Our Experience Using Episerver
By Dave Brislane | 02/10/2017
Episerver has recently been positioned as a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management for the third year in a row. Fairly early on, we adopted Episerver into our service offerings and over the past 7 years, we’ve worked with versions 6 right through to 10 – their latest release. From both sides, our team and our clients have seen the range of benefits and efficiencies that Episerver offers; you can’t argue with Gartner, it really is one of the best.
Certainly, from a development team's perspective, we find it flexible, scalable but most importantly, very extensive to work with. For any of you non-developers, bear with me – I’ll be explaining some of the reasons why.
In Episerver, users can create content and pages within the site, using page types/templates that are usually defined as strongly typed classes in code. For a developer, this provides the following advantages:
- Earlier detection of errors, which therefore provides efficiencies
- Better optimised code refactoring
There’s also the Visual Studio integration add on, which allows you to create a basic Episerver page type in a couple of clicks.
Releasing new features to a site is such a simple and efficient process. For example, the creation of a new page type or an update to an existing one requires no manual configuration upon release. It’s here where I’m really impressed with Episerver’s functionality – most other content management systems require manual configuration for these types of changes and releases or at least, the installation and setup of third party packages that run it for you. This seamless release process has enabled us to set up scheduled releases (bi-weekly) to ensure our clients are constantly receiving improvements to their site on a regular basis.
As with most software, Episerver continuously releases updates to its CMS and other solutions on a consistent bi-weekly cycle. These releases aim to fix any issues, add new features and improve the overall system on a regular basis.
To install the latest upgrade, there are various ways of going about this task – depending on what solutions the website already has in place. At Sigma though, we predominantly use NuGet. This allows us to update the CMS and any installed add-ons easily in a controlled process, ensuring all updated files are versions in our source control.
In addition, as the release process is generally so seamless, this enables us to keep clients as up to date as possible to ensure they are taking advantages of the new features released, as well as ensuring they are up to date with all the latest security fixes too.
Digital Experience Cloud Service
Along with their CMS & various add-on package solutions, Episerver also offers its users the option to host and support their website in the cloud. Their managed cloud service supplies elastic scaling for sites so they can handle high volumes of traffic – certainly beneficial for everyone involved since it reduces costs and time spent on manually scaling a website for seasonal peaks.
Blocks & Content Editing
One complaint we hear a lot when working with new clients is that their current CMS templates are far too restrictive and limited. In Episerver 7, the concept of blocks was introduced: pieces of content can be reused and shared between your websites and/or pages, while being maintained in only one place. Neat, right? Blocks can be dragged and dropped into your pages; this gives content editors full control over different types of content, the page layout and overall provides much more flexibility.
Again, we hear nothing but good things from our clients with the overall content editing experience and since the UI became responsive in version 7, they can update content on the go using their mobile device. In addition, you can preview how a page will look on different device resolutions directly from within the CMS itself. Not bad at all – that could save you a few quid if you need to emulate how your site will look on the latest Apple Watch!
In Episerver 9, Projects was introduced which allows your content editors to work on multiple content items collaboratively and publish them at the same time. Great when working on a new campaign you want to put live at midnight on a Sunday.
The need to create and manage multiple websites in different languages no longer exists. With Episerver, all this content can sit happily side by side, under the same roof. Straight out of the box, the CMS interface offers content editors 12 languages to work with but additional XML language files can be added; the possibilities are almost endless (anyone for a High Valerian/English website?).
For the CMS users, operating a website in multiple languages couldn’t be simpler. The same page can be edited in two or more languages in parallel, making it easy for writers to directly compare their translations.
And for web teams that lack multilingual capabilities, Episerver’s TranslateX module makes it so easy to extract an entire site or a subset of pages to an XLIFF format; this can be sent directly to a translation agency and the translation subsequently imported back into the CMS.
Optimising website pages to increase conversions is easily handled by Episerver’s CMS. There’s no need to outsource which variation of a given webpage performs better to a third party system (however it does support these options too). With Episerver, A/B testing is fully integrated into its core CMS offering and guides web teams through the testing process very easily; it allows them to set up a test in minutes and subsequently, streamline production of effective content on the website.
Personalisation & Campaigns
The personalisation feature works in conjunction with A/B testing and from analytics data. It is able to build specific profiles of a website's visitors; these profiles can be used to tailor the content and the site experience based on the user's previous behaviour. The experience for the user can also be personalised by pre-determined business logic such as their location, time of day, the device they are using and much more.
Where campaigns are concerned, this is particularly useful as it allows web teams to create landing pages based on various search terms and lead their visitors on a more tailored customer journey when arriving at the site from an external source.
Flexible Forms Builder
In Episerver 9, the forms builder was vastly improved and now utilises a block-based approach to building forms. For content editors, this makes form building seamless and a lot less clunky than your traditional form building tools. Yet, at the same time, it’s very powerful as you can use the builder in conjunction with Episerver’s personalisation capabilities. For example, if you have a user in the US accessing a form you can request their Zip Code, if the user is accessing the exact same form in the UK then you can ask for their Postcode.
What's not to like?
With all that automation and functionality already in place, Gartner are not wrong to place it in their Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management. From all perspectives, be you a developer, a content editor or a business stakeholder, it is so easy to work with and proves its efficiencies right across the board.