Upgrading Kentico 12 to Kentico Xperience 13: everything you should know


If you’re still using Kentico 12, you’re missing out. We’re not talking just about a myriad of new features Kentico Xperience 13 introduced. The new version also marks the shift to the ASP.NET Core MVC framework, which will make your website faster, more stable, and more SEO-friendly.

On top of that, technical support for Kentico 12 reached its end in late 2022 (late 2023 for websites built with Portal Engine). Ergo, no more security or performance updates for your Kentico install if you’re still using Kentico 12.

Kentico migration to Xperience 13, however, is not a single-click upgrade, especially if you have custom code or rely on Portal Engine functionality. It requires a careful assessment of the migration scope, and there are plenty of caveats along the way.

Here’s your guide to performing a Kentico upgrade to Xperience 13.

Key Reasons to Upgrade Kentico

Migration from Kentico 12 to Xperience 13 can be an enormous undertaking. But here’s why it’s worth the effort:
  • Ongoing technical support. The vendor no longer supports previous versions of Kentico, including Kentico 12. For Xperience 13, however, Kentico changed its policy and reduced the release cycle to quarterly product updates.
  • New features. From content tree-based routing to advanced marketing automation and integrations with Zapier and Recombee, the fresh version of the Kentico content management system has a lot to offer.
  • Better website performance. For example, one of our clients, a state agency charged with environment protection, cut down the average response time from 2.23 seconds to 0.141 seconds thanks to a Kentico upgrade to Xperience 13.
  • Better SEO. Kentico Xperience 13 allows you to automatically set alt text for images, for one. It also finally enables crawlers to index pages created with a page builder out-of-the-box. That’s not to mention that faster loading times are good for improving SERPs, too.

Kentico Xperience 13: What’s New?

Still not sold on the idea of migrating to the most recent version of Kentico software? Here are the seven new features to convince you the hurdles of migration and upgrade are worth it:
  • Enhanced user experience. Kentico Xperience 13 comes with a completely new UI design to make the platform more intuitive for users.
  • ASP.NET Core. The new Xperience 13 runs on ASP.NET Core, making the platform MVC-first. We’ve already done a full overview of the benefits of Kentico MVC. Let’s just reiterate that ASP.NET Core equals lightweight and SEO-friendly pages, faster loading times, easier custom development, and more efficient testing and debugging.
  • Drag-and-drop builder. With Kentico Xperience 13, your team can use a WYSIWYG builder to create pages. The builder comes with a built-in rich text widget and puts new URL and Attachments selectors at your disposal.
  • More advanced marketing automation. Your marketing team can benefit from a drag-and-drop automated workflow builder, improved built-in analytics, reusable workflow steps, and more. Setting up marketing automation no longer requires development skills.
  • Enhanced content features. Kentico Xperience 13 comes with a new content tree-based URL routing system and smarter page indexing for better SEO performance. Pages created with a WYSIWYG builder finally get crawled properly by default.
  • Reusable content. Xperience 13 allows marketers to reuse content from one page elsewhere on the website in a couple of clicks.
  • More integrations. The new Kentico platform supports integrations with solutions like Zapier, Bynder, and Recombee out of the box. You can also seamlessly integrate Xperience with two voice assistant solutions, Amazon Alexa and Google Home.

Strategic Considerations for Kentico Migration to Xperience 13

As a business owner, you need to have a full grasp of the Kentico upgrade process. Otherwise, you risk exceeding the set budget, missing deadlines, and disrupting operations. You also need to understand the upgrade’s implications for your business in the long run.

