Another year, another epic release of Kentico's flagship CMS and digital experience platform. Each year for the last 5 or so, I've written in detail about these major releases and what it means for the vast majority of Kentico users, administrators or enthusiasts who are not closely following the roadmap and/or appropriate Twitter hashtags. Sometimes there are major new features to screenshot, and sometimes the improvements are more under-the-hood. This one, however, is a very special release.
Once a product has had an annual release cycle for a decade or more, you start to see patterns emerge (particularly if you're a total fanboy). Apple's iPhones follow a classic 'tick tock' cycle; a major upgrade which introduces significant changes, followed by a more minor 'S' refinement which improves performance. Kentico has followed a similar pattern, yet it's not as consistent as that so it's slightly less clock-like.
Therefore in this article I'm going to go with a pattern of releases either being 'new shiny' or 'optimise', but with the addition of a third release type: 'OMG'.
Spoiler alert: K12 is the first OMG release in ten years.
Let's start with a little trip down memory lane...
OK, not even I remember all the way back to Kentico 1 (I started with Kentico on version 3.1 in 2008). But here's a very quick and dirty summary of the versions over the years:
- K1: New Shiny (obviously)
- K2: OMG ✨ - Portal engine introduced, which remained Kentico's recommended approach until now
- K3: Optimise - new features and more web parts
- K4: New Shiny - major new modules such as Media Library, Custom Tables, and the legendary Bad Words module (best combined with CI)
- K5: Optimise (if we forget/ignore that there was actually a whole new Intranet offering included) - ecommerce improvements, widgets
- K6: New Shiny - REST API, K#, brand new EMS features (contacts, segments, personalisation, lead scoring, A/B testing)
- K7: Optimise - improved EMS (automation, visual workflow), introduction of MVC support, Wireframes module 🙊
- K8: New Shiny - Major user interface overhaul, Form Builder, ecommerce improvements, EMS performance boost
- K9: Optimise - MVC rewrite, Continuous Integration, Custom Modules, Staging Groups, Web Farm improvements
- K10: Optimise - More MVC, better performance, better CI, responsive images
- K11: New Shiny - Completely new email marketing experience, ecommerce rewritten to improve developers' lives, GDPR support, Azure Search
- K12: OMG ✨ - see below 👇
What's so OMG about Kentico 12?
Kentico 12 introduces ASP.NET MVC as the primary, recommended development model for new sites. The last time they introduced a change as epic as this was ten versions and over ten years ago, with the release of Kentico 2, when they introduced the legendary Portal Engine.
Kentico now recommends the MVC development model - what does this mean?
Kentico now recommends the MVC development model - what does this mean?
Developers around the world rejoiced to hear that MVC, while having already been an option for Kentico development for years, is now officially the recommended development model as of K12. Marketers around the world smiled and nodded and clinked glasses with the devs, while secretly thinking "what's an MVC?"
I could go on and on here about Kentico recommending the MVC development model in version 12, but I already did exactly that a few months ago, so if you haven't read it yet, take a moment to check it out now!
There's more to the story however than the Kentico team just announcing that MVC is the new black. Developers have known MVC was the future of ASP.NET for a while now, and it's actually a Microsoft technology; not something introduced by Kentico. So why now?
The answer is that Kentico 12 includes drastically improved MVC features. So much so that the feature set of MVC sites compared to Portal sites hasn't just caught up, it has actually pushed ahead.
New MVC features in Kentico 12
I can't possibly list all the new features here - there's an official Kentico roadmap page for that. But here are some of the most exciting ones:
Brand new widget-based visual page builder
This is not simply the "portal engine in MVC" (as famously prototyped by Kentico CTO Martin Hejtmanek offline on a plane trip to Australia in 2016), but it is definitely every bit as big as that might sound. This is a completely re-imagined and rebuilt visual page builder for MVC sites. It allows for modern page building including sections/rows, and supports new inline editors for widget properties to make configuring your widgets a breeze. This is completely unique to MVC sites, as older Portal sites will continue to use the existing amazing Portal engine (Page tab).
Brand new form builder
Again, this is not the whiz-bang form builder introduced into the Portal engine with K8 back in 2014. The new form builder is built from the ground up to be friendly to both users and MVC developers, and supports new features such as "smart forms" which will intelligently show or hide form fields based on whether a visitor has already provided that information.
New widget personalisation experience
Personalisation within the new visual page builder has been completely overhauled, based on extensive user research and feedback, compared to the more developer-friendly experience of the Portal engine.
If you want a sneak peak of some of these features, there are some great blog posts out there from industry insiders who have been playing with the beta:
- Kentico 12 Beta 2: Chasing the Raptor by Brian McKeiver in the US
- MVC Forms in Kentico 12 Beta 2 by Matt Nield in the UK
- Content Personalisation via MVC Widgets in Kentico 12 by Pavel Jirik at Kentico
But I ❤ Portal, what's in it for me?
Separate to the MVC-specific enhancements, there are the usual raft of improvements and optimisations.
General platform improvements
Improved geolocation with a new IP database, more Ecommerce APIs, OAuth for LinkedIn, underlying performance improvements, and don't forget a pretty new dashboard!
Better widget control
New "allowed widgets" functionality allows you to strictly define which widgets can be used in specific widget zones across your templates. In other words, it allows you to prevent editors from breaking your pages! 😜
What do I get out of the upgrade if I'm not transitioning to MVC?
If you're upgrading to Kentico 12 and your site was built using the Portal Engine, there's a good chance you're not also rebuilding your site using MVC right now. That's absolutely fine, you just may be experiencing some intense FOMO right now.
Don't worry! You still get:
- the usual raft of performance, stability, and security updates
- any updates to the Kentico administration UI (remember, it's the same back end whether you're on Portal or MVC)
- extended support for at least two years (remember, Kentico only support the most recent two versions)
- a few nice little feature additions as listed above 👆
What do I get out of it if I am using MVC?
OMG, so much. 😱
(Did you read that whole post up there? 👆)
If you're a fan of MVC, this is the biggest and best release ever - a must-have!
Kentico 12 is a unique release, in that depending on whether you're on the Portal or MVC wagon, it's either a fine polish of an extremely solid and mature industry-leading platform, or the biggest single leap forward for the platform in ten years. Either way, Kentico 12 is a huge one, and the best version yet of a terrific CMS platform. Speak to your friendly neighbourhood Kentico agency about an upgrade or a demo!
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