5 Frequently Overlooked Sitecore Features

Marco Tana Marco Tana
September 09, 2015
Sitecore , Web Development , Web Strategy , Context Marketing

Sitecore has been around for a long time. I've been working with the platform since 2005 and I have seen tons of improvements throughout the years. I have noticed that there have been many features that seem to have gotten lost along the way. Here are a few of the features that you may have forgotten about that deserve a second look:

1. Complete Control of HTML Markup

This is one of the most important aspects of Sitecore that I hope more customers (current and future) appreciate. With the emergence of best practices in HTML and CSS, plus the current emphasis on responsive design, this is a must. Having complete ontrol of the HTML markup allows for any site to support any UI frameworks available, such as Foundation and Bootstrap. With these UI frameworks, they require specific markups and structure. Being able to adopt these without worrying about additional markups added by the CMS is a major time saver.

2. Simple Workflow Mechanism

A while back when companies started adopting CMS, one of their first concerns was workflow. Workflow is extremely important, and occasionally companies will require a very complex version of it. But, in reality, how many sites really require a complex out-of-the-box workflow mechanism that supports tons of features without much coding? We always incorporate workflow and have created complex instances of workflow, but it's very help that Sitecore's implementation is succinct and caters to the developer. It allows developers to come up with various scenarios needed by the company. There is a place for user-driven, ad-hoc workflows but it's rarely for the website.

3. Flexibility with DataSource

Many visual components created for your site may be using Sitecore.Context.Item. In a way, this is an "okay" practice, but once you start enhancing your site and the content manager starts wanting to use components to incorporate marketing functionality, you'll find out that your components become less flexible and scalable. Plus, using Sitecore.Context.Item forces you to have all the fields you need on the current item. Being able to use a different content item makes your architecture more flexible and also makes your visual components available for more uses than the initial requirements may have initially thought of.

4. Use Data Template Icons

This may sound trivial, but using data template icons really adds to an increased adoption of your Sitecore CMS implementation. For example, when using a website or device having visual cues (intuitive or not -- it's better if it makes sense of course) helps in training your authors to identify content items quickly. It also breaks down the monotonous aspect of the content tree.

5. Use Help Fields

Help Fields provide contextual help text for data template fields without you entering the cue as part of the field name (or display name). You can show short help text, a long one, or even a help link if needed. Although this mechanism is very simple, it is sometimes enough to convey what you need. If you need a more powerful help mechanism, check out Help Center for Sitecore.

Sitecore is growing extremely fast, both vertically as a business and as a product. Digital marketing is such a huge part of its growth. With all the various new features, Sitecore is constantly introducing, it can be difficult to keep up. I hope that you use the simple features listed above to help in on-boarding your users as well as getting your architecture right.

Which overlooked Sitecore features do you think deserve more attention?

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