11 Reasons to Feel Good About Upgrading to Kentico 11
If you or your company uses Kentico to power your website, chances are you’ve seen the marketing that Kentico 11 will be released in a mere 11 days from now, on December 11th 2017. Yes, that’s a lot of elevens in a row right there, and there might be a small coincidence that I planned this blog post for to go live today.
I have made few posts before about new version releases of Kentico, in fact it's turning into a little bit of an annual activity for me, but each new release is worth talking about. I can say that not just because I am a Kentico enthusiast, but really because each major release of Kentico tends to add something that community is demanding. Typically it is a deepening of the Online Marketing feature set, more configurability of the e-commerce APIs, or performance enhancements that Kentico users and developers want, and for as long as I can remember Kentico has always moved the ball forward with each of the major releases.
Below you can find my 11 reasons why developers and marketers can feel good about upgrading to Kentico 11.
1. Email Marketing
Email marketing is still the heart of most digital marketing strategies. Whether it’s marketing automation, re-targeting, re-engaging, or downright spamming, most tools in a marketer’s toolbox still revolve around email to actually function. Kentico has always had a strong email template system in the box. However, up until now, this portion of the system has mostly been thought of as a developer centric way to handle generating email templates. Most of the structure and content of emails relied on macros to be inserted into the correct place to work. Not anymore.
Kentico 11 features a full rebuild of the email template system. It now supports drag and drop capabilities that make it feel on par with dedicated email systems such as Mailchimp. The result is that the system is now very friendly towards digital marketing specialists who aren’t quite as technical as their developer counter-parts. It's not just the templates either, the solution adds in the ability to ViewInBrowserURL through a new macro, CSS Inlining, and does a better job of preventing sending incomplete emails out on accident.
I’ve had my hands in the new functionality for months now as part of the beta program. I can personally speak to how well done this area is of Kentico. It is like a breath of fresh air when compared to what I have been used to doing in Kentico for years. My favorite part of the solution is that you can add your own pre-built email components called email widgets to finally allow for re-use of dynamic content and friendly configuration of what actually goes inside the body of the email.
There is a ton more already published on the new email solution in Kentico 11, so I am going to move on otherwise this blog post is going to take forever.
2. Online Marketing improvements
The email marketing update is not the only Online Marketing improvement in v11. Kentico also enhanced the Campaign management features that the solution has. This was shown at the fall Kentico roadshows last month around the world.
I again got a chance to play around with it in the beta program and the first thing I really noticed that was new was the ability to drill down into the demographics of the campaign visitors that he system tracked. The Campaigns report pages now have a nice journey map (geolocation) that is close to how Google analytics can show location based analytics.
The second thing that I noticed about the Campaign system is that it feels easier to setup and view the Campaign Journey. You as the admin of the site can create steps that tie to pages views and other conversions that setup such as form submissions or downloads easier than previous versions of Kentico. Once the steps are created there is a nice funnel visualization of the journey as well.
3. Macro Signatures Made Easier
Michal Kadak, product owner at Kentico has hinted over the year that a nice new addition is coming to Kentico 11 that will make developers jump for joy when it comes to dealing with macro security in Kentico. KenticoStallion (the code name for Kentico 11) is introducing a identity concept to the solution that should made developers life's much easier when it comes to publishing objects from one environment to the next through either Content Staging or CI.
Macro signature identities in #KenticoStallion Sign macros with identities; never break up the signatures again. Yes, we hate re-signing too— Michal Kadák (@MichalKadak) February 21, 2017
There should be a new blog post out on Kentico devnet right around the release of 11 that details the exact specifics. For that reason I am not going to go into it all right now. But it's super exciting to me. I'll just say that there will be a new method that doesn't require you to have all of your developer accounts in production any longer. Which is the way it should have always been, well done Kentico.
Pro Tip: If you have issues with macros in Kentico, check out my Help! My Macro is Not Working post that has a small flow chart on a quick way to diagnose macro issues in Kentico.
4. New Azure Search Integration
Kentico Smart Search isn't the only search engine in town any longer with Kentico. K11 adds out of the box Azure Search to the platform. If you are new to Azure Search I would recommend checking out this set of documentation from Microsoft on what the Search as a Service tool can do. And if you want to know all the details about how to leverage Kentico's implementation of Azure Search, I recommend checking out the following article by Bryan Soltis: https://devnet.kentico.com/articles/improving-search-in-kentico-11-with-azure-search. Bryan has been using Azure Search for a few years now and knows it inside and out. Check out the faceted search example below with facet counts!
To me though, the most important difference over the Kentico Smart Search is that Azure Search takes the burden of the indexing away from the server or resources that run your Kentico website and offload it into cloud resources. This makes the performance hit nonexistent of indexing all of your content when compared to the old search engine that Kentico has. The other two bonuses of Azure Search is that faceted search is much easier to accomplish, and searching through documents and attachments is also better in Azure. The downside however is that you need to write a little more code to make this all happen on the front end then when compared to the out of the box Smart Search webparts that exist in the Kentico Portal Engine. But in the MVC world Azure Search makes a ton of sense!
5. Continuous Integration improvements
The trend that started in Kentico 9 has carried through from 9 to 10 and now to K11. While slightly clunky from the start, as each recent version of Kentico has come out, the Continuous Integration (CI) feature of Kentico has seen major improvements from it. The biggest change for CI I am actually going to leave as a secret for you, and give you a big hint instead. Read the final Release Notes for Kentico 11 when they come out and take a look at the first bullet point under the platform new features list. It's kind of a mini game changer for CI, and has prompted me and my team at BizStream to really start looking at it again.
