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6 Ways to Optimize Your Sitecore Experience Today

Trevor Olson
Trevor Olson

Just beginning to plan a project using Sitecore? Already completed a Sitecore implementation? Ready to leverage Sitecore’s more advanced tool set (DMS)?

No matter what stage you’re in, there are ways to optimize your Sitecore experience.

Below are 6 specific ways to help you get the most out of Sitecore while avoiding pitfalls which will cost you time and money.

About to begin your first Sitecore project?

Do not proceed until you’ve addressed the following:

Use an architect.

Know this - the bulk of your future scalability and performance problems can be avoided with proper planning at this stage of the game.  For example:

Take the time to work with an experienced professional who has implemented Sitecore successfully in environments and with challenges similar to yours. 

We’ve been brought in many times to rescue projects that did not properly plan for and proactively address scalability and performance issues. As a result, we’ve developed a Sitecore specialty service called Sitecore Architecture Planning for companies just starting a new Sitecore implementation project.

Prepare your design to development handoff. 

It’s rare for an organization to implement a solution like Sitecore without taking the opportunity to do a redesign at the same time. It just makes sense. The problem that we see coming up time and time again is that teams introduce design way too late in the process. Design is treated separately from development. Final, high end design concepts are thrown over the wall to development to “plug in.” It’s at this point your project will come to a screeching halt. With these designs finally in hand, your development team will often (if not always) find hidden incompatibilities and problems that require plenty of design rework. Rework will cost you time and money…and is rarely budgeted for.

To ensure our final design concepts are Sitecore CMS friendly, we’ve created a Design Readiness Review service. This process has helped us streamline the high end design to CMS development handoff.

Already completed a Sitecore implementation?

Consider the following to protect your investment, prepare for future upgrades and make sure you and your team can stand on your own.   

Do a Sitecore audit.

It may be (worst case scenario) that your implementation was a complete disaster and you’re looking to determine what…if anything…can be salvaged before starting over. OR, (best case scenario) your implementation seemed to go smoothly, but something seems off. Either way, performing a Sitecore audit (internally or with the help of an experienced implementation partner) should be your next step. There’s no better way to quickly identify and fix problem areas and validate your Sitecore deployment to your stakeholders.

We’ve been brought in on many Sitecore rescue missions where performing a Sitecore Audit is the first step. If you’re interested in learning more about our specific approach to performing an audit, take a look at our Sitecore Best Practices Audit service.

Prepare to upgrade…with caution. 

Making sure you’re using the latest and greatest version of Sitecore does have its advantages. Sitecore works hard to provide you upgrades that fix known bugs, optimizes your site’s performance and provides you with useful new features. The problem is that most companies are hesitant to upgrade due to the disastrous consequences that can happen when you upgrade unprepared. Getting cut by the bleeding edge is no fun. It just takes one painful upgrade and you’ll be reluctant to ever upgrade again. 

But there is hope. While there are often obvious reasons to upgrade, we carefully evaluate each situation to make sure it’s the right decision. We’ve created a Sitecore Upgrade Service for that very reason. Take advantage of all the benefits of upgrading, but ensure you have a plan in place to do it correctly and minimize rework.

Polish your Sitecore skills. 

It’s important that your internal team have the skills necessary to operate on their own two feet. Many think Sitecore training ends the last day of official Sitecore training OR the last day the consultant you’re working with is on site. Not true. We’ve seen several cases where a client is held back by their internal team’s comfort with the Sitecore tool, but is unwilling to request additional training due to the cost. The good news is that the Sitecore online community is growing rapidly. There are some excellent free online resource to help Sitecore users and developers get unstuck. 

We happen to be partial to one such online community, Why? Because after years seeing clients challenged with training issues, we saw a need. We decided to build a solution and give it away…for free. From how to build tables using the WYSIWYG editor to entering metadata, we’ve created instructional videos that help Sitecore users of all levels stay on track and be productive. If you discover a training need that isn’t on, there’s no problem. Just go to the contact page and select “suggest a video.” Yes, we take requests. 

Take a look and let us know what you think.

Looking to take Sitecore to the next level?

 If you’re ready to turn on some of the exciting marketing engagement features Sitecore has available, then look no further.  

Take the CEP challenge.

 Of all the ways to optimize your Sitecore experience, this one will make the biggest impact. That said, it also requires the most planning, collaboration and dedication. It’s truly a challenge…one you and your team need to commit to in order for Sitecore’s Customer Engagement Platform (CEP) to work properly and produce results.

The biggest misperception we see in regards to Sitecore’s CEP is that it’s something you simply plug in and flip the switch on. Not the case. This powerful tool requires some upfront planning and decision making on your part.

How do we know? 

Aware has been working with Sitecore’s CEP since practically day one…or maybe even before that. We were given the opportunity to have our very own a sneak peek of the tool last year and our very own Jeremy Ziegler even spoke about CEP at Dreamcore 2011. Not only have we implemented it for clients, we’ve implemented it for ourselves. Recently, Aware was honored to receive Sitecore’s CEP Specialization Certification. So, where do you start?

To help you answer this question, we’ve put together a specialty service called Sitecore CEP Planning. In it we create a customized CEP Implementation plan and workshop where we walk you and your team step by step through the process.

What do we cover?

 Here are a few topic examples from one CEP workshop we’re doing right now.

  • Developing User Personas – What types of users visit your site? What are they trying to accomplish?  It’s valuable to think about the different user types and their individual goals to better understand how your site is engaging these users.
  • Messaging to user types – What messages will resonate with your different user types, what do they need in order to convert? Think about how you would tailor content to each of these user groups you have identified.
  • Content Profiling – What content on the site indicates an increased level of engagement from the user?  What content indicates increased value to the organization? Identify these high-value items and rank them.
  • Evaluating your conversion points – What conversions are you measuring (if any)? What value do they have to the organization? What additional conversions might add increased value for the business?
  • Data evaluation – Before setting up Analytics (or any analytics software) determine what information you’ll need to make good decisions about the site

There is always room for improvement.

 No matter how long you’ve been working with Sitecore, there are ways to get more from this tool and see bottom line results. Best of luck to you on your next Sitecore initiative and be sure to contact Aware if you need help.

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