I had a few evenings spare this week and decided to take a look into a new product on the market called Kentico Cloud. This is a new offering from Kentico and very different from it's mainstream CMS platform. It allows the end user to administer their content within a cloud based platform adding content, images, text, links etc. and then this content is distributed to any channel you see fit by the use of their new Delivery API. The idea behind this being that a client can administer their content in one single place and distribute this content to a number of platforms (public facing website, app, social media platforms, desktop applications, intranets) all while keeping control over their content and importantly having it all in one place.
I decided it looked interesting so thought it would be a good fit to develop my long overdue portfolio site to get to grips with it. Below are my thoughts on the product and the process I took from start to finish.
So the first thing that struck me was how easy it was to get going. I registered an account of which they offer a free plan (allows 3 users, 50,000 API calls per month and 1,000 tracked visitors) which is great and allowed me to get set-up and trial the whole process and create my proof of concept without investing any money up front. It took a matter of minutes for me to set-up the account and have access to my API keys.
Next it was time to create some content types. This is a way of categorising your content and setting which fields are available for what type. I started out with a homepage, a standard content page, a blog post, a service, a testimonial and a latest project content type. Within these you are able to add unlimited fields of the following types (Text, Rich Text, Number, Multiple Choice, Date & Time, Asset (Image etc.),Modular Content (a list of other content items), Guidelines, Tags, URL).
One I had my structure set-up next thing to do was to create my sitemap which you do separately within Kentico Cloud to any content. It is a very simple, easy to use drag and drop system where you can easily create the tree for your site.
Once the sitemap was created it was then a case of creating new Content Items, creating the content, assigning them to the right part in the sitemap and choosing the right content type.
I was able to register, set-up the content types, fields, sitemap and content (I already had most of it written) within a few hours and then it really hit home to me how useful this approach could be when dealing with content heavy websites. The usual process I work with is that we will develop a website, build the styling, the functionality with test content, move it to preview to get amends from the design team/project manager/client and then once everyone is happy the client gets the 'finished' product to enter their content into and move to go live. This content part of the process can take a while and really delay go live. With Kentico Cloud it's totally possible to flip that around and actually once the structure of the Content Types and fields are set-up by the developer then the client can start adding content instantly. They might not get the immediate feedback that they would with a finished website but they can get all their content in place and in the right format, have a place to store it and edit revisions etc. and then as the developer starts to build the site they also have real world content to be working with meaning that the content entry and development can be handled simultaneously given the separate nature of the headless CMS. All content items can be set into various workflow steps and these steps can be customised (Draft, Review, Ready To Publish, Published) when items are set into review, ready to publish etc. then due dates can be set against them, which will be really useful for larger content driven websites.
I was ready to start development and after reading a few instructions online I opted to download the Kentico Boilerplate project to get a headstart with the development (https://github.com/Kentico/cloud-boilerplate-net), there is some great work in here and really gives you a good head start to start developing. I created a totally new solution and cherry picked the bits that made sense but gave me a great head start and again meant I was up and running very quickly and doing the fun bit of developing my new site.
From starting the project to having a site live in actual work time I think it took me in the region of 3 or 4 days to set everything up, develop the site, write the content and get everything into a live working environment. Granted it's nothing special and a simple brochure ware site but even still I feel it's all come together really quickly, from literally never using Kentico Cloud to having my first site up and running and functionality in a live environment.
My first impressions are that it's lightning quick, in both build time (as you aren't relying on any core files like you are in Kentico CMS) and also delivery time from the API, it's easy to use and I can really see the benefit from having a content first approach to building a website, phone app, desktop app etc. and see how project timescales can be rapidly reduced using a tool in this way.
My only criticism at this point would be that it is relatively basic in what you can give editors the ability to do within the Cloud interface. However I know that new features are being worked on very quickly by the Kentico development team and several of the ideas/suggestions that I wanted to see are already being worked on by the dev team, really good to see and handy to know they are on a similar wavelength already!
For more information about Kentico Cloud please visit https://kenticocloud.com/ or if you would be interested in having a discussion about Kentico Cloud then please get in touch with me.
Freelance .NET Developer