There have been a lot of new features announced with Kentico 9 – continuous integration
, MVC v5 support
and campaign management integration
. These top-line features have some serious benefits to the Kentico ecosystem as well as current and future customers, but I wanted to know: what’s in it for my clients and me? So I read through the release notes
, worked through demo installs, and dug in to find the gold nuggets. Here they are, bright and shiny!
(Get ready, this is a drink-from-the-firehose style post…)
CI is a huge topic in enterprise IT circles. No wonder, since so many of us have explained to impatient clients that ‘this change is being blocked by this other change over here’. Explicitly planning for multiple environments when considering both code and database needs is a huge leap forward in my book. Enabling object filtering to potentially separate content changes from code changes, by separating objects from content, is very promising to allow content and development workflows to operate with more independence. Learn more about continuous integration.
This feature is less relevant to a custom development shop like Bit-Wizards but still has its uses. Particularly relevant is the inclusion of page types within modules – whether this is a contender for some current applications of site templates remains to be seen, but I like the possibilities. Learn more about modularization.
MVC 5 and Content Management
The leap from page-centric to content-centric management approaches is a huge one. Many enterprises, notably using SiteCore, have made this change and the tools are moving to a place where a team of dozens isn’t required to take advantage of this approach anymore. For those of us with lots of history in the web, the separation of presentation from content is very difficult, but we’ve been getting there slowly with CSS vs. HTML output. A similar evolution is taking place to further distance actual content (text, images, video, audio) from the presentation (CSS, HTML, JS), including the functional parts of presentation we haven’t been able to give up (like making content responsive). Imagine a bold new world where the words ‘we can’t migrate your content, we have to re-enter it by hand’ are never spoken again! The day is getting closer, my friends, I promise! Learn more about MVC5 and Content Management
Cloud Delivery Enhancements
In the past, we’ve been able to scale out the website code layer (the application, or the cloud service, or the virtual machine with the web server) but have had difficulty scaling out the database layer to match without lots of fancy infrastructure. Now, scaling out content presentation is getting easier. Kentico is taking advantage of cloud-based scaling rules so that it is aware when load rules dictate an expansion, and so that it can handle intentional or unintentional contractions smoothly. Including session cache and media files within this approach is huge for our clients, and I hope to see the difficulty with session state become far less prevalent! Learn more about Cloud Delivery Enhancements
Staging Enhancements (OMG)
This is huge, y’all. Staging content changes between servers has long been a painful afterthought to content editing processes. Who loves writing down the five tasks out of 50 that are relevant to a given change set, and the making sure those 5 don’t get pushed live at the wrong time? Didn’t think so! Now, content creators can define groups of staging tasks, filtered by their own user name or other criteria. Users can file their changes into a project group with other user’s changes, or just segment them based on their activity. Yes. Yes. Yes! Learn more about Staging Enhancements.
Azure CDN cache setting control
End users don’t often care about caching (beyond getting their requested data faster!) but boy does fighting cached versions of assets eat up a lot of content editing time! Did the CMS fail to make the update I just saved or is the result just cached for the next week? Who knows! But now – finally – native controls of how long Azure CDN caches files is included! This doesn’t even rate a link in the changelog, just a quick mention, but these few words are worth their weight in gold for this weary PM! “The Cache files (minutes)
setting now specifies the caching interval for Microsoft Azure CDN.”
Web part usage list
Another function that doesn’t rate a separate page in the changelog, but will save clients tons of money because developers can spend less time with guessing and checking and more time fixing stuff efficiently. You can now see a list of places where a web part is used throughout the site! Much like reviewing the pages on which a template is used, this feature gives front end developers a highly necessary tool to ensure quality results when changing a web part presentation. Now, clients, it’s only the hurdle of paying for an upgrade that remains! J “Web parts - New interface that allows users to find all locations where a given web part is used.”
Non-IP based contacts (OMG)
Thanks, CSI, but 2009 wants their dumb assumptions back
! No longer does Kentico assume IP’s are somehow unique enough to track users (and nor should anyone else… please, 2016, be the year in which no one ever again asks “Can I see a list of IP addresses accessing my site”!) Snark aside, cookie-based Contact recognition is IN! Learn more about Contact Configuration.
