I’ve installed Umbraco. Now what!?


After installing Umbraco, it can be quite disconcerting when you get confronted with the admin section and see nothing after clicking on preview. The fact is that after the installation process as outlined in a previous post, in effect only the back end has been installed.

So what next? This is where the work starts and where an understanding of how an Umbraco site is put together on the front end.

Where I’d probably suggest to start first is to look at the free video produced by Umbraco explaining what doctypes are. Doctypes are fundamental to establishing the site structure of the website and this  excerpt from the review of Umbraco done by cmswire explains its importance and raison d’etre:

Understanding how Document Types work is the key to understanding Umbraco. Unfortunately, at first they are a bit confusing, because defining them is a mostly about modeling content but also a bit about the website’s information architecture.

This blend of concepts and the related implications threw us for a little turn. However, if you can get these concepts under your belt, then the rest of the system is much easier to understand.

When you create Document Types you are also outlining the rough structure for the website’s information architecture. Specifically, when you define a type, you must also specify where that type can live in the website’s structure. Down the road, content authors and manager will not be able to over-ride this.

To put this differently, when you define the type you aren’t exactly building the navigation, but you are placing limits on how the navigation can be defined.

In Umbraco, there’s no delineation between content (like individual articles) and webpages (like HomePage or Article List page). You create Document Types for each type of content whether it’s “real” content or a webpage with dynamic functionality and some metadata, etc.

If you don’t grasp the concept of document types initially, then don’t worry because through practice, they’ll become second nature. Simply watch the video a couple of times, re-read the review by cmswire and above all don’t be afraid to use Umbraco and experiment. This Umbraco book also explains what document types are and is definitely well worth a read or two.

Then, the next step would be to watch the other videos in the “Foundation” series of which “Document type” is the first video. It might not be possible to easily replicate some of the steps e.g. Installing the Boost package which I believe has been replaced by the Runway package. I have mentioned packages a few times but what exactly are they?

Packages

Packages are containers for Umbraco tools, utilities, content and even whole websites. For instance, the XSLTSearch package contains functionality to quickly deploy search functionality to a website containing less than 1000 pages. There is also the Runway package which contains a simple website.

In order to access the Packages, go to the “Sections” section and choose “Developer”. The “Packages” node in the “Developer” section should now appear. Expand the former as thus:

Packages

Normally, the “Runway modules” will only appear if the Runway Package has been installed as is the case on my machine.

Underneath “Packages” the sub sections of interest are:

  • Umbraco package Repository – This contains free and some commercial packages hosted on Umbraco. This is where you can find the Runway package as well as the Creative Website Starter 2 package.
  • Created packages – This is where the packages you create will appear (I think)
  • Installed packages – This will contain all the packages that have been installed. In this section you can perform the uninstallation of any package in the system.
  • Install local package – Not all packages find their way in the Umbraco package Repository and in these cases, you will first have to download the package locally and then use this section to install the latter. Just ensure that you trust the package source before installing it otherwise your system might be compromised.

The reason why I have introduced packages is because I believe that installing one of the starter packages i.e. either Runway or Creative Website Starter 2 (CWS2), will help in gaining a better understanding of Umbraco.

Personally, I’d install CWS2 first simply because I feel that CWS2 has more functionality exposed which will help in unravelling Umbraco. Paradoxically, I had installed Runway first, then replaced it with CWS2 to finally revert back to Runway. CWS2 gave me a solid platform to explore and understand Umbraco. However, I went back to Runway for the simple reason that there was a particular free design (http://www.freeumbracotemplates.co.uk/home.aspx) that I liked and which had partially been implemented. However, my advice still remains that CWS2 would be a better starting point.

In the next few posts I shall talk about some of the bugs that come with Runway, particularly the gallery, and also how to resolve them.

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