Umbraco 8 was released in mid-2019. With Umbraco 8 came a host of new functionality, the three biggest new business features, language variants, content apps, and infinite editing. Asides from business features, Umbraco 8 also introduced some pretty major sweeping changes in its architecture. This article is not a tech-focused so I will not dig into details here. From a business perspective, firstly. this means that the development team will need to up-skill in how to use Umbraco 8. Secondly, if you own a site built within Umbraco 7 or below, how easy is it to upgrade and is upgrading to Umbraco 8 worth the investment?
Better Multi-Language Support
Umbraco 8 comes much better out-of-the-box multi-language support. I have worked with numerous enterprise-level CMS systems for over 15 years and before 8 Umbraco it had one of the worse. Previously, if you wanted to create a multi-language site within Umbraco, you had two options:
Create a 'website' for each site within Umbraco. Using this approach each new language would have a homepage within Umbraco. You could have a home page called 'en' for English, another one called 'fr' for France. Content could then be added by content editors under each website as needed. Someone would then access the English version of the site using 'www.website.com/en/' and the french version, like 'www.website.com/fr/'.
Use a third-party unsupported plug-in like Vorto that provided the ability to only build a single website, but allow multiple language content to be added for different fields with the different document types.
Both of these approaches had several flaws. Creating a website per language takes a lot of effort for content editors. Each time a new page is required it has to be created in numerous places. Potentiality, menus, and settings for each language website need to be changed and update. For some large sites with lots of content this approach works. For most websites I have worked on, this is overkill.
Using a third-party plug-in shifted the time away from content editors and placed it with the developers. Integrating Vorto took a lot more effort and made tasks like content migration a lot more complicated. Relying heavy on non-core hobby plugins is also not ideal. If a feature comes out the box, you know you will get good support, if you find a bug it will probably get fixed. If you use a plug-in and then that person stops developing for whatever reason, you are stuck and in the worst-case situation, you may need to completely rebuild your website from scratch. Using Vorto also created content managing issues, there was no way to release the English version at one time and then the french version in a few days time. It was an all or nothing approach.
Personally, providing better multi-language support, for me is Umbraco 8's killer feature. Multi-language management is now an integral part of the CMS, so no more third-party plug-ins are required. The new multi-language functionality provides a side-by-side editing view so there is no need to create multiple homepages anymore. Managing content is much easier for editors, as there is a side-by-side comparison view now. Editors can also scheduled different language content to be published at different.
In the past, if a client asked me to recommend a CMS that required multi-language, it was difficult to recommend Umbraco as it was one of the worst options. In Umbraco 8 that pain goes away, so for anyone building a multi-language website this feature will be the big win
During my career, I have spent hundreds of hours writing content within CMS systems. One of the most frustrating parts of writing content within a CMS is the clunkiness of it. If I need to write 10 tutorials, I want to do it as fast as possible. I do not want to have to click-buttons to switch tabs. I do not want to have to wait for pages to reload for no reason. This is the issue that infinite editing tackles.
Infinite editing is a change in workflow of how pages are created by editors within Umbraco. Infinite editing allows and editor to add/edit content and media in one place. Gone are the old clunky tabs, pages are now shown using a single infinite scrolling page. Infinite editing means less time wasted clicking and waiting for things while content it being created. It allows content editors to focus on creating content. Great!
The Darkside Of Umbraco 8
As mentioned in the introduction, Umbraco 8 also takes a big step in its architecture. Debunking the technical jargon , what this really means is that how developers build code within Umbraco has changed a lot. There are two ways this can affect you.
Upgrading might take a significant amount of time. Upgrading this website took 3 weeks. This website does not use multi-language, so that was a three-week investment of time for little benefit.
Lack of plug-in support. On most Umbraco projects, developers save time by using plug-ins. There is little point of re-inventing the wheel. The changes in Umbraco 8 break all V7 plug-ins. This means that when a developer builds a website with v8. If some time-saving plug-in is not available, they might need to spend considerable more time building a new website than they would in v7. As time moves on and more plug-ins are supported to work in v8 the impacts of this second point will be minimized. As of 2019, there are still a lot of plug-ins that do not work.
Should You Use Umbraco 8?
For any new projects - especially multi-language website - yes. The caveat for any developer estimating how long a new build will take, check that any plug-in you want to use works with v8. If not, then you will have to take that into account. V7 will be supported at some point, so building a new website within 7 does not make sense anymore, however, it may take you slightly longer to build a website within v8 at the time of writing.
If you are upgrading Umbraco then the choice is not so easy. As a business owner within a year, I have 52 weeks to focus on money-making activities. Upgrading to v8 can take a lot of time and depend on what your site does, that effort may only return minimal benefit. As I write and advise clients about Umbraco, I upgraded my website so I could provide advice about it. If I didn't have a pressing concern to rebuild I would stick with v7.
If you want to build a website with Umbraco 8, or, you need help upgrading then I may be able to help. Get in touch - using the contact link at the top - if you have a project you want to discuss with me.