Review: Smart CMS for Asp.Net

A practical approach to dynamic website management without using databases

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Website: www.smartcms.in
Price: $99

Gone are the days when webmasters manually created and edited all the pages on their websites. Nowadays, many web producers, admins, and developers manage multiple websites, so for them simplifying the task of web content creation is imperative. Meeting this need requires a content management system (CMS) that can perform a wide range of functions. Although many applications are available in the PHP language, .NET developers are inclined to use ASP.NET-based products, since these are easy to customize and manage. However, installing ASP.NET-based CMS products can be difficult, as many of them require direct access to the server—something that is not always feasible in a shared hosting environment.

I recently stumbled across Smart CMS for Asp.Net from Sankya, which is not only easy to install but doesn't require database connectivity. I was pleasantly surprised to see that as soon I finished uploading files, I was immediately able to view the home page and get started on the website. Moreover, the product has been developed using .NET Framework exclusively, and it includes advanced controls for Microsoft Silverlight and much more.

Smart CMS Features
Smart CMS features more than 40 prebuilt ASP.NET controls, and these can be easily activated during page creation. As soon as you add a control, the options for the relevant settings are displayed. You can then either place the control onto the sidebar or work with the control by providing relevant data. While administrators have full authority over all the features, such as creating controls in all CMS zones, managers can only edit and delete content. The product also includes support for unlimited pages, for CMS Zones for each theme, for page-level themes, and for authentication.

Because Smart CMS uses XML rather than databases, it is completely compatible with any web-hosting server that supports ASP.NET. With the help of Smart CMS, developers can create either a simple static site or a dynamic site by using Ajax, Silverlight, JavaScript, jQuery, FLV, SWF, or MP3 technologies (in addition to ASP.NET and XML). The controls included with the product can be easily added to the relevant zones after you log on as an administrator. For example, you can add a sitemap tree and a guestbook by selecting the relevant options from the control's drop-down list, as shown in Figures 1 and 2.
 
Smart CMS is available in two different versions. The first version is primarily a single-page template, whereas the later version supports multiple-page themes in a single template. However, you cannot modify the template directly from the administration panel. Instead you must manually upload the template to the relevant folder in your installation directory. The product also lets programmers embed mobile iPhone templates without changing the code structure. This feature should be very useful for advanced developers, especially those who develop corporate websites. However, I was unable to work with the Contact Forum control, as it didn't appear during runtime.

Smart CMS has built-in support for Google Analytics and Google Sitemap, and it includes support for web templates that were created in Artisteer. The product also supports all versions of the Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera web browsers.



Suggested Improvements
As for the user guide, it would be vastly improved if it covered all the controls and included a set of video tutorials. This would help beginners understand the functionality of the whole system. However, the vendor does currently host some live demos on its website (www.smartcms.in/demo.aspx), which should help developers gauge the features that are included with the product.
 
Even though I found the product-installation process to be competently designed, I would suggest that the vendor simplify the customization phase so that beginners could get started more quickly. For example, I found it a bit difficult to create new posts because I had to manually create the link pointing to the related content (in this example, the Continue Reading link), as displayed in the edit box in Figure 3. I would prefer if the product automatically created the relevant post link or permalinks when you save the content. It would also be handy if the product had built-in support for adding and modifying Meta tags for an entire site, as well as for easily creating posts and pages. For that matter, it would be preferable if the user could add templates directly from the administration panel and if the posts ran automatically from the top to the bottom of each page, with support for paged navigation. Finally, the product should include a module by which web masters could easily monetize their web pages.

These quibbles aside, Smart CMS is a simple and effective content management system for .NET geeks who prefer to avoid using databases for their websites but still want to build dynamic sites. The product has immense possibilities as a developer-friendly tool, and I hope the vendor will add more features in the product's upcoming releases.


Anand Narayanaswamy ([email protected]) is a Microsoft MVP and ASPInsider who works as an independent consultant in Trivandrum, India. He is the author of Community Server Quickly (Packt Publishing) and runs www.learnxpress.com and www.dotnetalbum.com.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Website: www.smartcms.in

Price: $99

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