On the road to a better Agility CMS

New Interface for Agility CMS

Three years ago, CMS Report made the jump from Drupal to the Agility CMS featuring its Magazine Publishing Suite. Since then, I've had the opportunity to see Agility's software evolve including improved delivery in the mobile space through responsive web design. While gradual improvements were made in the CMS, probably the biggest change for Agility Inc. was in late 2013 with the appointment of their new CEO, Jonathan Voigt. When Jon was appointed CEO he promised a refocused vision for Agility that would provide better products and improved services for Agility's paying customers. This autumn, Agility fulfills that promise as it rolls out a significant rebuild and redesign of the content management system's interface.

Agility has announced that they have started pushing out the new version of its popular web content management solution. Besides the interface improvements, the new version of Agility CMS also introduces a new Dashboard feature as well as significant improvements in software performance and task workflow.

"This a huge step forward for Agility CMS. The legacy content manager was built out 8 years ago, and it served us and our customers well. This new, upgraded version provides the same user-friendly experience – but it’s sleeker, faster and provides more value to all that login to the platform,” Jon Voigt, CEO of Agility CMS, said.

Agility's New Interface

The upcoming Agility CMS provides a significant improvement in the interface yet reportedly the changes are natural enough that companies already using Agility shouldn't have to spend too much time retraining their employees. Agility's Jillean Kearney provided additional details about the brand new interface in a recent blog post.

The interface has been revamped to provide an increasingly intuitive and visually attractive experience for all users. A responsive framework and touch-friendly elements modernize the platform and enable users to update their website from anywhere, at any time.

Agility’s redesigned CMS includes robust workflow improvements and performance updates in order to provide marketing and development teams with the ability and flexibility to deliver the very best in dynamic digital experiences – quickly and with ease. Now users can complete tasks in fewer clicks.

New insights via the Agility Dashboard

Anybody can build a dashboard into their CMS, but not every dashboard is actually useful or informative. One of the biggest issues most dashboards have within CMSs is that they often display charts, lists, and numbers only because of availability and not based on usefulness. In too many cases, it's as if at the last minute software developers noted that since the CMS already keeps track of this and that...they might as well throw it on the board to display. More often than not, site administrators and content editors skip the dashboard because dashboards fail in their primary task in providing useful and needed information.

I'd like to believe the challenge in finding the right recipe for putting this thing together is why Agility has waited so long to introduce the Dashboard into their CMS. Although I have not yet used the dashboard myself, from what I've seen and read I get the sense that Agility is heading in the right direction with their version. Most promising is the inclusion of unique dashboards that consolidate information specific to their functionality. As the new Agility CMS was nearing production, these Dashboard Sections were divided by Homepage (a dashboard overview), Pages, Shared Content, Media and Documents, Reports, and finally Settings.  

The Agility Dashboard

Agility describes the Dashboard as such: 

One major Agility CMS update is the introduction of Dashboards, which provide improved insights to users on overall website performance, as well as user activity and recent changes made within the platform. The Homepage Dashboard (above) includes integration with Google Analytics, and and pulls in metrics like weekly page views and average session duration.

In addition to the Homepage, other Agility CMS Sections now include unique dashboards that consolidate information specific to their functionality.

The Pages Section, for example, displays information about each webpage’s performance and activity, including a website’s top-viewed pages and top entry pages.

Performance Improvements

I have yet to see a new release of any CMS that didn't claim performance improvements. However, with everything I know about the software, I'm certain Agility is speaking the truth here. Over the past few years that I've used Agility, I've witnessed a constant effort by Agility's developers to improve CMS performance so that the platform runs faster and smoother. In fact as much time Agility has spent on developing the new user interface, I would bet equal time was also spent on the backend with coding improvements.

Agility CMS now utilizes a next generation routing and templating framework, ASP.NET MVC, which makes the platform more flexible and robust.

In addition, the amount of overhead database calls that accompany every request has been scaled back by up to five times. As a result, some Agility CMS workflows and tasks can be completed substantially quicker than in legacy content manager.

Agility's Future is Here 

While the Agility CMS has been in Beta for much of 2015, the Production release will be rolling out to Agility's clients and their sites this Fall. The last I checked with Agility, users will be able to switch back to the legacy version for up to three months in order to provide a smooth transition to the new user interface. The ability to switch back to the old user interface is a nice feature to have, but personally I hope I don't have to use it. I like helpful positive changes in my CMS and know of no reason to why this change won't be positive too. I suspect Agility has a lot riding on this new version that they've done all they can to ensure it meets the expectation of their current clients. More importantly for the company, this is also Agility's chance to win over new clients as well.

When given the opportunity, I plan to follow-up with writing about my experiences with the new redesign of Agility CMS. Until then, you can learn more about what’s new and improved in Agility CMS, by visiting the Agility website.

Image Source: Agility Inc.