Here are the five big-picture aspects of Kentico migration that you should consider:

  1. Costs vs benefits. Conduct a cost-benefit analysis to ensure the long-term benefits outweigh the initial investment. That investment includes not just human resources for the upgrade itself, but also handling potential downtime and training users on new features.
  2. Resources required. Who will be conducting the upgrade? Do you have specialists with the necessary skill set in-house? Can they carry it out without your other IT operations suffering? Or, perhaps, you will need external help? 
  3. Strategic alignment. Pinpoint which strategic goals a Kentico upgrade can help you achieve. For example, if you’re aiming to improve marketing campaign cost-efficiency, Kentico comes with several marketing automation features to help your marketers do more faster.
  4. Potential risks. Upgrades are inherently risky: you may lose some of your data or experience unexpected downtime. Identify all the possible risks, mitigate the ones you can, and have a plan for dealing with others as they arise.
  5. Long-term technical agility. What’s modern now will inevitably become outdated in several years. Make sure your business remains agile enough to keep up with the latest technological advancements – without turning migrations into a colossal, disruptive undertaking.

Upgrading to Kentico Xperience 13 will have a ripple effect across your entire organization. So, make sure you understand its risks, resource requirements, and strategic benefits before embarking on this journey.

On top of that, ensure your budget and timeline adequately reflect the scope of work and resource requirements.

Need a fresh pair of eyes to help you plan a Kentico upgrade? Schedule a call with BitOrchestra’s Kentico expert to discuss your needs, constraints, and strategic goals. We’ll help you maximize the ROI of your Kentico upgrade and make it smooth.

7 Steps for a Successful Kentico Migration to Xperience 13

Ready to upgrade to Kentico Xperience 13? Here are the seven steps to take.

1. Map out the upgrade

Thorough preparation and sound planning are key to executing an upgrade on time, with minimum disruptions and no bad surprises along the way. Here are the five things to consider at this stage:

  • Assess your current setup. You’ll need a full overview of your database and customizations you’ve made to Xperience 12 to understand how to get from point A to point B. Take note of all system configurations, custom code, third-party integrations, and module customizations.
  • Check eligibility. Ensure your system is eligible for the Kentico upgrade. You can find all the system requirements on Kentico’s dedicated page.
  • Consider your website’s development model. Kentico migration to Xperience 13 is possible only for websites built with MVC and ASP.NET Core models. Ergo, Portal Engine websites can’t be upgraded to Kentico Xperience 13. In this case, you’ll need to transition to MVC before performing the upgrade.
  • Define your requirements. Determine which features, customizations, and integrations you need to keep in the new Kentico version. Assess the feasibility of retaining the listed functionality: some custom code may not be supported in Xperience 13 or may need to be tweaked.
  • Plan the upgrade. Create a high-level timeline with key Kentico upgrade milestones. Make sure you allocate enough resources to the project, both in terms of budget and talent. If you don’t have the right personnel in-house, turn to an external company with experience in Kentico upgrades.

2. Prepare your environment

Next, you need to ensure your environment is ready to host the new Kentico Xperience 13 system. To that end:
  • Prepare your hosting. Set up the hosting environment for the new version of your Kentico system. Make sure it meets the requirements from this page, as well as the compatibility requirements of your existing systems and infrastructure.
  • Set up a development environment. You’ll need to test the upgraded system before you can send it into production. This testing will require a separate development environment, as well as a clone of your website.

3. Migrate your data

The nitty-gritty of your Kentico upgrade should begin with transferring data to the new Kentico version. Here’s your step-by-step guide:
  • Back up the database and files. Things can always go wrong during an upgrade. So, create backups of both the database itself and system files before making any changes.
  • Map your data. Create a map of your current data structures and determine the target destination for each data type in the Xperience 13. Make sure you don’t overlook any data, including custom tables, content types, and data fields. Determine how you’ll use object data: the upgrade removes objects since they’re not supported by Xperience 13.
  • Develop migration scripts. You’ll need migration scripts to transfer your data to Kentico Xperience 13 promptly and efficiently. Develop and test them before running them on your files.

