the code works, this is a big benefit. Similarly, if the vendor stopped trading, we would not be left high & dry.
- Uses ASP.NET architecture, with any exposed code in C#. This is what I specialise in, so I'll be able to get more out of a system that is built this way.
- Good documentation & technical support.
- Websites using the system perform well.
- Modules for commonly used functionality are included or can be easily integrated.
- Reasonable cost for our target customers
Did I find everything in my wishlist in one package? In short no, but three packages out of those evaluated (see the full list at the end) made it onto the short-list:
- Kentico CMS (the eventual winner)
I'd slightly overlooked Kentico to begin with as it isn't open-source (although with a suitable licence the code is available), but as I evaluated it against my criteria it quickly emerged as the best choice for Appetere.
It is built using ASP.NET with code written in C# and is elegantly structured so that it is easy to configure & add custom functionality. As a bonus, it also offers a second, proprietary way of building pages that doesn't require ASP.NET knowledge, so developers with different skill levels can work side by side on the project.
A quick check of their showcase convinced me that sites built using the system can perform well.
Next I started building some sites myself, which ticked the box on having many useful modules that speed up the implementation of common requirements like news, blogs & forums.
It wasn't all plain sailing, so I did have cause to check out their technical support & forums. Again, a pleasant surprise in that all emails to their support people were replied to within a matter of hours, and posts in the forums (which Kentico staff contribute to) not taking much longer for a reply.
Kentico is a Czech company, although everything is presented in English, and they have a US presence. The Czech staff speak/write pretty good English, so this doesn't seem to be a problem.
Finally, you can use the free edition of the software to get started, but in most moderately complicated websites you do need to pay for a suitable licence. Oddly, they price in US$, which (at the time of writing) is not great for UK buyers because of the exchange rate.
So overall I have been impressed by this product & company. Going forward, Appetere will be applying to become a Kentico Solution Partner and recommending Kentico to our customers for their CMS projects.
A Danish company this, everything on their site is in English. Code is opensource, which is free for certain applications, but licenced & paid for, for others. ASP.NET again, code this time is C#. They heavily promote that there is a thriving community of developers, ready to help with any problems.
An initial exploration of the system convinced me it is technically elegant, making the most of ASP.NET & AJAX. One immediate gap, is that there are not many ready-to-use functional modules - if you want a blog or forum, for example, you are expected to code this yourself (in fact I was mildly taken aback that the Umbraco website appeared to use someone elses technology for their own forums). But I liked the overall system and was prepared to go with this.
The show-stopper came when I looked into using Umbraco on a shared-host (which is what Appetere uses, and many of our potential customers will). You can't. Simple as that. The software has to run in a Full Trust environment, and the best you can expect from a shared host is Medium Trust. So it was removed from the shortlist, but I retain a soft-spot for the software and may re-evaluate it in the future.
This was an interesting contender. It is a completely free, community built, opensource package. It is based on ASP.NET, but the code is all written in VB.NET, rather than my preferred C#. There is loads of information & community assistance available on line, but no formal technical support. Functionally, there are many modules available from a variety of sources.
All looked good .. until I tried setting up a simple site. It was slow! Really slow. To give it the benefit of the doubt, I checked some public sites using DotNetNuke. Fifteen to twenty second for the first page loads were pretty common. So it was removed from the shortlist.
These CMS's were all included in the search as they use ASP.NET, but when evaluated against Appetere's other criteria were rejected for various reasons: