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Getting ready to relaunch my site on Umbraco CMS

Pete Brown - 08 December 2009

December is a relatively quiet time at Microsoft, and despite having a bunch of content work to complete, and several chapters to go in my Silverlight 4 book, I felt it would be a good time to give my site a real overhaul.

My old site was fractured into two main parts: the legacy asp.net site that had all my pre-blog content, as well as some games, and a bunch of pretty popular desktop wallpaper, and the community server-driven blog. The look and feel was completely different between the two:

image image

The old site had also stagnated content-wise, because it was simply much too easier to open up Windows Live Writer and dump content into my blog. Similarly, I haven’t uploaded new wallpaper in a couple years because the publishing process required running some tools to generate all the sizes, and then some manual database updates to get the content on the site. If it’s too much work to post content, it just doesn’t get done.

If you think those are rough, take a look at some of the really early versions of my site as remembered by the internet archive at archive.org (I can’t get to my old pre-1998 sites as they were tilde subsites of larger hosts like compuserve and bayserve, and weren’t indexed):

1998, my “company” and personal site. Look at a sampling of 1998 company sites, and I bet at least 30% have images of the earth on them :)

Hey look! a gradient, in 1998! I was so ahead of the trends ;)

November 2002, first release of irritatedvowel.com; just a few pages. I created the look and feel used by the current site just a few months later.


March 2003. The header and footer images didn’t get stored by archive.org, but you get the idea. The header was a great big train photo and text. I later shrunk that down and created the current logo.
January 2006. Still essentially the same site. Again, missing header image. A few months before this, I created my blog and posted my first post (August 19, 2005)


I’ve known for some time that I needed a real Content Management System (CMS) for my site, but my searches have rejected one after another. Some were too blog-centric and lacked the ability to add content pages and application pages outside the blog, some were just too complex, some way too expensive, and some were either abandoned by the creators or otherwise unfinished.

At our team meeting at PDC09, Scott Hanselman suggested to Jon Galloway that he mock something up in Umbraco. Umbraco is a CMS that I hadn’t previously heard of. It had many of the things I wanted: lots of flexibility, open source so no real worries about it being abandoned, a free version available for use on my site, and a basic blog engine.

The blog engine was so basic, though, that I gave up and started looking again until Niels Hartvig (@umbraco on twitter) tweeted me and told me he was going to start beefing up the blog platform, and to give it another chance. So, despite a slight allergy to XSLT (about on par with my javascript allergy <g>) I decided to reinstall umbraco and give it another shot. The Microsoft Web Platform Installer (WebPI) made it really simple to do that. No pain at all.

I went and bought an inexpensive commercial HTML theme package called “Display” from ThemeForest.net (great stuff there) and started customizing it for Umbraco. At the same time, I incorporated some changes to the blog platform as they were being written.

It’s not complete yet, but I plan to launch right around the new year. Working on it a couple days a week, that timeframe sounds reasonable. I’m pretty excited about this as it’s the first real overhaul I’ve had since 2003-ish, and that is just WAY too long to keep a site stagnant.

Here’s a teaser of the new site look and feel. The final version will have a bunch of changes, but these two shots give a flavor of the site. Note that I blacked out the URLs as I want to keep them secret until the launch – there’s a hint or two on the page, though :)

image image

This means we’ll have more frequent blog and site updates, more content, more demo apps, and generally more fun. I’m pretty excited about the new site, and can’t wait to retire my crusty old site, built in ASP.NET 1, and upgraded through 3.5, with my CMS being Visual Studio :)

posted by Pete Brown on Tuesday, December 8, 2009
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4 comments for “Getting ready to relaunch my site on Umbraco CMS”

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  1. POKE 53280,0: Pete Brown's Blogsays:
    If you’re on twitter or otherwise follow Codinghorror, you know he suffered a complete loss of his blog
  2. POKE 53280,0: Pete Brown's Blogsays:
    Like most people, at the end of the year, I look back and assess how things went, what I could do better,