6. The E-Commerce Revolution
If you have been watching the official Kentico product roadmap, you might have noticed that e-commerce changes and updates were in basically every single milestone of the build (worked on all year). The reason for this is the fact that the Kentico development team completely gutted the e-commerce solution and basically re-factored the entire behind the scenes code to be more modern and efficient. The biggest change that has already been announced is the fact that the main data type for currency values has been swapped out to decimal instead of double. Yes! finally no more rounding or truncating issues.
It's also much more than a data type change. A sample list of what has changed / been refactored and enhanced is below (not all inclusive):
- Tax calculation services, due to changes in the way Taxes are stored
- New Total Fields on objects such as ShoppingCartInfo
- New/updated e-commerce macros
- New/updated e-commerce transformations
- New/updated e-commerce web parts
- New/updated discount coupon code objects / APIs
- Google Analytics e-commerce tracking code support
- And others...
I also recommend checking out Michael Kinkaid's excellent write up on Kentico 11 E-commerce more of the technical details at his blog. He nailed it, which is why I'm not going into it more.
7. GDPR Support in Kentico EMS
Kentico has placed some special effort on supporting the latest General Data Protection Regulations that have come out in the EU. And just because I wrote EU, this doesn’t mean that US based organizations can ignore GDPR and all of the new regulations. That is because GDPR applies to business who are in EU but ALSO business who sell to individuals in the EU. The new regulations take affect May 25th, 2018, so it's nice to see that Kentico is reacting to it almost a year ahead of time.
The new Kentico Blog has a great set of articles that explain what a GDPR is, and how Kentico is going to handle it in Kentico 11. I can’t recommend them more if you need to comply with the regulations. I have actually seen this functionality first hand in the beta and it is interesting. I like how Kentico has implemented the module and filters to be able to export consent data out of the system for not just known objects, but also the custom objects that you might have created in your Kentico site. I feel like Kentico is really at the forefront of this issue.
Now it's not perfect, because no off the shelf software could be in this area when you are talking about custom software. Expect that there will be some work to do, on top of what Kentico has provided, but that workload seems pretty logical to me.
8. More Granularity of Security Permission on Apps
I can't tell you how many times over the last 6 years that I have had developers and clients ask me about why they can't see or modify the standard CSS stylesheets in the admin (or cmsdesk, I know old school right?) interface. And the answer was always that you had to be a Global Administrator to have that type of permission. Well Global Admins be damned, that highest level of privilege is no longer needed on a few built in modules like CSS Stylesheets. As you can see in the screen shot below, Kentico 11 introduces a set of new permissions like Modify CSS stylesheets that never existed before. There are a few other hidden gems with this change to that you can again check the release notes for.
What I also deduced here is that because the change is inside of the role / permission system, this should also apply to custom modules and custom module permissions as well (but don't quote me on that).
9. HTML 5 form inputs for the Form Engine & the Death of Flash files
Another new change is the welcome addition of HTML 5 form inputs for the Kentico form engine. The best way to see the difference is to check out fellow MVP, Ilesh Mistry's blog post on Are you looking for HTML 5 Inputs in Kentico EMS?. Ilesh has done a fantastic job of creating a YouTube video that shows the K11 beta running that renders a form using the new HTML 5 input tags. Great job Ilesh!
And since we are talking about newer tags and standards, one other nice change is that Kentico 11 no longer cares about flash files and won't support adding them through the editor. This makes a ton of sense because even Adobe announced that Flash is end of life and will basically be turned off by 2020.
10. Google AMP Your Site
If you are using the portal engine to develop your Kentico site you can now easily add Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to your site. This will benefit your site from an SEO standpoint as well as page speed standpoint. This is a project and technology that is near and dear to my heart because I have presented on AMP in the past when the technology was coming out, and had it working in Kentico MVC back in 2016. It's also something that more and more of my clients are asking for. Having it in the box of Kentico makes this conversation much easier.
The cool side news on this one is that you don’t have to wait 11 days either to get it. The Google AMP module for Kentico is technically available now in Kentico 10 at Kentico’s Github repo: https://github.com/Kentico/kentico-amp. You can even read on how they accomplished using the module on the Kentico Advantage site.
11. New Certified Extensions: Ucommerce for Kentico, Marketo Connector, Salesforce Connector
You can see the formal announcement on the new certified extensions that will be available with Kentico 11. Probably the most important certified extension that is being released is Ucommerce for Kentico. This is an interesting one because of all the effort that was placed in rebuilding Kentico's e-commerce engine in 11. However, you can read in Kentico's words what the partnership with Ucommerce means. I have actually spent this week in the UCommerce for Kentico masterclass for developer training on the tool. It has been interesting to see the differences that UCommerce offers when compared to Kentico. More on that in a future blog post though.
Kentico Partner, Emakina is updating its CRM Connect version to 2.0 to include a Salesforce bi-directional data sync tool as well. This should be an interesting one for integration stories between Kentico and Salesforce.
My own team has launched a new version of our Toolkit for Kentico product. In the release we have included a new extension Connect for Kentico, that includes connectors for Kentico form submissions and activity tracking to be sent to Marketo, Zoho, or Dynamics 365 (more on this later for sure).
All of these new extensions, including UCommerce and CRM Connect 2.0 show a renewed energy for creating quality add-ons that add value into a Kentico solution.
Pro Tip: Sign up for the Marketo Connector webinar on Jan 24th, 2018 to see how you can bridge the gap between Kentico and Marketo.
By the way I am not the only one who is excited about the release of Kentico 11. Here are a few links from around the Kentico community that are very similar posts.
Don't forget that Kentico 11 will be released for publish download as of December 11, 2017. Until next time, cheers!