These days in the web content management space, anybody who’s anybody is on version 8 of their CMS: Kentico 8, Sitecore 8, Drupal 8, Umbraco 8. In case you still haven’t heard, Episerver recently joined the big 8 club with the release of Episerver 8.0.
Episerver 8.0 is the first major release from Episerver since its shift to continuous releases and the first release since the merger with Ektron, so it’s worth taking an in-depth look into what this release entails and how it may impact your current or future projects.
What new features and changes are in store for Episerver users?
One much anticipated new feature is finally out of beta and will be available to Episerver CMS Editors and Admins immediately upon upgrading to 8.0: Projects. Projects allow CMS users to group different pieces of content together and publish them all at the same time. This is useful, for example, if you’re planning a campaign with several new pages, blocks, images, and videos that need to go live at a scheduled time.
Projects also allow users to preview an entire campaign together as if it were live, so they know exactly how it will look and feel. This feature will be automatically available upon upgrade without any additional customization.
Support for canonical URLs
Episerver already supported canonical URLs to an extent, but Episerver 8 makes it much easier to manage multiple domains to ensure there is only one canonical URL. This is an essential SEO best practice to make sure your site is not hit with a search engine penalty for duplicate content.
Now you can specify which domain is the primary URL and add a canonical link tag to your pages to let Google know which page it should index- without any coding! Episerver has also said that alternate language functionality is on the horizon.
The end of IE9 support
Not a feature, but still important to note: Episerver’s plan continues to be to support only the latest two versions of Internet Explorer, and with Episerver 8.0 they are letting official IE9 support fade off into the sunset. This is consistent with most of the other leaders in the CMS space.
Episerver Find: Best Bets for Commerce
Best Bets is a feature of Episerver Find that allows editors to select certain pages to appear in the search results for specific search terms. In Episerver 8, Best Bets has been expanded to allow editors to specify Commerce products to appear in search results for certain queries. You can use this to help guide users to a specific product that you’re really trying to push.
What does it take to upgrade to Episerver 8?
We all remember the old days: Episerver would have about one major update each year with a bunch of new features and an extensive set of bugfixes. Exciting as that was, we all know these updates could be a huge pain.
Luckily, last summer Episerver converted to a continuous release model. In the new model, Episerver now releases small updates about once every two weeks. Thanks to these incremental improvements, even this major upgrade should be much less painful than say, an upgrade from Episerver 6 to 7.
Episerver 8 warrants a major release number thanks to the new features and some API breaking changes, but from a code standpoint, there really haven’t been any earth-shattering changes between 7.5 and 8.0. There will just be a few additional facets for your developers to check in the code to make sure it still builds, but for most standard Episerver projects the breaking changes will have very little impact.
For Episerver 7.5 to 8.0, the effort to upgrade is on-par with any other weekly update if the project is already setup to support continuous releases. Some work may be needed to recompile the code and fix any build errors in the unlikely event that the codebase is utilizing any of the breaking changes.
So what’s the bottom line? If you’re just starting an Episerver implementation, we’d highly recommend starting the project on Episerver 8.0. Episerver 8 improves performance and brings some exciting features to the table with a low barrier to upgrading for current users. The project feature alone makes it more than worth the wait, and I’m excited to see what else is in store as the new, post-merger Episerver continues bi-weekly releases.