November 08, 2013
In one of my previous posts, I discussed what you should look for to determine if your Sitecore project is in trouble. I mentioned specific signs to gauge whether the project is going to be a success or not in terms of implementation. However, it doesn't address one of the biggest success factors in CMS implementation: the intended users should be able to manage the content easily and intuitively.
Sitecore has done a tremendous job of making Sitecore CMS easy to use by:
• Mimicking several of the Windows environment and paradigms
• Keeping everything inside a Web browser
• Providing powerful editing tools such as the rich-text editor
• Incorporating an in-context Page Editor
• Having an integrated search to find content easier
• Allowing the option to show/hide appropriate information
• Providing real-time validations and notifications
• Enhancing search for big data
However, just like any customizable system, it can be daunting to first learn Sitecore and then learn what was built in order to support the website. For example, an author may know how to create a new item in Sitecore but not necessarily know how to associate it to update a carousel feature on homepage. The homepage carousel is not a Sitecore concept. It is specific to the website. So, the author will need to have documentation, or better yet, some training to educate them on how their specific solution works.
Sitecore's open architecture and the notion that Sitecore itself is built using Sitecore concepts allow us to provide our users the same tools to make our solutions more intuitive. For instance, we can create our own ribbons or even our own modules within Sitecore. The tips below are some of the things that you may not be aware of but can easily be implemented. Just remember though that no matter how much you make the system "feel" easy to use, there will still need to be a level of training involved.
In addition to the typical template-specific icons and insert options, here are some other suggestions to enhance your authoring experience:
- Associate your own ribbon for a template similar to the Media context ribbon when a media item is selected
- Use the field's Help section to provide simple content editor help information
- Create a custom folder that has its own set of buttons that performs more than just creating new items (hint: use command templates)
- Use command templates to do specific actions on a set of items or specific ones (see the #10 below)
- Use Page Editor ribbons and commands
- Use source for reference fields
- Use Edit Frames to allow authors to modify non-rendering fields
- Use item and field-level validation rules
- Use Field style customizations
- Use UI enhancers from the Sitecore Marketplace like the Sitecore Edit Form
As a developer, part of implementing a Website using Sitecore is ensuring that the site is manageable after you are finished. Several CMS-driven sites fail because although the site looks great, it becomes stale because updating it was cumbersome. Remember that we owe the success of CMS-driven sites to business users that manage the sites themselves without any technical help. If you remove that critical factor, your Sitecore project is sure to fail. So, make sure that your solution includes user-friendly authoring features such as the ones mentioned above.
If you're interested, check out our first commercial Sitecore product, Help Center for Sitecore. It allows developers to create in-context help information. It utilizes built-in help fields and expose them to authors for easy access. Help content is available via the Content Editor as well as within Page Editor, where help content is available for components.
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