My favorite Sitecore features
This article enlists some of my favorite peculiarities of Sitecore platform. It’s just the list of features I like in Sitecore. No assigned order or priorities here.
Sitecore is built over the platform of ASP.NET WebForms that allows using finished classes and controls. In the latest version, Sitecore has added support to dynamically developing ASP.NET MVC framework.
In fact, Sitecore can be described as ASP.NET extension that provides a number of additional functions:
- 1. graphic interface;
- 2. analytics;
- 3. CMS capabilities (layout management, workflow, versioning, translation, publishing).
Expandable architecture is one of the main things that distinguishes Sitecore among other CMS. In fact, CMS can satisfy any requirement of an organization. It’s important, as every customer can expand CMS, by adding functions they need. Expandable architecture is especially useful for performance of integration tasks with other systems; so, for example, integration modules for SharePoint, CRM, Word, Visual Studio etc. have been developed for Sitecore
Sitecore is built on the basis of pipeline architecture. Developers like such architecture: after getting acquainted once with pipeline architecture, you fail to understand how you could work without it earlier. It’s especially important when it is necessary to expand the functional capabilities of the enterprise-level system. It is also important that beside pipeline in Sitecore one can manage events, processes, and data providers. It is possible thanks to the fact that in Sitecore you can override any entity in web.config or in files included into web.config. So, it is possible to override the existing operations, develop own application (by using Sitecore user interfaces), add functions, data type or a new pipeline.
A decent engine has been implemented in Sitecore to manage layouts that separates content and presentation levels. All components of the presentation layer (xsl rendering, sublayouts(ascx), web controls, method rendering) comprise caching configurations that allows tuning the system and enhances its performance by way of installing caching checkboxes on frequently used components.
In Sitecore, developers are initially geared to designing finished components. The components themselves become easily adjusted. I would like to pay special attention to the possibility to write controls with the help of xslt. The possibility is trivial but implemented by far not in all CMS… Thanks to xslt, any person who knows Html can assemble a simple site based on Sitecore.
This system module shifts the focus of development to analytics. The functions embedded initially in the system allow obtaining daily reports on achievement of marketing purposes, on whether both a new functionality and the system in general being in demand. Such functions enable to manage development and adjust marketing activities on instant-feedback basis. The possibility arises to automate works with the customers, display the content they are interested in based on actions performed by them in the system for the last year. It is possible to form the page content based on the customer geographical location or profile settings (sex, date of birth, etc.). Sitecore analytics is expandable in the same manner as Sitecore itself. For example, you can install charge-free heatmap module for analyzing usability of the site pages that allows display places on the page where a user clicks a mouse and where not. Moreover, it is possible to track actions either of all the users or of a defined group.
A great plus of Sitecore are modules written for this CMS (over 200) both by Sitecore itself and its partners. At that, about 90% of the modules are distributed charge-free and can serve an excellent base for development of own components. So, for example, if you wish to support several versions of the site language and, in so doing, you do not want to spend serious resources on a translator, then you can install Item Translator and with the help of Bing or Google provider make primary translation of your site in 1 click.
We would like to mention separately Web Forms For Marketing module that allows for creating a finished form within several minutes; meanwhile, customization options for such form are practically unlimited. In order to create forms, you don’t need any programming skills: it will be enough to set up necessary fields, select required validators, assign a topic, and post necessary actions to ‘send data to Sitecore’ button. In addition, a comprehensive list of possible actions has already been assigned in the module that can be used by selecting the required from the list. In this manner, one can save the results of the form filling to the database, send them by email, perform bulk mail-out to the subscribed users, send SMS or MMS, create an interest in CRM, calculate analytical indicators, and personalize the content to be displayed for the user. Also, it will be rather easy to add new actions or validators into the form.