Stronger, Better, Faster... Simpler!

Heads Up!

This article is several years old now, and much has happened in Umbraco land since then, so please keep that in mind while reading it.

"It always seems impossible until it's done"

- Nelson Mandela, July 18th 1918 - December 5th 2013

How it all started - Umbraco 1.0. Classic ASP, COM objects and elements that didn't align
How it all started - Umbraco 1.0. Classic ASP, COM objects and elements that didn't align

Back in 2003, I wanted a tool that would let me focus on what I loved - making beautiful websites for clients I loved to work for and for them to love to maintain the site afterwards. Not as easy as it sounded, because despite an insanely crowded market, CMS'es back then were bloated and expensive or free and awful. No matter what, it would leave you with clients with CMSes they'd dislike even more than you'd loathe implementing it.

Nothing is more motivating than scratching your own itch and that was what made Umbraco happen. A CMS born out of a need for a simple, flexible and beautiful solution. One that clients would enjoy using, one that allowed any design and one that made it easy to constantly make changes during the project. The latter is awesome if you have clients you enjoy sitting next to and constantly optimise the site as you go through it together. I did.

Ten years later, the little tool born out of necessity is no longer just used by one freelancer for smaller clients. It's powering 500 new websites every day.

Installs of Umbraco during October
Installs of Umbraco during October

Yet - until recently - those sites are made in the same way as I did. While many improvements has been made to Umbraco since 2003 and there's no longer any remains of my original code, it's obvious that a tool ten years old needs more than a bit of TLC to keep up to date.

A new chapter, not a closed book

Umbraco 7 on iPad - photo borrowed from
Umbraco 7 on iPad - photo borrowed from

The last couple of years we've been researching, designing, prototyping and architecting on reinventing Umbraco and this fall, v7 showed us the first glimpse of what's in store for all of us in 2014. On one level we're reinventing the tool that's Umbraco - the back office - and the result are already a stunning and market leading User Experience: Faster, Gorgeous and Touch Friendly. But more importantly, it inherited the central Umbraco DNA - the simplicity.

We're not done. We'll continue to methodical go through every single feature in the back office and see how we can make it simpler. And not just by using our gut feeling, but by continuing to collect data on which features are used most and score how complex they are to perform; one point for a mouse click, five for a dialog to open and ten for a page refresh. The goal of "Belle" (v7) is all about limiting the number of steps - thus the amount of time - needed to get things done.

Because we believe the best tool isn't the most expensive, the most stunning looking or the fastest one. We believe the best tool is the one you don't realise you're using.

All we want for Christmas... is buildingĀ 

It's the same philosophy that made us - the Umbraco HQ - make Umbraco as a Service. When I talk to people involved in Umbraco projects, a common love is building websites. Whether that's building with words, code, design or thoughts, it's the love to web craftsmanship that brings a lot of us together.

Unfortunately, making web projects isn't just building. It's also installing, upgrading, deploying and a lot of other infrastructure related things that we've accepted as a part of our daily work. Even the best of us spend at least 8% of our time on infrastructure. That's about a month a year that we could spend building. And the smaller your company is, the higher that number is. If we could limit the amount of resources we spend on infrastructure, we could spend even more time on the part of our work we love.

If it ain't simple, it ain't Umbraco
If it ain't simple, it ain't Umbraco

That's our goal with Umbraco as a Service (UaaS). Many people think that UaaS is made for huge projects that needs to scale. Nothing could be more wrong. UaaS is mostly about convenience. The idea that you press a button to get started and you press a button to put a project iteration live. You press a button to sync and catch up on an old project when you need to make adjustments. You press a button if you want to upgrade to a new version.

The end result will be that Umbraco people makes even better websites all while smiling more in the process.

It's ambitious. Luckily, when we started out on the project we didn't knew how ambitious it actually was. Just like when I started out with the core of Umbraco.

It's been an uphill battle, but l thanks to my amazing colleagues, we're now in preview and closer than ever. And we'd like to invite you to be a part of the next chapter in the Umbraco (r)evolution. Sign up at Everyone who signs up on the 24th will get access in the first half of January.

It's ten years since I started the Umbraco project. In October 2014 it'll be ten years since the first open source version of Umbraco came out (in beta). And after ten years, it'll finally be the year where making CMS projects will be all about building.

I love this project - merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Niels Hartvig

Niels is on Twitter as