One of the great things about working for Perficient is being surrounded by a great deal of very experienced, knowledgeable and motivated technologists – many of whom are working in a completely different technology than I am working. Another reason is that a good deal of these co-workers are not only willing to be open and share experiences within our company, but to freely express their thoughts and views on blog posts that anyone can view. Of course, with that many great colleagues blogging across a number of different blogs on a number of different technologies, it’s easy to miss some important content that could relate to you. Lately, I’ve been reading some great non-Sitecore specific Perficient blogs that are all about Sitecore-related topics. I want to highlight some of those posts here so that any Sitecore enthusiasts get a chance to read them as well!
First up is the 5 post series on personalization that was done by Michael Porter recently. Hopefully, if you’re familiar with Sitecore, you know how a series about personalization is related! I think Mike breaks down personalization into some really good categories in this series and gives his thoughts on each. His first post is on the topic of Personalization as Security – an approach that can be utilized out of the box by Sitecore DMS clients through conditions such as “where the current user is a member of the [specific] role” and “where the current user name [compares to] [value]”. Next, Mike covers Customization as a way of personalizing content. This type of personalization is much more inherent to intranet portals rather than public websites; however it can still impact Sitecore users. After all, through the use of placeholder settings and the page editor, a content author has this type of customizable interface to create public pages. The third post in the series talks about an Attribute Based Approach to personalization. Once again, this can absolutely be handled by OOTB Sitecore DMS through the use of the “where user profile [specific] field [compares to] [value]” condition. I want to highlight how Mike ends this post – by saying that personalization is NOT security. I’m a huge believer of this! While it’s easy to turn DMS rules into a way of blocking visitors from content, it’s not the point of personalization. Better to think of personalization as promoting more relevant content to a visitor rather than hiding content they don’t have access to. (This can become a lengthy discussion, probably even a post unto itself, but to try to put it in a quick manner: It’s OK to use DMS personalization to hide links to content a visitor doesn’t have access to, but the targets of those links that are being hidden should be secured from unauthorized users in addition to the links being hidden.) Post 4 of the 5 post series has Mike writing about Personalization based on Site Actions. This is where you can realize the true power of Sitecore – completely integrated into your Content Management software is a tool that allows behavioral personalization per site visitor. Sitecore achieves this type of personalization by allowing the Content Authors to create Persona’s for their typical site visitors and applying some Euclidean Geometry (IE: magic) to fit a specific visitor into the proper Persona. Mike talks about the strengths of this approach for e-commerce sites, but I feel that any site can utilize this in one way or another. For example, sites that are purely informational can use Sitecore Persona’s and DMS personalization to determine which content is most relevant to their user, and displaying promotions for that content. Every website should be defined by a goal, and often that goal can be summarized by “get my visitor to what they want as quick as possible”. DMS Personalization based on visitor behavior can absolutely help meet that goal on any site! Mike’s last post in his series talks about A Rules Based Approach to personalization. The great thing about this is that all Sitecore personalization is built upon a “rules based approach”. Once again, Sitecore has its rules engine directly integrated into its customer engagement platform (CEP) product! Mike has some great points in this post: “This probably represents one of the most complex aspects of personalization but it can be extremely powerful.” When talking directly about the Sitecore rules engine, I will admit that it can seem daunting at first. However, once you’ve taken some brief time to learn it, and experienced an example rule or two, it is actually a very simple interface with limitless power! Mike also writes “Of all the examples of personalization, I think this provides some of the highest value to both the end users and the companies who manage the portal.” Now, think about this – Mike has been writing primarily about personalization of a portal in this series – but Sitecore gives companies and organizations that same personalization towards their public facing website! Overall, I think Mike’s 5 post series on Personalization was really well written, and a must-read for not only Sitecore clients, but any organization considering adding personalization to its intranet or website.
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Another post I want to highlight from a colleague is The Role of A/B Testing in User Experience Design by Abbey Smalley. Abbey talks about the importance of A/B testing and how it can help organizations reach their website goals better. Guess what? A/B testing is an integrated part of the Sitecore CEP system too! Not only does Sitecore let Digital Marketers create A/B tests of their content, it can even handle multivariate tests out of the box! I love that Abbey writes “But the truth is, when it comes to design and the effectiveness of wording, layouts and marketing… there is no golden formula that yields fantastic results every time. Every brand is different. Every consumer has different opinions about what they look at and how to respond. Because of this, we can only make our best educated guess to start with, and should consider running an A/B test to see if our theory was right after all.” I can’t express how much I agree with those points – especially that there’s no “golden formula”, and that every situation can have a different approach that works best!
Finally, one more great post I want to point out regarding a Sitecore topic is from way back in December! Natalie Kurz wrote a post on User Experience for Content Management Systems (CMS) in which she describes how important the CMS interface is. This is definitely true – tools that are complicated and hard to use don’t get utilized, whereas tools that are inviting and easy to operate do. I have to say that I’ve always been impressed by how polished the Sitecore desktop is, and how easy it is to learn and use. Throughout our history of implementing Sitecore, my coworkers and I have taught some very non-technical people how to manage their website content in just a few hours or days. Further, I’m the type of person who likes to build everything myself – every time I think about building a CMS from the ground up, the first thought that pops into my head is that it would take a tremendous amount of time and resources to build an interface as well done as the Sitecore interface is. Based on that, I know I’ll never embark on building a CMS, because there’s already one out there that’s done well. In my opinion, that’s one of the best compliments a software system can get from a developer.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my colleagues posts as much as I have. Even though none of them are specifically about Sitecore, I think they all provide valuable insight into topics that are directly related to Sitecore. As I run across more non-Sitecore posts that are relevant to Sitecore enthusiasts, I’ll do my best to highlight them so that they don’t fall through the cracks!