by Aderson Oliveira
During the holiday season, I set myself on a mission to find out the biggest pain points that people had been experiencing with DNN in 2014. The reason for that was not to bash DNN or to finger-point. On the contrary, because I love the platform so much, I wanted to understand how I could help DNN users even more - either with our educational content and focusing on some of those pain points, or with services to enhance the DNN ecosystem. Actually it's not just for me. Everybody is welcome to step forward too!
I had a feeling I already knew the biggest problems people experience with DNN. I have been helping clients for over 9 years with their DNN sites. But, then, I said that I wouldn't assume anything and would try to find real data first to either back my assumptions or refute them. So I took 2 directions and cross-referenced their results.
1. The DNN Forum - Usually, a pain gets translated as a doubt, a question or an issue. Where can I find people asking questions about DNN? That's an obvious answer - the DNN Community Forum. However, I wouldn't go about reading through it question by question, as that would take forever. Instead, I used a tool called Import.io to scrape one year worth of forum posts.
This was basically the entire 2014, which brought about 3,500 posts. Sorry, DNN Corp, but I'm sure this didn't take a toll on your servers because I just scraped off the post titles and categories. I then used an online keyword tool called TextAlyser.net to get some basic word analysis done, bringing my human filter to the process, as well. That has given me the first data set to work with.
2. A Survey - The second direction I took was to simply ask people: "What is your DNN Pain?" and provided spots for three answers. Here is the survey form. I have sent this to the DNNHero Newsletter subscribers and I asked the DNNCreative guys to send the same survey to their users, and they have nicely accommodated. My expectations were quite low here in terms of responses because it was during the holiday season. I knew it was bad timing but I wanted to do it anyway.
Surprisingly enough, we did get a good number of responses. We received over 400 answers, which I wasn't really expecting. They were very insightful and I truly thank the people who have taken their time to complete it. This time around, I read all answers and aggregated them into categories based on the data I found on the #1 approach above.
Interestingly enough, when I went about cross-referencing the data from both approaches, they generated very similar results, which at the end reinforced the validity of the data gathered. So, here it is.
For some, this may not be surprising at all and only reinforces their assumptions. But, for others, like me, this really shed light into how people still experience the platform and what problems they most frequently come across. I'm going to expand a bit on each one of the points. I think it is valid to uncover a bit more about what's behind each one because, quite frankly, some of the categories are not that descriptive:
This is a big mash-up of "I wish this exists..." and "I wish that would be possible...". People wish that things worked a different way or that this feature or that feature would be available. This is understandably the top category. We all want DNN to be better. The good thing is that there is a place where DNN Corp collects this kind of feedback, which then get to be voted on by the community at DNN Community Voice. But, there is one particular sub-category called "Complexity" that is worth highlighting. Users still find that DNN is too complex as compared to other CMS's out there - and I do agree. The good news is that DNN Corp also recognizes the need for simplification and that is one of the aspects that will be heavily worked on in 2015.
I knew performance would be on the list but I wouldn't have guessed that it would be this high. It still is. Another significant performance aspect is that DNN 7 has a very heavy admin interface. I'm sure this will all get better as DNN moves to a leaner experience, and towards MVC as well, in 2015. In any case, I have listed some great pain killers that should help minimize this particular problem. DNN sites should run better after taking them:
This is a big one, no doubt! I have read people saying that if they knew that upgrading their DNN sites was going to be this hard, they would have not chosen it in the first place. I'm sad and sorry to write this; but it is true. I have done over 200 DNN upgrades in the past 9 years and I was always able to get through them; but to say that some were just not simple would be an understatement.
Unfortunately, compared to all other pains, I don't see blue skies here. I'm afraid this will get worse before it gets better in the long run. The reason is that once DNN transitions to MVC, we have already been primed to think that there might be an upgrade path break. What most likely will happen is that we will have some sort of export/import from DNN 7 to DNN Next (or however they will call it: DNN on MVC or DNN 8) in 2015. Think of it as a migration; not an upgrade. But, despair not. There will be plenty of people documenting best practices on how to upgrade or migrate your DNN site. Here are some useful vitamins to help with the DNN upgrade.
