Ektron CMS - Solid potential in a ride that might be a bit bumpy for the uninitiated.
Updated July 07, 2015

Ektron CMS - Solid potential in a ride that might be a bit bumpy for the uninitiated.

Anonymous | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 7 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

Software Version

Ektron Web CMS

Overall Satisfaction with Optimizely Content Cloud (formerly Episerver Content Cloud)

I used to support Ektron CMS for customers of the product, and then I specialized in integrating solutions using Ektron CMS as the primary system to power intranets and public facing websites. It used to power our personal website at a past job, but my primary interaction with it was to build solutions for customer's needs. Organizations implementing Ektron CMS on the public facing side were looking to empower marketers to manage the content on the website. Most companies I worked with were managing their website through the IT department and most IT departments did not want to continue to manage email requests for small HTML changes. For internal implementations, organizations were looking to create a social atmosphere with their intranet to serve documents to employees and provide a way for internal employees to connect to one another or access important information.
  • It's an all in one solution that can be built to suit your needs. From the simple job of managing content and resources like images and documents, to social components like activity boards, messaging services, and eCommerce.
  • The interface provides a solid structure to configure components of the application to allow quick and easy content entry and management. Smart Forms, for example, provide a nice way to structure content entry for marketers and non-technical users so they are limited to the scope a developer needs, but are allowed flexibility to the degree the author might need.
  • Page Builder allows a developer to set up various templates for the website to be flexible enough for a marketer to be able to add content and create "pages" on the website that suite the needs of the department or user. Ektron's "widgets" are similar enough to standard .NET user controls that a developer familiar with them can create custom ones for Page Builder pages pretty successfully.
  • Recent updates have added support for SOLR as a search engine allowing you the freedom to move away from the strong licensing structure of Microsoft Search Server and FAST if your organization is more familiar with the APACHE offering.
  • The Document Management System (DMS) built-in provides the ability to add typical office documents into the system complete with search, versioning, and permission and privacy control.
  • The API is pretty powerful and flexible when you become familiar with all the levels and features available through it.
  • Some users feel the management interface (Workarea) feels a little dated or confusing with a typical Windows-like folder tree on the left and a right pane that changes based on the section of the Workarea you are in. Visual cues for buttons and components are not always obvious.
  • While the interface enables you to structure the site and add content with faster and easier setup than some other competing products on the market, as with many the competition, the implementation is only as good as the administrator configures it, and over the years I have found this to be one of the biggest complaints and problems with the system.
  • The CMS has many features packed in for marketers, developers, administrators, and users, and it has a great deal of potential to be a powerful system because of them. But many of them feel half-baked into the system more to serve as keywords for a sales pitch or a checklist as opposed to being a solid and usable addition to the system. That's not to say that many of these features are not usable, but they are not as usable or great as they could be. For example, the eCommerce component tends to feel clunky or confusing for users managing products in it. The intranet components, like activity boards or messaging, are difficult to manage in the Workarea because of the interface and lack of access to features that exist and are otherwise hidden from the Workarea or are available only through a front-end widget.
  • The API can be very powerful, and I find most of the time I leverage that to build custom components and controls, but the documentation, though much better now than it has been in past years, is still struggling to provide the level of detail to the various methods and libraries available through the product. This is one area where some of the competition outshines. With someone who has many years of professional experience with the product this is not as big an issue as the API is fairly easy to remember, but for new developers this can be a challenge.
  • Support used to be more of a hit-or-miss roller-coaster ride, and while it has improved in the past years, it's still bumpy for some people. The positive side of this is they have a solid group of community users that are willing to help answer questions and provide samples or demo code where they can to enable new and existing users and developers.
  • While the community is very helpful and willing through various social spheres, like Stack Overflow, Twitter, and Ektron's Developer Forums, Ektron's own Developer Forums are a bit rough to use, making that piece more challenging than it should be. As mentioned, however, they have very helpful and active community members that patrol, and a few internal users that are fairly "hell-bent" on making sure that questions are seen by anyone who might be able to assist. I always recommend Tweeting about something after posting it, for optimal exposure.
  • Ektron's support for MVC is probably it's biggest, obvious weakness currently. While the competition has moved on to solid support for MVC, Ektron's strength is still with Webforms. The three-tier architecture Ektron has built provides a similar approach, but it still cannot compete with true MVC support. If your organization is dedicated to an MVC implementation, a different solution might suit you better.
  • I have deployed several successful University sites powered by Ektron CMS. With several of them, there was a disconnect between the IT and Marketing departments, primarily because IT sees a website as technology and marketing sees it as an online advertising powerhouse. The primary goal in most cases is to allow IT some control, but move control over content and web presence to the marketing department. While I can't quote conversion rates for visitors and students, I can say the satisfaction level with both IT and Marketing departments in these implementations has lead to more active content on the websites and a more positive attitude from both departments.
  • For intranet implementations, the goals are typically to connect employees to each other, or connect employees with the business, and many times this also involves centralizing document repositories. One large implementation had very low employee satisfaction scores with regards to the use of internal resources, and their new intranet has since become the central hub for all local and international internal communications. The use rate has increased exponentially, and satisfaction scores have been at all time highs.
Having worked with Sitecore, I can attest to it's flexibility being extreme. The ability to create your own system objects for virtually any piece in Sitecore makes it extremely difficult to top in terms of customization. This comes at a price, however, as I have found deployments with Sitecore can take considerably more time or resources since the initial configuration typically requires more. Ektron can be quicker to deploy when severe customization is unnecessary. Both products provide extension points to work with content in the lifecycle, but the hands-down feature that Sitecore currently offers over Ektron is solid MVC support. The API isn't as clearly structured as Ektron's, but the flexibility within MVC, and strong documentation, makes it win out a bit in that comparison. WebForms, however, can still be easier to work with in Ektron.

