Using Umbraco Is Good For Your Health

It's a bold statement but hopefully by the end of this article you will understand why I am saying it.

For the past year I have been working in my first ever digital agency. Previously I've been in private, one website companies and the public sector.

None of whom used Umbraco.

Instead of using Umbraco they used either custom built solutions or enterprise solutions, both options had their plus points and their many negative points.

But, I'm not going to go in to the details of what is better, custom or paid. What I am going to tell you is why Umbraco is good for your health, whether you are a developer, like me, or a client who will be using your solution.

Mental and physical health has hit the headlines recently with more and more people openly talking about their feelings. We as developers, geeks, people, are really bad a being open about these things and this is not good for us.

People should talk more. When was the last time you picked up the phone and spoke to a member of your family? I honestly can't remember which is shameful. In a world where we are all meant to be more connected, we are more disconnected than ever.

Umbraco HQ and the Umbraco community actively encourage people to speak more and think about their mental and physical health. At CodeGarden 2018, Umbraco HQ supported a daily morning 5k run, they arranged for yoga and wellness sessions during the 3 day conference and the setup 'break out' areas so people could just sit, reflect and have some down time to themselves. More conferences should do these things.

But what about the CMS? How can this be good for your health?

As a Developer, you have a lot of power in your hands to do some amazing things but, with the power of Umbraco at your fingers tips you can also make things really difficult for your users. If your users have a really bad experience they will a) blame the CMS, which is bad for the reputation of Umbraco and b) have a stressful time using your solution that you've spent hours developing. If they are having a really difficult time using your solution, you're more likely to get more support calls which can then lead to you being stressed.

If you make their life easier, they will have a better experience which in turn makes them happier. Happier clients can lead to repeat business.

Do you see where am I going with this?

User friendly

When building a new website you spend lots of hours designing what the end user sees. Hours on all the content and layouts. Brain storming how it's going to work on mobile and different screen sizes etc.

How much time is spent designing the backoffice? That hidden area behind the /umbraco domain which is only for developers?

I'm guessing not much. First of all, it's not just for developers. It's for the editors and content writers too. It's for your customer's area more than yours. It should be a nice place to be. A nice experience for them - remember what I was saying earlier? Nice experience, less stress for everyone.

At LEWIS, the Umbraco Gold partner agency I work for in Edinburgh, we've started adding backoffice experience to our estimates. That's how important we feel the experience should be.

We sit down with our clients and see how they use their current system, if they have one. We ask them what works and what doesn't. We ask how often do they use the backoffice and why. If you can pinpoint their issues, before you start building a new solution, then you can help prevent issues in the future.

People will not use a system if it's not user friendly, if it's not intuitive to use. Why cause unnecessary stress for your clients? Especially when it can be prevent with a little bit of forethought.

Make it a nice experience for them.

That sounds wonderful but how?

  • Colours
    Use colours to differentiate between document types, if you have folders, make the a different colour to pages for example.

  • Icons
    Use icons to differentiate between document types to help the user visualise what they are creating e.g. a new webpage could have a document icon.

  • Description / Help text
    Add descriptions to your property editors to guide the user, don't have them guessing about what information should be entered, teach them what is expected.

  • Keep it simple
    Cut down the number of options you give the user e.g. if the user doesn't need everything within the Rich Text Editor, hide what they don't need. If they shouldn't be able to add a document type to a page, disable it. Don't confuse the user.

  • Training
    Give training to the client when you hand the project over to them and if they require it, create a user manual so new staff that join the company know how to use the CMS or even better, create an Umbraco Tour for them!

Doing some or all of these things can reduce the stress of using Umbraco for the user. Less stress = more likely to use the backoffice. If the user is using the backoffice more, then their website will have more up to date content. More content could potentially help with more sales. More sales makes for happier managers and business owners. You get the idea.

The key is to keep the experience friendly and if they love using the solution, they are more likely to think more positively about Umbraco as a CMS.

Developer friendly

Umbraco is a CMS that gets out of the developer's way and we love it because of this.

A fresh install of Umbraco is like a blank sheet of paper. Nothing extra is installed unless you want it to be. This makes it super customisable. Developers can customise the backoffice to give clients the best experience possible. Developers don't need to fight with the CMS to make it do something.

This flexibility can help keeps stress levels down and allows the developer to spend more time building more complex features.
Not only does this allow them more time to develop more custom features, a backend developer can also share tasks with the frontend team due to the backoffice being built with AngularJS.

Yes, this flexibility can cause someone new to developing with Umbraco a couple of headaches but, once you get your head around it, things start to work really well.

Another plus point for Umbraco is you can build your own custom views. This is nice because many other Content Management Systems create your views on the fly which can make customising them a nightmare. Allowing us to make our own views makes it much easier for a frontend developer to build the solution they want. Less time spent fighting with an auto-generated view means less stress and frustrations from your team and you are able to spent time make great solutions rather than bug fixing.

On top of the ease of getting started, the community is really welcoming, especially for new developers. No matter what your question is, you are encouraged to ask it.

Aaaagh! Not another upgrade!

Do you get cold sweats when you hear another new version of Umbraco has been released? It can be a daunting task at times but, have you considered looking at Umbraco Cloud?

I'm relatively new to Umbraco Cloud but one of the perks of getting an MVP award from Umbraco is you get a free cloud account. I was blown away with how easy, a) it was to setup a project and b) when I got notification for a new version release, how easy an upgrade is to carry out.

Firstly, all minor releases are done automatically for you (nice!) and I managed a major upgraded from 7.10 to 7.11 within 15 minutes! Zero stress.

Ok, I admit my site is small and doesn't have any custom parts to it just yet but still, the thought of an upgrade no longer makes me come out in a cold sweat.

If you aren't using Umbraco Cloud and upgrades still stress you out, I recommend you go down the route of using NuGet to roll out your upgrades. It's not as straight forward as upgrading in the Cloud but it's still a reasonably straight forward process and the Umbraco upgrade documentation is top notch! Just take your time, read all the instructions and you should be fine, and if it doesn't go to plan, remember, you can always ask the community for help.

I've used a couple of other CMS options in the past and upgrades have taken days, I'm glad to say, even with some of the more complex sites I now work with, upgrades aren't days worth of work.

And breathe

With your upgrades now super smooth, the user experience on point, your clients happier than ever and the dev team all working together you can put your feet up and relax.

Maybe everything isn't as easy as this but if you take small steps in improving each of the points I've highlighted then you should be more relaxed, less stressed and your work life balance could improve.

Life is too short and we spend so many hours in the office that you should try and make it as stress free as possible. Our motto in the office is, we should bring JOY to the work place and I try and bring JOY to our clients by showing them how good Umbraco is at being a CMS.

Owain Williams

Owain's been using Umbraco since 2016 and is an active Umbraco Community member and an Umbraco MVP. When not online, he can be found running, climbing and just enjoying the great outdoors.

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