Friday, 7 September 2007

Your site has been EPiServed!

Why EPiServer? I was asked to test out a 3rd party CMS system to replace our internal CMS implementation. The CMS system being tested was from a Swedish company called EPiServer. Whilst they are currently working on and releasing betas of a new .Net 3 version of there system EPiServer 5, we decided to test out the more established and supported 4.6X version.

EPiServer 4.61

EPiServer seemed to be able to perform what we need it to and then some. The trick with making the most out of EPiServer is knowing exactly what it has to use before starting, to aviod wasting development time making your own controls/functions when EPiServer has alot of standard web related capabilities bundled in. Although it does make life easier than working on your own custom CMS system when we have 'proper' development work to do, it involved a steep learing curve initially. It may even be worth signing up for one of the EPiServer dev courses they have available througout europe.

What I liked

EPiServer is a web based framework; the edit and admin sections were web app based (although optimised for IE), meaning no software installation is required, it can be edited and managed all through a web browser. A decent WYSIWYG editor; which is a big boost for non development team members when they are creating/editing pages and the media content within them. Quick and easy viewing of entire pages. Mirroring of sites to other servers. Friendly URLs; these help to make URLs search engine optimised and also more user friendly, rather than ugly query strings (i.e. template3.aspx?id=32434f3fds3 ). XForms; which are for editors to create forms, and developers to customize form behaviour and appearance. Useful for blogs and comments. Globalisation Support; support for different langauages with essential fallback support.

What I didn't like

We found a couple of issues during development and staging, this quickly showed a slow support service from the EPiServer support desk. It also seemed difficult to get a telephone number from a more technical support team member as they want to do communicate entirely via email. Bugs and slow support; we found a couple of bugs whilst working with the EPiServer framework and found a slow support service initially from the EPiServer support desk (although they are helpful when they do get a chance to respond). Due to the EPiServer framework not being open source we couldn't easyily figure out the problem, but managed to figure the problem out for ourselves (before EPiServer could get back to us) with a little help from a .Net CLR reflector and SQL profiler. Our new EPiServer powered site is now live so take a peek for yourselves!