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Accelerating into Umbraco CMS

Bill Casey CEO & Partner
#CMS, #Umbraco
Published on April 24, 2020
Umbraco Accelerator

Our Umbraco development framework allows organizations to quickly and cost-effectively launch enterprise websites built on Umbraco CMS.

At Diagram, when we partner with our mid-market and enterprise clients, much of our work involves building large, customized, scalable CMS solutions that integrate with backend systems and must adhere to strict branding guidelines – all while dealing with budgetary constraints. When clients first come to us, enterprise aspirations are often disconnected from the financial realities of actually implementing an enterprise solution. This typically stems from a misunderstanding of costs and how budget dollars should be allocated.

For most enterprise website design and development projects, there are 3 primary components that are going to consume your budget:

  1. CMS license cost
  2. Template design and development (building the bones of the website)
  3. Advanced design and functionality (on-brand design and building intelligent website components)

In many cases, the cost of a CMS license alone is more than the clients’ budget could bear, leaving no room to actually build something useful. With a myriad of CMS options available and a talented team of designer and developers at hand, we knew we could find a way to balance each of these factors without sacrificing the end product and our ability to deliver for our clients. Our challenge was to bring enterprise, business-critical web solutions to the mid-market at a price point they could tolerate.

Choosing the Right CMS: DIY vs DXP

When weighing the differences between content management systems, you can generally put them into one of two camps: Do-It-Yourself website builders that are low cost, easy-to-use, and require little to no programming or design skills (WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, etc.) or customizable and extensible Digital Experience Platforms (DXP) that are more costly, feature-rich, all-in-one systems built to integrate with your business (Optimizely, Sitecore, Adobe Experience Manager, etc.). While each group has a valid purpose and an attractive value proposition, there are two underlying factors that will create challenges.

  1. DXP = expensive and difficult
  2. DIY = limited and restrictive

The DIY tools, while providing a significant cost savings, essentially provide a basic ready-to-go website with a few bells and whistles where you can add your own content and imagery but offer none of the advanced functionality, customization or integration features required by our clients. They’re fine for smaller organizations, especially businesses that want to build a simple brochure website themselves for the lowest possible cost. However, our clients generally have more advanced requirements and need a partner with the strategic, technical and design expertise to build exceptional digital experiences.

Customizable DXPs, such as Optimizely, provide a powerful, feature-rich framework including personalization, contextualized content, artificial intelligence, e-commerce functionality, and much more. They allow our design and development team to extend and customize based on our clients’ requirements. However, while the results are outstanding, the price tag for this type of extensible solution, and the technical know-how needed, can create a barrier many organizations simply cannot overcome. And in some cases, the features and functionality built into a DXP exceed the needs of the organization.

Enter Umbraco CMS

Umbraco bridges the gap between the extensible DXP and the affordable DIY systems. Unlike most digital experience platforms, Umbraco has a low up-front licensing cost, primarily due to the fact that there is little built-in functionality provided. However, what it lacks in built-in functionality, it makes up in foundation and potential. Umbraco provides a clean slate open-source ASP.NET CMS platform with an extensive API that allows developers to build and extend websites with the exact features that they need including back-office integration, single sign on functionality, e-commerce, and more. Rather than paying a premium for built-in functionality that may never be used, Umbraco allows you to allocate more budget to building the functionality you actually need and want, often at a cost savings as well.

Still, out of the box, Umbraco is simply that – an empty box. A substantial effort is needed to simply get up and running with a basic website. There are HTML, CSS, and JavaScript page templates and layout systems, design themes, content modules, and a wide variety of front-end display features that must be created before you start building any advanced functionality, and this too can get costly.

Knowing that we did not want important advanced features and functionality to be scaled back or eliminated due to basic design and development costs, or vice versa, we needed to find a better way to deliver for our clients. We also needed to reconcile this with our core belief when building websites:

We believe in best practices in code and design, never compromising on accessibility and performance, and no crucial corners cut to save time or effort.

Having already tackled the license cost issue with Umbraco, the solution presented itself fairly easily – adapt some basic concepts from the simple and inexpensive DIY options and integrate them with our work. In other words, create a system to accelerate the initial design and development process, at a reduced cost and without sacrificing quality, thereby reserving time and budget for the more advanced custom design and functionality that was needed to create a fully functional digital experience platform that meets our clients’ goals.

Our Umbraco Process

The end result is a process which includes a custom framework built to accelerate the design and development process. Designed specifically for the mid-market organization with enterprise integration aspirations, our accelerator provides the foundational structure and core content components necessary to get up and running quickly without sacrificing quality and at a lower cost than ground-up web development. With a simple install, the accelerator provides many of the commonly used features needed to launch a website:

  • Multiple page templates (homepage, landing pages, content pages, and more)
  • Responsive grid layout
  • Navigation menus
  • Search functionality
  • Event calendar
  • Membership protected content (with login)
  • Multiple content display modules (accordions, tabs, link lists, etc.)
  • Content tagging and filtering
  • SEO tools
  • And more

While delivered in deployment-ready condition, every aspect of the accelerator can be customized from both a design and functionality standpoint. We're adamantly against cookie-cutter design and think a one-size-fits-all approach is never a good idea. That's why we built our framework based on high quality design and development standards with full device accessibility but retained the flexibility to customize based on your specific needs.

What traditionally takes months to build and consumes precious budget is now available on day one at a fraction of the cost. With the cost savings from a minimal license fee and having a production-ready base website to build on, budget can be reserved to allow our team to customize the design to match your brand and build the advanced features and integrations specifically needed to meet your goals.

Often overlooked, website hosting and platform maintenance are also significant concerns and potentially costly factors. Our Umbraco solution is hosted on the Umbraco Cloud, a managed environment within Microsoft Azure, which automatically handles CMS upgrades, bug fixes and security patching. This fully managed service takes care of the tedious, but critical, tasks of running an enterprise website.

Umbraco Accelerator

Check out CCA For Social Good case study for more information


Building for the Future

Another core belief at Diagram is that change is inevitable, and we’re ready for it. That’s why our solutions are built with the future in mind. Our goal is to continue to refine our process and provide more features over time based on the feedback of our clients and the evolution of the industry.

We’re excited about the opportunity to introduce our accelerator to a wide variety of organizations. By lowering the barriers to building an exceptional online presence, we look forward to helping our clients realize the benefits and success that come with a well-planned and well-executed digital strategy. 

Want to learn more about Accelerator?  

Here are some finer details to how we approach Umbraco Upgrades.