It’s been an interesting few years for Kentico customers, and with end of support for all versions of Xperience 12 coming at the end of 2023 and confusion over the newest Xperience by Kentico product, we’ve recently been asked a few times about the route forward for existing Kentico websites.
The first thing we’d want to do is understand which platform you’re on. Xperience by Kentico is the latest Kentico product, and confusingly, is not really the same as Kentico Xperience (and definitely not the same as Kentico EMS or Kentico CMS, and very definitely not the same as Kontent by Kentico which is now a separate company entirely unaffiliated with Kentico called Kontent.ai). And then we've got Kentico Xperience Portal Engine - a very different product to Kentico Xperience MVC.
It’s all a bit like trying to understand the family tree in Anna Karenina or The Brothers Karamazov (I’m looking to get that vital, lucrative CMS/C19 Russian literature crossover traffic here, roll with me).
If you’re here, you’re probably using Kentico Xperience 12 or 13 and wondering where you go from here. For customers on version 12, this is a pretty urgent issue – if you’re not already out of technical support, you will be by the end of 2023.
This goes back, ultimately, to Kentico having been a bit slow to make some important decisions about .Net frameworks and accumulating some technical debt in consequence (and allowing their customers to do the same). This isn’t unique to Kentico; ultimately all of the major .Net CMSs have had to make these same decisions.
Optimizely completed the process in version 12 and Umbraco in version 9, for example, but they’ve been running ahead of Kentico on this and are now firmly set and building for the future whilst Kentico is still getting there.
How do I upgrade my current Kentico platform?
Let’s talk about where you may be on Kentico right now and what that might mean for your ability to upgrade to later versions. You might be on:
- Xperience by Kentico
The latest platform, first released in 2022. If you’re already on this, you’ll have been an early adopter, and you’re getting access to frequent updates and have no near future replatforming worries (unless you don’t like it, in which case read on).
- Kentico Xperience 13 with a .Net Core application
The most recent version of the older platform, not fully converted to .Net Core as the Admin application remained on Web Forms. This is important because there isn’t a direct upgrade path from Xperience 13 to Xperience by Kentico, only a migration toolkit that will copy most (though not all) of your content structures to a new application, and in theory, allow you to carry across your front-end application. This comes with caveats though – there are some breaking changes across application and content modelling approaches, and some functionality that simply doesn’t exist in the new platform yet. Expect a significant project to migrate, but not to the extent of a full rebuild.
- Kentico Xperience 13 with a .Net MVC application
Comes with all the caveats above, only now you need to factor in converting your application from MVC to .Net Core as well. Still not necessarily quite a rebuild, but if you’re considering redesign then you should consider a full or partial rebuild anyway.
- Kentico Xperience 12 with a .Net MVC application
You can still do this but on top of everything else you need to upgrade to 13 first. You should definitely consider a rebuild.
- Kentico Xperience 12 with a Portal Engine application (.Net Web Forms)
You’re definitely going to need to rebuild. You’ll have to change everything anyway.
- Kentico Xperience 11 or lower
You’re definitely going to need to rebuild... by approximately yesterday.
If you’re at the point of needing a rebuild, you might question whether you want to stick with Kentico.
Stick or twist?
If you’re unsure whether you should stick with Xperience or not, you should take a look at our replatforming guide for general guidance. In the meantime, here are some specific routes you could take:
- Stick with Xperience
Even if it means a rebuild, if Xperience works for you then rebuilding on Xperience is a perfectly valid choice. In particular, if the low-code, plug-and-play widget-based philosophy and internal experience functionality of older Kentico CMS/EMS versions suited you more than the recent Xperience MVC versions, then it looks like Kentico is refocusing on its traditional strength there. Caveat – we aren’t Kentico developers, but there are plenty of other ways we could help you.
- Switch to an alternative CMS with an extensible approach
If you want a traditional CMS platform (or a hybrid headless one) that supports an extensible approach to building functionality and integrating with 3rd party systems rather than promoting internal components for everything, Umbraco is a great value choice – the outstanding open-source .Net CMS.
- Switch to an enterprise-level DXP
While Kentico touts Xperience as a DXP, it struggles to compete toe to toe with the main DXP players for functionality. Optimizely is deservedly rated as the leading .Net DXP, with best-in-class functionality across its entire suite. A more expensive choice than Kentico admittedly (although less markedly so now Kentico has moved to subscription pricing), but the power more than justifies the cost.
- Switch to a headless CMS
Well, this is a bit awkward. Kentico developed one of the best dedicated headless CMSs out there, but it’s a separate company now. Kontent.ai, formerly Kontent by Kentico is in our opinion the most business and editor-friendly headless CMS. If you like the sound of Xperience’s beta hybrid model, then Umbraco or Optimizely might suit you there too. If you’re curious about the headless approach, why not check out our recent headless CMS explainer.
If you’re interested in knowing more, we’re partners with Umbraco, Optimizely and Kontent.ai. While we can’t help you with a Kentico build, we can help you explore the move to other platforms.
For a friendly chat about anything we’ve raised in this article and how we might help your organisation to build its digital future (Kentico-based or not), why not get in touch?
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