Sufyan bin Uzayr, Freelance Writer, Graphic Artist and Photographer www.sufyan.co.nr
In this article, we take a look at Sitefinity CMS, an ASP.NET based Content Management System that is custom-built for enterprise usage. Since it is not an entirely free CMS, Sitefinity should be your pick only if you wish to implement features such as e-commerce on your website. Even for small e-commerce ventures, investing in Sitefinity seems to be a good idea owing to its ease of use and stability.
Getting it up and running
You can get Sitefinity CMS from the home page: www.sitefinity.com. However, if you wish to ‘try before you buy’, you can setup a Sandbox Demo installation by visiting http://www.sitefinity.com/download.aspx
In this article, I chose to use the Default Charity Template that comes bundled with the Sitefinity installation. Here is how it looks, once the installation has completed:
Working with Sitefinity
In order to access the Sitefinity admin area (called ‘Dashboard’), append /sitefinity to your home page’s URL. For example, www.yoursite.com/sitefinity
Once you login, you’ll be greeted with the Dashboard, which should look similar to the one below:
The Dashboard seems self-explanatory. First up, the CMS comes bundled with numerous video tutorials that make its usage extremely easy. Once you are logged in, you can choose either to work from the back-end or directly on the website itself. If you wish to work on the website itself, you will be taken back to the website’s main page, and there will be a bar on the right hand-side to aid you in inline editing. Also, each content area and region is provided with an ‘Edit’ button and thus, the entire website becomes editable simply by clicking on the respective regions.
If, however, you wish to edit and modify your website from the Dashboard back-end itself, you can modify separate components grouped under the different menus: Pages, Content, Design, Administration and Analytics. Here is what each Menu offers:
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Pages: It lets you modify each and every page of your website, including adding custom 404 pages.
Content: This section deals with the Content of your website, including uploaded media, blog entries (if any), articles/updates, etc.
Design: You can modify the themes/templates, layout and appearance of your website in this section.
Administration: This section lets you modify user accounts, site-wide settings, privacy options, security features, etc.
Analytics: Sitefinity comes with in-built Analytics features and you can access the same here.
Using the Drag and Drop Interface
Sitefinity is renowned for its user friendly Drag and Drop mechanism. If you click on a Page, you will be taken to the Drag and Drop interface which makes it easy to edit, resize, add or remove page components. Sitefinity comes with pre-defined ‘Widgets’ for many content types, such as Image, Image Gallery, News, Blog Post, Video, Video Gallery, Event, Download List, Feed, Form, etc. You can add any number of content blocks using these widgets with absolutely no amount of coding required.
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Similarly, if you wish to edit blocks of content, simply navigate to Layout Mode. You can now drag and drop each block to its desired location. While modifying the location of each block as well as adding new blocks — both the tasks seem to be a breeze, editing the size of existing blocks is not easily accomplished.
Along identical lines, you can create forms, newsletters and even opinion polls for your website visitors using the drag and drop interface. Sitefinity also offers built-in workflows.
Tweaking Sitefinity CMS
Looking at the Settings Menu, you’ll discover two variants — Basic and Advanced. The Basic Settings Menu lets you edit your Timezone, Comments, Language Packs, Social Networking (such as Twitter) and Newsletters/Mailing Lists. The Advanced Settings Menu has many additional options that you can tweak to your heart’s content.
Under Analytics, you can check your website’s progress and visitor stats. Sitefinity does not try too hard when it comes to Analytics — it simply integrates Google Analytics in the back-end. What this means is that you’ll need to have a Google Account, and just in case you don’t have one, getting an account is a matter of seconds. Analytics are provided in the form of graphs and figures as well:
Lastly, speaking of File Management. Sitefinity’s File Manager resembles that of Microsoft Windows to a great extent. Adding or moving files is very simple owing to its ease of use.
Sitefinity CMS is a great choice for enterprise websites.
It offers excellent support, extensive documentation, an extremely easy to use drag and drop interface as well as terrific e-commerce and security features. With that said, it is not a free CMS and thus, may not be everyone’s choice.
If you are developing a simple website for your enterprise and simply wish to post updates about your enterprise’s growth, investing in Sitefinity makes no sense. However, if you wish to implement e-commerce features, or need to build an extensive website that has a lot of content, or just wish to employ the most user-friendly CMS out there, Sitefinity is definitely worth the money!