Optimizely CMS 12: The advantages and considerations when exploring an upgrade


In 2022, Optimizely released CMS 12 as part of its ongoing evolution of the platform to help provide users with the best-in-class DXP tools. Compared with recent updates, the scale of changes is huge, meaning a more complex upgrade process. It's worth it, though!

Here we’ll talk you through the opportunities and benefits of CMS 12 and explore some of the key considerations around the upgrade process.

Why upgrade to CMS 12?

1. Performance and speed

Optimizely CMS 12 incorporates cutting edge technology which provides performance enhancements (up to 1,200% in certain areas) that result in faster website page load times. This not only improves the user experience but also contributes to better SEO rankings and increased conversion rates. Faster websites tend to have lower bounce rates, keeping visitors engaged with your content for longer periods.

2. Enhanced user experience

Optimizely CMS 12 enhances user experience and usability. The user interface has been refined to make it more intuitive and user-friendly. Content editors and administrators will appreciate the streamlined workflows and improved content management tools for faster content updates and improved overall productivity.

3. Easier integration

Optimizely CMS 12 offers seamless integration with third-party tools and services. This makes it easier to connect your CMS with other systems, such as marketing automation platforms, analytics tools, and ecommerce solutions. Integration capabilities can help streamline your digital marketing efforts and provide valuable insights into your website's performance.

What do I need to consider during the upgrade process?

Upgrading to CMS 12 isn’t a minor task. You’ll need careful planning, involving developers, testers, content creators, and the buy-in of key stakeholders, to deliver the upgrade successfully. Here are some factors you’ll need to consider:

  1. Data migration: Moving content, media files, and data from your existing CMS 11 install to the new CMS 12 can be complex. Some data structures and database schemas have changed, requiring careful planning and execution to ensure a smooth migration.
  2. Custom code and extensions: Optimizely CMS 11 was built on .Net Framework which has now been replaced in favour of .Net Core in Optimizely CMS 12, so if your current CMS implementation includes custom code or extensions, you’ll want to check that they are compatible with the new version to avoid any conflicts. If there are conflicts, you may need to redevelop or modify custom functionality.
  3. Template and theme compatibility: CMS 12 may introduce changes to template structures and theming – so this is worth bearing in mind if you currently have customised templates or themes in CMS 11.
  4. Compatibility with add-ons: If your website relies on various add-ons or plugins, you'll need to verify that these are compatible with CMS 12. Some add-ons may need to be updated or replaced with alternatives.
  5. Third-party integrations: Any third-party integrations for analytics, ecommerce, marketing automation, or other services, will also need to be reviewed and verified for compatibility. Some integrations will likely need to be updated or reconfigured to work with CMS 12.
  6. Content revalidation: Content that worked well in CMS 11 may require revalidation in CMS 12. Content elements, formatting, and layout may behave differently, necessitating manual adjustments to maintain the desired appearance and functionality.
  7. Training and familiarisation: The user interface and workflow in CMS 12 is different from what your team is accustomed to in CMS 11. Training and familiarisation with the new CMS are essential to ensure your team can efficiently manage content and utilise exciting new features.
  8. Downtime and testing: The upgrade process itself will require reworks and thorough testing to identify and resolve any issues that may arise during the process. This can be time-consuming but is essential to make sure the upgraded version is robust once its live.
  9. Budget and resources: Upgrading will have a number of associated costs including development, testing, and potential downtime. You'll need to allocate resources and budget for the upgrade project accordingly.

I’ve heard there are several different technical approaches. What are they?

As well as making sure the challenges are considered, it’s important the technical approach is decided on before you start. There are three clear options:

CMS 11 – CMS 12 direct upgrade

This involves running the Optimizely Upgrade Assistant on all the projects contained within the codebase. This approach will require a large amount of effort on re-factoring, fixing and testing to get the website upgraded to CMS 12.

CMS 12 - Vanilla install upgrade​

This approach starts with a brand-new CMS 12 installation. ​A ‘lift and shift’ of both the front-end and back-end functionality is then performed. This approach will still require re-factoring to be performed through the process especially when pulling back-end code over, to ensure that it is in alignment with Optimizely CMS 12.

CMS 12 - Website rebuild

According to research, the average lifespan of a website is 2 years and 7 months, so depending on the age and complexity of your website, upgrading to Optimizely CMS 12 might be the perfect opportunity to consider a full redesign and rebuild of your website.

If a full rebuild is not your chosen path, then our solutions specialists recommend a CMS 12 vanilla install upgrade. This method ensures that all your website is migrated in the most efficient manner whilst at the same time leveraging the benefits of refactoring your code specifically for CMS 12 as you are going along.

Is the effort required worth it?

Absolutely. Whilst upgrading from Optimizely CMS 11 to CMS 12 will require time, effort and budget, it is a strategic move that can significantly benefit your organisation. From enhanced performance, security, and content personalisation, along with improved user experience, and mobile-friendliness, Optimizely CMS 12 brings many advantages drive competitive advantage in the digital landscape.

As technology continues to evolve, keeping your CMS up to date is essential for meeting the demands of your audience and achieving your marketing and business goals. We believe that making the transition to Optimizely CMS 12 will ultimately propel your digital presence to new heights. And the longer you delay essential updates, the more technical debt you’ll accumulate and the harder the process will get.

How can 26 help?

As a proud and long-standing Optimizely Platinum Partner, our team can help you navigate through the options and approaches for a CMS upgrade, and for anything else Optimizely related. Get in touch for an initial discussion to see how we can help.

Graham Carr, Lead .NET Developer

Graham is an experienced Lead .Net Developer here at 26. With over 25 years’ experience in a wide range of products and technologies he has helped companies deliver their digital vision from concept all the way through to delivery. He has a particular passion for DXPs (Digital Experience Platforms) and is a certified developer for products such as Optimizely, Umbraco, Kontent.ai and more.

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