.NET CMS website construction tools; how I tried them all

After months of trying and then finally giving up on Drupal, I decided that I should stick with a .NET CMS (content management system) for building my website.  This turned out to be a bad decision, but at the time it made sense: I write applications with C# and .NET, I was using ASP.NET and MVC at work, and .NET is fast, powerful, well documented etc.  So I restricted my search for a website building tool to just .NET content management systems.

Dot Net Nuke

I believe that the biggest .NET CMS is Dot Net Nuke, so I started there first.  It has a free and open-source base edition, and then three paid editions:

  • Professional Edition – $2,998/yr
  • Enterprise Edition – $5,499/yr
  • Enterprise Package – Call

Unfortunately, their edition comparison no longer compares against the open-source version, but at the time it was clear that a lot of the functionality I wanted was in the Professional edition.  However, at $3000 A YEAR it had better be an absolutely amazing .NET CMS!

[pullquote align=”right”]I don’t want to rely an a tool where the core team repeatedly admits that they can’t write decent code.[/pullquote]

Unfortunately, my research suggested it was not.  There are plenty of people complaining about pretty major bugs (even security bugs) left unfixed for years, that it’s slow, it produces poor quality HTML and that developing plug-ins for it is very difficult. and many more.  I know that Dot Net Nuke has a strong following, but then so do Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and Scientology. For $3000 I want something amazing where Google mostly reports goodness rather than complaints and work-arounds.

Other .NET CMS website tools

I spent a fair bit of time looking at other .NET CMS tools:

  • Orchard – Seems like a nice .NET CMS, although the community is a little too small for my tastes.  I was concerned about the lack of plug-ins, themes, etc.  It seems well written if you’re looking for a framework for developing a website, but this seems to me to be the baby of the .NET CMS family.
  • Composite C1 – This is a very nice .NET CMS with lots of plug-ins available out of the box, but I just couldn’t get it working – even with their support.  I would download it, install it into a clean VM and it would work, but it was incredibly slow and any configuration I did would break it.
  • Umbraco – I originally had high hopes for Umbraco, it seems like a good looking .NET CMS which seems to provide a lot of power.  But there were two major problems:
    1. It uses XSLT – an absolutely horrible thing (programming in XML sucks).  I understand that it can be largely avoided, but I was still concerned that some required customization would mean using XSLT (which I used and taught for years, which is why I can’t stand it)
    2. Their version 4 code base is so bad, they decide to throw it out and start again, making v5 from scratch, which takes over a year.  Then, only a few months after v5 is out they realize that their brand new v5 code base is so bad, they throw it out and go back to v4.  They charged a bunch of people for v5 training, really hyped up v5, and then threw it out. Too slow, badly written.  No thanks; I don’t want to rely an a .NET CMS tool where the core team can’t seem to write decent code.
  • Sitefinity – Sitefinity looked like a really promising .NET CMS.  I tried it out for a while before I actually bought the small-business version (which at the time only cost $500).  However, I found that there were basically only 30 templates/skins to choose from, and customizing the skins was much harder than I expected.  Similarly, the complexity in building my first-plugin was very high – even though the plug-in logic itself was trivial.  Finally, there was the ever-present threat of writing too much content!  I need a content management system to write content, but with Sitefinity if I wrote too much content then I would need to upgrade to a more expensive license (something like $2000).  So I would be punished for being successful!  I finally dropped it – $500 I’ll never get back.
  • mojoPortal – This is an amazing .NET based CMS. It seems to be written by just one guy: Joe Audette.  Joe has done an amazing job, and mojoPortal just seems to work!  It had forums built-in, and the documentation is excellent.  I built my simple plug-in in a day, and had my entire website up and running in no time.  Here is http://ExperimentorSoftware.com‘s website built with mojoPortal:

Experimentor Software running on mojoPortal .NET CMS

So I’ve used mojoPortal for a while now to host my Experimentor Software small business.  However, as easy as mojoPortal was to get up and running I want more.  Updating the software isn’t easy, I would like to have more advanced search engine optimization.  I’d like access to more plug-ins, and mojoPortal doesn’t allow me to separate content from presentation.  So once again I started my search to find a powerful content management tool, and this time I didn’t care if it was a .NET CMS – I wanted to consider everything and anything.

What I’ve found is absolutely fantastic, and does everything I could ever want.

The answer in the next post.

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