.NET Orchard CMS: First Impressions

September 21st, 2011

Generally, when one thinks of a ready-to-use CMS right out of the box, that CMS is usually WordPress. With it’s simple user interface, and immense community support, it has shot to popularity as one of the foremost-used PHP-based CMS platforms on the web.

Now, Microsoft, with it’s robust .NET platform, has long held a position as one of the top enterprise platforms, when it comes to building custom solutions in these matters. However, with the advent of the Orchard CMS system, recently released for the .NET environment, the accessibility of their platform to the web at large has the potential to be exponentially increased. It is a free, and open source CMS, giving it the same flexibility and community involvement prospects of WordPress, but with the benefit of being driven on the .NET platform.

Here are some of the key points why we like Orchard CMS

1. Installation

Orchard has a fairly simple install process. It requires the Microsoft Web Platform Installer, which, while being very simple to load on to your system, can take quite a while to set up the project environment. It does, however, require very little to no user input, making the process time the only inconvenience. The rest of the setup, after the installation of these components, was very self-explanatory with respect to user settings and document setup aspects. They’ve definitely gone out of their way to make this as user-friendly as possible, given the nature of the otherwise developer-centric .NET framework.

2. Setup

At the outset, you are given three basic template choices for starters. There is a basic site layout, a blog-centric template, and my personal favorite, the “Core” option. This latter option is a bare-bones page with no pre-existing CSS styles, and minimal HTML markup. This allows for a huge amount of control over the end layout, with respect to front end design and development. This is a feature that is going to appeal greatly to people who may have tried WordPress in the past, but were put off by the amount of pre-existing modules and styling that is often so embedded in the site structure. With the Core option in Orchard, you are given simply an empty front end, and the necessary CMS to drive it. Really nice for those who like lots of control over custom designs and interfaces.

3. Usage

The essential layout of the Orchard Core template is quite similar to some of the more rudimentary page organization elements of WordPress, making the transition easy for people familiar with WP module organization from an HTML standpoint. Many of the more pre-built subsections of Orchard are easily inserted into the design with minimal changes made to the code. When logged into the back end, and using the actual CMS first-hand, there are definitely some features that could use some more polish, from a strictly UX standpoint, but bear in mind this is still a fairly new project.

Overall I believe it will be invaluable to the .NET community in helping to boost the presence and expanded usability of the .NET based CMS that is based on the ASP.NET MVC3 framework. We are working quite heavily with this new CMS, so stay tuned for upcoming posts on theming, plugins, custom modules, and more!

If you are thinking about porting your static website or an old heavy weight CMS with Orchard CMS, We can help you with that project. For a free initial consultation, please feel free to contact us.