Contact cleaning (OMG pt2)
Everyone using a self-hosted enterprise marketing suite has realized that there is a ton of data generated for their visitors and contacts and that not all of it is worth keeping (aside: the users of hosted platforms like HubSpot haven’t realized it, because it’s aggregated and hidden from them – sorry, y’all, less data isn’t better, just less). Enabling automatic cleaning of the useless data based on personalized rules just got so much easier. Learn more about automatic contact deletion.
Email Marketing tracking and unsubscription (I CAN’T EVEN)
These three little lines just blew me away. Thank the heavens and imagine how this well help those of us conducting email campaigns.
- Recipients can now opt-out of all email marketing communication. You can configure the opt-out
to work across all sites or a single site only.” (Real one-click opt-outs, no manual propagation of unsubscribes between campaigns and/or custom macros to exclude them!)
“Email marketing - Unsubscription links sent via the Unsubscription request
web part are no longer affected by the 'Opt-out list' site setting as they don't expire anymore.” (Why did unsubscribe links expire in the first place?!)
“Email marketing - You can now specify UTM parameters
that will be used in links in your campaign emails.” (UTM codes, the standard since.. a while ago.)
Amazon, we’re gunning for you
Shopping cart abandons are a big deal in recapturing leads. Remind people later of something they were thinking about and got distracted from, and squirrel! Oh, right, and get them back on the purchase path. Adding these hooks to marketing automation workflows will really, truly increase your e-commerce sales. Do it now! Learn more about recapturing leads.
Scheduled tasks scheduling
I don’t even know why this was a thing, but I sure was tired of apologizing for it. Scheduled tasks should restart on schedule
not on whenever they last were manually run and/or completed, or maybe never, I don’t know
. Now they do! “Scheduled tasks - Fixed the sliding of scheduled task run times. The system now calculates the next run time based on the time for which the previous run was originally scheduled. The actual start time of the task and the execution duration no longer have any effect.”
Goodbye, 2009 (partie deux et trois)
I admit I didn’t know about this, but I wanted to point it out. “The markup of the Logon form
web part was changed from a table to a DIV based layout.” But cutting out the postback addition of .aspx to URLs that didn’t have it or want it
is going to make a lot of things a lot easier! Similar to some of the above, visitors and clients may not have noticed, but this is one more thing that will make the bills a little smaller, and the developers a little more sane. “Postbacks no longer add the .aspx
extension to the URL by default.”
IP-based contact/visitor tracking is really gone
I can’t help myself. It’s true! “The Remember contacts permanently
, Automatically recognize visitors by user agent
, and Automatically recognize visitors by IP address
settings were removed. Kentico no longer recognizes anonymous visitors as contacts based on their IP address and browser user agent. The system also remembers contacts until their cookies are deleted or another contact is determined by the system.”
Customers and users and products and pages, oh my!
In ecommerce sites, we always contended with disparities between customers (ecommerce purchasers) and users (login accounts on the website). Now, these are coming together! “The values of customer properties are now synchronized with the content of user properties and vice versa. This replaces copying of customer information to user information when registering without any later synchronization.” And there is less confusion between what is a page and what is a product when creating and editing products. “Legacy field mapping of product page types for backward compatibility is no longer supported without any replacement.”
What are we looking forward to in Kentico 9?
I don’t think we can quite compare Kentico 8 to Windows 8, but I think we can look forward to some of the same relief and return to normalcy with Kentico 9 as experienced with Windows 10 (I would have suggested naming this release Kentico 10, but no one asked me). I, for one, am excited about moving our clients to this version of the Kentico platform. It doesn’t bring lots of huge game-changers to the table, but it gets so many of the fundamentals right that it changes the game anyway.
Michael has plenty more buzzword-bingo phrases to apply in any given situation. Tell him how he’s wrong on Twitter at @trackmymind or in the comments below.