Umbraco 8: the good, the bad and the in-between

By Woven Agency, Friday April 5, 2019

In case you missed it, after five years in the making, Umbraco 8 was released on February 26th – and early reports are a decidedly mixed bag. So we thought we’d ask our web development team for their verdict on the good, the bad and the in-between of Umbraco 8.

Umbraco 8: the good

Language variants

As we become increasingly connected through technology, websites need to become increasingly multi-lingual.

On previous Umbraco versions, if you wanted multiple languages on your website you had to create a new site for each one. With Umbraco 8, managing multiple languages is an integral part of the CMS, featuring a side-by-side editing view and the ability to switch between languages for easy comparison.

You can also choose to publish all your content in your various languages in one go. Or, for added flexibility, you can push out content only to selected languages.

Offering added functionality and flexibility, as well as a seamless editing experience, language variants is one of the biggest pluses of Umbraco 8.


Infinite editing

One of Umbraco’s core aims is to allow people to focus on creating content instead of being bogged down in the user interface – and this is the driving motivation behind infinite editing.

Infinite editing means you no longer have to waste time clicking between pages to find and edit content by allowing you to edit content and media in one place without losing your place within the CMS. So that’s less time spent clicking your way across the site to make edits and more time creating content.

To find out more, take a look at Umbraco’s explainer video:


Umbraco 8: the bad

You can’t upgrade from version 7 to 8

Well, you can, but it’s bloody hard work. Previous upgrades have meant a lengthy-but-doable migration with relatively few code changes (depending on the version).

However, because Umbraco 8 is a major version update, things are a little more complicated. If you have any third-party packages, custom code or templates for your Umbraco 7 sites, the only realistic option for you is to start a brand-new site and input your packages, code and templates into that – a time-consuming task to say the least.


A lack of plugins

Because Umbraco 7 plugins aren’t supported on Umbraco 8, it means the vast library of plugins available to Umbraco 7 users, stretching to thousands of plugins, isn’t available on version 8, which currently supports just 30 or so. This is a considerable problem when you consider such popular plugins as Doc Type Grid Editor aren’t currently available.

This is likely to annoy the Umbraco community, who have spent a lot of time creating plugins (usually for free) and who will now have to start again for version 8.


Can’t keep tabs on things

One of the biggest user interface changes to Umbraco 8 is the removal of tabs on the home page in favour of the various fields (content, design, footer etc.) being on a single scrolling page. Whether or not you appreciate this change will be down to personal opinion, but our developer, Ben, isn’t a fan.

“To me, it just isn’t as intuitive as before. The single-page format is more awkward to navigate – depending on how many fields the site needs, you could find yourself scrolling around a lot to find what you need!”


Umbraco 8: the in-between

Content apps

Umbraco’s content apps promise greater insight on the content you’re creating and better feedback on the impact of the content you’ve created. As such, a content app might be one that integrates analytics, provides ecommerce stats and workflow tools that aid content creation and reviewing.

This is great for content creators and for those developers who want to build their own app and make it available as an Umbraco extension.

But it comes with a risk…

Through content apps, end users can treat Umbraco like a smartphone, adding apps to the CMS at will. Whilst this helps to empower users to make additions they want to their site, it also presents a risk of a user adding an app without the development team’s knowledge and installing something that adversely affects the site.

This will require clear communication between the development team and the owner of the site to ensure the owner doesn’t add anything that might end up doing more harm than good.


Start-up vs page speeds – a trade-off

According to uBenchmarks, who run benchmark tests on all Umbraco releases from v7 onwards, Umbraco 8 paints a mixed picture when it comes performance.

Render times (the time it takes to generate an image) are better than ever, coming it at 3.8ms, compared to between 5 and 10ms for version 7’s iterations. Content cache times, too, are lower than they ever were in version 7, meaning quicker loading times.

Set against this, Umbraco 8’s start-up times are longer than previous versions, up from 11,000ms for the most recent version 7 iteration to 21,000ms for version 8. RAM usage is up, as well, using nearly 1000MB of RAM – 50% more than the previous version.

Essentially, this means that websites built using Umbraco 8 will experience slower start-up times but, once a website is fully loaded, pages will run quicker. Being more RAM-hungry, Umbraco 8 websites will also take up more of a computer’s resources when running, but this shouldn’t be a problem for most PCs and Macs.


The conclusion

As you can see, at this stage Umbraco 8 has its good and bad points. Its three main selling points – language variants, infinite editing and content apps – are big steps forward to helping content creators (although the risk associated with content apps as described above is a sizeable one.) Which means that, in terms of achieving their main goals, Umbraco 8 is likely to be a success.

However, there are a number of downsides at the moment, such as an inability to upgrade from version 7 to 8 and a much-reduced library of plugins available to its users (although this will grow as more users migrate across to the new CMS).

But despite these downsides, our years of Umbraco experience means we’re very confident both in Umbraco’s core team and its brilliantly innovative and supportive community. As such, we see these negatives as transient teething problems rather than long-standing issues.

Yes, moving from version 7 to 8 will cause a few hair-tearing sessions amongst developers, but, once done, we think Umbraco 8 will be a big step on from its predecessor.

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