August 24, 2015
If you're reading this, it might be because of one of the following:
- You just finished your Sitecore implementation project
- You are planning to do more with your website
- Your authors are complaining about how tedious it is to manage content
- You are planning an upgrade
- You want to start using more Sitecore features
Whatever your reason is, it's prudent to do a review of your Sitecore implementation to make sure it addresses your needs. I know that it can be expensive to do a full review when sometimes you only need to get a temperature check, so here's a quick guide on what to look for. As a disclaimer, this guide is not a replacement to a full audit and evaluation by an experienced Sitecore architect. If you feel a need for such, give us a call and let's see how we can help.
Start with System Architecture
This is obvious but not trivial. Your site can only handle as many requests as your hardware (and network) can handle. For this self-audit, we're not considering those that have CDNs, in the cloud, clusters, and complex network setups. Those can have their own specific audits which are not necessarily Sitecore related. A typical system architecture consists of one Content Authoring Server and two Content Delivery servers.
- Make sure that your hardware matches or exceeds the recommended system requirements set forth by Sitecore.
- Optimize your IIS such as compressions and app pools.
- Ensure that you have the essential security in place for IIS and your file system.
- Check your load balancer if you have multiple CDs.
- Like any other applications using SQL Server, ensure indexes are updated regularly.
- Keep analytics on a separate server if possible (Sitecore 8 introduces MongoDB which changes how analytics are processed).
Now, Look at Your Sitecore Implementation
Sitecore's biggest development-friendly feature is its open architecture. It's great for integration but it's also great for creating applications. Essentially, the site you built is an application. So, using Sitecore's raw assets is necessary, but using them correctly is key. It's similar to .NET, you can code in whatever way you can but there are best practices to make sure that your site is S.U.M.able: scalable, upgradable, and manageable.
Here are some self-audit pointers to get started:
- Check if your content (content items and media items) organization corresponds to your authors' needs, security rules, and logical groupings.
- Always act as if you're building more than one site.
- Name your custom assets (i.e. templates, fields, etc.) similar to the way you name your .NET methods, classes, etc....with care and logic.
- Simplify and organize. Too many templates, too many layouts, or too much of anything can be very confusing to authors.
- Customize the CMS with icons, help content, validations, etc. to make managing content visually intuitive.
- Ensure your data template's source field is set to minimize incorrect content item selections.
- Use branch templates for common content structures.
- For larger authoring distribution setting, use RTE profiles specific to roles or content types.
- Check if any Sitecore system assets were updated; if so, extract them and use one of the many extensibility features that Sitecore provides.
- In your components' code, check DataSource instead of always using the context item.
- Check link issues using the Broken Links Report.
- Ensure media is stored in DB.
- Make sure that security is applied on content tree and media folders according to user access.
- Check passwords compliance with your standards.
- Ensure content items have workflow assigned.
- Check log files for system health issues.
- Ensure that the different types of caching are used correctly.
- Check if you can optimize the way content items are selected for display.
There are several other things to check when auditing your site, but the tasks listed above should give you a good place to start. Beyond the technical aspect of the implementation, factors such as design, content, and management also contribute to the success of your Sitecore project. For instance, using Knockout or other loading techniques, plus training authors on the system, can help with the adoption of your Sitecore solution.
If you want a more detailed audit and evaluation of your implementation, reach out and we can discuss how to improve your site's performance, ensure upgradability, and gain a wider adoption of your solution so you can realize your ROI a lot sooner.
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