Each developer has their own preferences for achieving the best results during Sitecore development. The developers here at nonlinear consider these twelve some of the most important.
Whether you are a Sitecore pro or just getting your feet wet with the customer engagement platform, there are a few tried and true rules to getting the most out of the product. Technology is only as effective as the people that implement it, so making sure you're at the top of your Sitecore development game will be beneficial for your entire organization.
1. Use Page Editor friendly controls
Content author experience is something we talk about often here at nonlinear. Ensuring that your content authors have the capabilities to create and modify content in real time using "what you see is what you get" or WYSIWYG editing is crucial. By incorporating these controls into your development, your content authors will avoid having to delve into the Sitecore content tree to find the matching fields.
2. Don't bind a repeater unless the situation calls for one
The <asp:Repeater> control allows a list of items to be bound to it and causes the specified HTML (and possible code) to be executed for each item. In a basic repeater pattern, there is often a header and footer section that contains HTML that does not repeat.
Binding an empty list to a repeater will cause any header and footer HTML that is in the repeater to show up even though no items are repeated. This may be what a user wants, but often that is not the case and by not binding a repeater, you'll be ensuring that none of the HTML in the repeater will show up on a page.
3. Ensure proper null checks before accessing an object
To do this, the first thing you should check, with any variable or method, is to determine if the resulting object is null. As a rule, if an object is not initialized, it will be set to the “null” value. Many methods will also return a “null” value if certain conditions are not met. Trying to use an object which has been set null generally results in a run time exception that will cause your website to crash (sometimes gracefully, sometimes not), so ensuring that you are aware of the characteristics of your variables is paramount to good development.
4. Be cautious about HTML generated in backend code
Generally, .ascx files contain HTML which dictates the physical layout of the page, while the .ascx.cs files contain code that populates the layout. Though the general rule is to make sure not to include any HTML in the backend code, there are situations where this method can solve certain issues. The biggest thing with this law is to be aware of what's being used where to ensure that you have an understanding where the results are coming from, either HTML or backend code.
5. Don't code after return statement
Though this one definitely depends on both the situation and your own preference (some people prefer conditions do have a single, standalone return statement at the end of the method) not coding after the return statement is common. If you are trying to simplify multiple bracketing, this is a good option.
6. Before deploying, check commands to ensure a successful Page Editor user experience:
- Add a component to a page without a data source
- Add a component to a page and point to an existing data source item
- Add a component to a page and create a new datasource item for it to use
- Remove the component from the page
- Remove/add child items from the component if it is a container component
7. Ensure that all Sitecore fields that require a datasource are properly set
If you have any fields that point to a list of items in Sitecore (or part of the Sitecore content tree) for which you require population from a datasource, ensure that you have correctly configured the datasource to allow a content item to have "valid" values to choose from when accessing that information.
8. Use the Sitecore debugger to find performance issues
Though its use may depend on the type of contract you have with a client, if the budget and time allow, testing out a variety of scenarios, both positive and negative, will help in delivering a thoroughly tested, and ultimately superior, product.
9. Choose icons that correspond to your content types
This one goes back to creating a positive user experience for the content author. By choosing unique and logical icons or icon groups for related items (news, news folder, news listing etc.) you will give them a visual indicator for what type of page or component they are looking for. Sitecore has a number if built in icons. To select one for a page, simple double click on its associated icon in the content editor.
10. Use default standard values (most of the time)
Using standard values to populate certain fields can be a way to make life easier for your content authors, but make sure to thoroughly consider the choice before deciding that's the way to go. Sometimes there will be cases where the process requires a content author to select a value with a possible required validation rule. In those cases, if instead a standard value has been chosen, the content authors will be less likely to reexamine and fill in the value correctly, since it will already appear to be full (with the standard value which may not be what they wanted in the first place).
11. Provide field-level help for your content authors
For each field of a template in Sitecore, a line of text can be added to give a content author more information about what the field should contain and how it should be used. While this can be a pain for developers to fill in and become redundant once a content author is experienced in content creation, it’s still a good practice to help new content authors, or for fields where the content or use of the field is not intuitive.
12. Include real-world content into testing to make sure everything is working as it should
Depending on budget and the type of contract, including some real-world content into your testing should be standard across all projects. Having an ample amount among your pages will help in analyzing the performance of the site, while also testing pagination and ensuring that specific features like sorting function correctly. Other suggested site content includes: image sizing and language variants to ensure that the layout of the pages remain viable.
What other Sitecore laws do you abide by when developing?
If you enjoyed this post, make sure to check out these other technical Sitecore articles:
- Overcoming 2 common Sitecore page editor challenges
- 3 steps to customize your Sitecore security access ribbon buttons
- Customizing Sitecore's rich text editor for better usability
- Sitecore developer resource: Timed publication using publisher restrictions