I am going to tell you the reasons why in those 642 days, Umbraco has become my favourite CMS, and why I think it should be your CMS of choice. There will be 642 reasons, one for each day. (kidding)
Some of this may (read: will) be boring if your a seasoned Umbraco user, but hopefully it helps someone who was on the edge of picking a CMS, or maybe on the edge of becoming more vocal in the community.
Foreword: I don't actually like cats, I am definitely a dog person, but apparently we skin cats- so what do I mean, well one of the earlier problems I had with Umbraco was understanding that there are many ways indeed, to skin the cat, which is great, choice is always good, and Umbraco screams choices.
It can be as complex or as simple as you like, this choice means that if your website is not a blog, you don't need to have a blog there, just because it comes with the CMS, in Umbraco nothing comes out of the box, which is how it should be, the bare essentials, because everything you don't use at the end that was shoe-horned in there, is bloat.
This however does lead to a unique experience, it's probable that as an editor, unless the same developer built all the sites you look at, you'll never look at 2 that are the same, which has prompted me to coin the possibly-unoriginal-phrase “Umbraco will only be as good as the developer building it”, so although this is an article about why I think you should use Umbraco, it's important to mention that OOTB, Umbraco isn't really much of anything, it needs to be crafted into the powerhouse that it can be, and to achieve this, well you can skin any cat you like.
Early on in my Umbraco career, I worked entirely from templates within the backoffice, and while I was constantly learning Razor in this instance, and that felt good, little did I know I was missing out on an entire world that lives beneath Umbraco. MVC is still very new to me, and as projects got more complex, I found myself hitting walls on things that I simply couldn't do reliably in Razor, such as validating Google ReCAPTCHA responses, sure you can do this without some server-side code (I certainly have) although it's never completely valid, on the flip-side it's fairly simple to do by extending Umbraco with a controller that communicates with Google securely from the web server.
Then there are lots of great events you can hook into, and a tonne of other useful things you can build when you start venturing beyond the razor templates.
I can say it's easy now, because I've repeated that ReCAPTCHA process many times, but at the beginning, I thought I was never going to be able to understand, I fell back to the community and was very graciously and sensibly helped through this particular issue.
Who are these people, and why are they so friendly?
This is arguably one of the best things about Umbraco, the community is strong with knowledgeable and helpful people who’m you can turn to, the main one being the official forums, known as Our (https://our.umbraco.com), this forum contains all you can think of in terms of support and discussion, so it's great to have an account there to see what's going on and post your problems, (just remember to document them thoroughly, so the people helping you can understand the problem). For more direct conversation there's the Umbraco Community Slack, and while not an official resource, it's a busy chat filled with people up for great discussion about all things Umbraco.
There's countless festivals and meet-ups all around the world, I recently attended CodeCabin (https://codecab.in) - if you'd told me that my new CMS of choice would ultimately have me staying off-the-grid with a bunch of other developers, I'd of given you a strange look, but I can hands down say it was amazing, full of helpful and knowledgeable people, all willing to help, a simple handshake won't cut it in the Umbraco community, at CodeCabin, my extended hands were batted away and replaced with a friendly hug every time, which I think says a lot.
The same can probably be said about all the other festivals and conferences so Im also eager to get involved with them as soon as possible, for example the famed CodeGarden, undeniably the biggest and most sought after Umbraco festival going. The Umbraco community really does grab you as a welcoming and friendly one, everyone does say it's the world's friendliest CMS.
With that in mind, I implore you to get involved in the buzz, join the forum, hang out in the community slack, attend the events, you won't find a more welcoming community.
I think it seems obvious to try and draw a comparison between Wordpress and Umbraco, because WordPress is the most popular CMS, with millions of users & millions of sites. I come from Wordpress, but I see now the two are very different: we’re not in Kansas anymore.
Sure there are absolutely developers turning Wordpress to 11 and building great stuff, but it's safe to assume a biblical percentage of Wordpress sites are simply themes with the blanks filled in, and maybe a few CSS tweaks here and there, (this is how I worked too), so to go to a platform (Umbraco) where suddenly you get nothing, is a big change, everything is different, the practices, the way of thinking, the very core underlying framework is different.
I don't want to talk about WordPress too much, so I will summarise: they're very different, if you're considering a switch to Umbraco, and you are as new to it as I was, stick with it, by the end of it your Umbraco sites will be 10x lighter & faster than your typical Wordpress theme sites, your editors and customers will thank you for it.
A few years ago, I didn't really have a care in the world for open source, I now have the utmost respect for developers who give their time to Umbraco in some way, as-well as the Umbraco HQ for choosing to build their product this way.
You can get involved yourself in many ways, as it's all open source, this is great for the community, the documentation too, for example, is open source, so if an area needs a bit of work, it's easy to make those changes.
I was able to make my first PR to Umbraco at CodeCabin, which was a great experience, and it was great to be able to give back, even though the item that I submitted was minor in the grand scheme of things, I take great pride knowing that if my code makes it through, something is fixed, no matter how small, and since then I've found more minor little tweaks that I'm happy to spend a little time resolving, the great thing is there is still plenty of room for you, and me, and for Umbraco, to grow with everyone's input.
With all this in mind, I can conclude with the same sentiment I started with, if you're looking for a CMS to use, and you see value in a warm and welcoming community, thriving open source development, great usability, and cats, then look no further, I am confident that Umbraco will serve you well.
Kieron is on Twitter as @KieronBos