4. Ensure your customizations’ compatibility

Upgrades wouldn’t be so challenging if there weren’t any customizations involved. To make sure you preserve them all:
  • Perform a custom code review. Some of the custom code may not be compatible with Kentico Xperience 13 as-is. You can analyze this code for compatibility with the code upgrade tool from Kentico. Make sure you don’t overlook any custom modules, web parts, or widgets.
  • Update or remove incompatible code. The code upgrade tool will provide suggestions on how to make the custom code compatible with Xperience 13. However, you’ll need a developer to make sure the changes to the code are optimal and the customizations continue to work as intended.
  • Implement API changes. You’ll need to replace all references to the Kentico 12 API with their Kentico Xperience 13 counterparts. You can use the code upgrade tool to update references to API in MVC project files and custom or changed system files.
  • Validate code changes. Test your custom code in the new environment to ensure it functions as intended.

5. Transfer your content and media files

Now, it’s time to migrate all your content and media files. To do so:
  • Transfer website content. You can do it using an automated migration tool, be it a custom or standard Kentico one, or opt for the manual approach. In either case, make sure to migrate all blog posts, pages, product listings, and other content types.
  • Migrate media files. Transfer the images, documents, videos, and other files in your media library to the new Kentico CMS version. Verify that all files and media links on website pages remain valid.
  • Check your SEO setup. Make sure all SEO settings, URLs, and metadata are transferred properly to Kentico Xperience 13. Verify web crawlers can properly index your pages and your website preserves its SERPs.

6. Test and validate the upgrade

Before deploying the upgraded system, run two sets of tests to ensure it functions as it’s supposed to:
  • Performance testing. These tests ensure your Kentico Xperience 13 system meets your performance requirements in terms of speed, load, and user experience.
  • User acceptance testing (UAT). Enlist future Kentico users’ help to test the new system for missing or malfunctioning features.
If any issues arise during testing, rectify them before going live. Once you can validate the upgrade, it’s time to go live.

7. Go live

First, you need to plan the deployment in detail. Besides creating an exhaustive timeline, make sure to include a plan B for rolling back changes if any issues reveal themselves once your systems are live. Try to minimize the downtime during the deployment, too.

Once your Kentico Xperience 13 is live, your job isn’t done yet. You need to keep a close eye on your website to catch and weed out any potential post-migration issues. On top of that, make sure the staff that uses Kentico 13 receives adequate training and support to make the most out of its new features.

Need assistance with your upgrade? As a Bronze Kentico Partner, Bits Orchestra has the right combination of technical expertise and migration experience to make your upgrade smooth. Just take it from one of our Kentico migration clients, a state agency. Here’s what they had to say about our collaboration:

"The BO team always listens carefully, analyzes the input in detail, asks good questions and suggests ideas and solutions, always looking for improvements. The collaboration was smooth and transparent."
- Clutch review


Kentico Migration Best Practices to Keep in Mind

To make sure your Kentico upgrade goes smoothly, make sure to:

  • Perform a code review first. It’s vital to understand what you’re getting into when migrating to Xperience 13. Document all existing features and customizations during the review.
  • Break down large projects into components. If your project is complex, avoid migrating everything at once. Instead, gradually upgrade feature-based components to Xperience 13.
  • Keep dependencies in mind. If you have multiple projects to migrate, don’t forget to set up dependencies and review the build order. Migrate library class projects before you tackle MVC projects.
  • Always back up first. Before you make any changes to the codebase, back it up. The same goes for your databases and files. It’s crucial not just for recovery in case something goes wrong. The old versions can also serve as a reference, especially if you gradually migrate feature-based components.

Need a Hand with a Kentico Upgrade?

Upgrading to Kentico Xperience 13 can be a massive undertaking. So, before you kick off the migration, you need to know exactly what you’re facing. Otherwise, you risk unexpected errors due to incompatible custom code or lost data.

If you don’t have Kentico developers in-house, hiring a certified Kentico developer is worth the investment.

Looking for one? BitOrchestra is here to make your Kentico upgrade smooth and disruption-free. Powered by over a decade of experience with Kentico, our Kentico development services help our clients boost website performance while preserving customizations when upgrading to Kentico 13.

Drop us a line to discuss how we can help you capitalize on the newest Kentico version.



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