Actually, there is a lack of it. Not much effort has been offered on documentation aside from having some admin manuals and other resources listed below. I think we might be able to lend a hand here. People also complained that no books have been released about DNN in years. The last one I saw came up back in 2011 on DNN 5. At least, there is a new one coming up by the end of March 2015. Here are some pain relievers for you:
This category aggregates a few different aspects of modules. From people wishing that this or that module existed, to the issues of vendors disappearing or not supporting their modules well, and open source modules not getting updated that often. So you can think of it as having many pain sub-categories. A recent initiative from DNN Corp that helps abit is the new DNN Evoq Preferred Products list, which was created with the intention to highlight good and lasting providers and their modules, extensions and themes. The idea is that DNN Corp itself vetted those and gave its stamp of approval.
With the wide adoption of Bootstrap as the framework of choice by most theme vendors out there, people are also using it a lot to develop their own themes, as well. That's where they are finding problems, including myself, mostly with the admin interface breaking as a consequence of CSS problems and jQuery conflicts.
Speaking of admin interfaces, there are also a lot of complaints about how heavy the admin becomes after installing some themes. Vendors are creating more and more plugins to provide layout flexibility to users, but as a consequence, some of those plugins are bringing extra weight into the already heavy DNN admin interface. However, I also think that this will be improved in 2015, with new DNN releases and eventually with a new admin interface. Some also complained about the lack of clear guidelines and documentation. Here are some medications to help on this issue:
Sorry, but what you see is NOT what you get. The most basic complaint here is that the editor doesn't get the styles used by the site automatically without first exerting major effort. I'm hopeful on this matter, as DNN will be shortly moving away from the RADEditor and into the CKEditor. I'm not really sure whether it is better on that sense or not, but I am praying it works. Here are some useful links about the current RAD Editor:
This is also expected to make the list. Any product out there will have bugs and DNN is no different. I'm not going to delve more about this here, because it is clear what this is, although it's quite scattered all over the map. There is a very good place to report bugs and DNN Corp values this kind of feedback very much.
This should be easier; but it has already improved quite a lot over the past years. I'm not really sure how much easier this can become. I am not crazy about the WebMatrix approach, although it did make installing a bit easier. I, however, think it complicates life after that. Add these to your diet and may help with the symptoms:
Most of the complaints usually boil down to the price and business model. Users mentioned that the price of modules have gone way up. They should be free. In addition, DNN has become too commercial, and that Evoq is too expensive. Come on people. Everybody here needs to make a living and I personally think that DNN has been balancing the community and business well. The new community initiatives brought by Joe Brinkman is a good example of that. So I'm of the opinion that you should expect to pay for quality stuff. Whether it is cheap or expensive, let the market decide and natural selection occur.
This is the long-tail list. Here, we have everything else that I was not able to aggregate on the previous 10 pains. I will mention the top 10 pain points from the long-tail:
- Spam - This was a very close call to be the 10th pain. There were a LOT of spam problems over the course of 2014. I personally had a hard time on this at DNNHero. Some help:
- Releases - People think releases are not getting tested well before going live;
- Localization - The report is that it doesn't work as well as it should;
- Module Development - It's hard to get started. There is a lack of more templates and of documentation. Some help:
- Professionals - Or the lack of them. Some people reported they cannot find DNN professionals to assist;
- Backup / Restore - It is not a simple process and DNN doesn't offer a built-in solution;
- Mobile - The admin is hard to perform on mobile. It's very true; but this should improve soon;
- Security - Some users reported getting hacked;
- Support - It's hard to get support. The forums are also too technical. I think the DNN forums do a good job, but there is always room for improvement;
- Deployment - It is hard to deploy changes. I do agree;
I hope these data help people to visualize and devise ways to relieve some of that pain. I think some of these pains are on the DNN Corp To-Do list for 2015, but if you can help DNN users around any of those, please do so. It might be as a beta tester when DNN comes up with a new version. It might be as a coder improving DNN's core code. It might be as a service provider, as we have so many on the DNN ecosystem. Whichever way you choose, you will be very welcome.
What is your opinion? Do you think the data presented here is accurate? Do you agree with these results? Do you have some medicine, vitamins or pain killers to prescribe? Let's talk about that.
By the way, in case some of those pains are just too much to bear and the drugs prescribed here are not working, we can help you at DeskPal.com - All you can eat DNN Support (only healthy food, though).