WordPress and SharePoint aren't what I would consider complete CMS platforms, though both are used for them. The components and management by Drupal, Sitecore, and Ektron prove WordPress to be more of an expanded blogging tool that now serves well enough for content management for more smaller-scale operations, and community plugins assist with that. SharePoint is more of a document management system and Microsoft now supports using other products for WCM. Drupal is a different tech stack that can provide low initial cost of ownership if you have the resources to manage it, but as Linux has proven, open source still benefits from a strong central group behind it. Upgrades and in-house management can be a real challenge for a Drupal site. Acquia has done great work with it, though, and helped excel it to a higher standard, but that also comes with a higher price tag. The good news is, it's a very flexible environment as well, and there is strong community support for it, since the community is really what helps drive the CMS.
The best approach to determining if it's a good fit is trying to get a look-and-feel of the system with a little hands on to determine if you understand or like the approach to UI. Other things to consider are:

  • How quick do you need a deployment? With proper guidance, an Ektron site can be deployed fairly quickly depending on the needs and complexity of the application it's being used for.
  • What kind of flexibility do you need for the management of content? Ektron's Smart Forms provide a nice structured content entry method, but the built in system-types are not as flexible as some competitors interface.
  • What's your tech stack and preferred application approach? Ektron's structure is built with standard .NET webforms in mind. If your preference is for MVC, a different product will probably serve you better.
  • Are you planning to deploy using your own developers or through an agency? Most Ektron partners, or agencies with solid experience will provide a more positive experience and final solution as they tend to have the experience and expertise to work past some of the shortcomings. If building yourself, allow time for learning challenges and proper training.

Optimizely Content Management System Feature Ratings

WYSIWYG editor
Code quality / cleanliness
Admin section
Mobile optimization / responsive design
Publishing workflow
Form generator
Content taxonomy
SEO support
Bulk management
Availability / breadth of extensions
Community / comment management
Internationalization / multi-language
Role-based user permissions

Using Optimizely Content Cloud (formerly Episerver Content Cloud)

Since I work on the implementation side of things, and do not directly own licensing for Ektron CMS, I have to base this rating off of how I think it will be received or presented to customers looking to start a new site deployment. I try to remain CMS agnostic, though my specialty is with the .NET and Microsoft stack. Because of the experience I have working with Ektron, I tend to be more forgiving with the shortcomings as I am familiar with how to work around them or past them from experience. Being familiar with the community available also helps, as you become familiar with the best approaches to find solutions to your issues. Each product has it's ups and downs and all of them are only going to be as good as the company or development team implementing them can make them. This is EXTREMELY important to remember when choosing a CMS, as it can make or break your expensive investment.