Orchard CMS – first look

Orchard CMS was recommended to me as a fast-improving alternative to WordPress. I approached it with trepidation. I have some knowledge of PHP, which is important to understanding WordPress whenever you need to look under the hood, but none whatsoever of .NET. Also, it has a reputation for being less user-friendly than rival CMS systems.

Orchard CMS background

Orchard is open-source software but was initiated primarily by a group of Microsoft employees, and is believed to be well-regarded by the company.  That suggests that there could be significant support if the project continues to grow.

Orchard CMS first impression

Once in, i was struck by how welcoming it is to a WordPress user in the first hour. There are some intriguing differences which appealed to me, but would take some time to explore them fully.

Content is divided into types of content and is intended to be easily reusable. It took only minutes to test out a new menu (very familiar) and to set up a new page with content. The page footer was similarly accessible within minutes.

Widgets are widgets but they sit within layers and zones which can be turned on and off within pages. There are content parts, content types and content fields.

Orchard CMS – the verdict

I loved the layout and the initial ease of use. I liked the fact that everything worked in the way I expected it to. Although a few concepts needed research, that is just a function of its alternative approach to the building blocks of a CMS.

I would definitely use it for a site but as a WordPress user without a familiarity with .NET, I would look to keep it simple in the beginning. I would need to use and test a lot of plugins in order to have confidence in them, and would also need to do a lot more research on how to modify sites and how to use functions such as sorting blog posts.

I would also need to do more testing on the CSS in order to see how easy it is to manipulate on the out-of-the-box theme to begin with.

But I believe that the CMS will get better and better just as it has been doing. Orchard CMS is definitely one to look out for.