Sitecore – Pay your technical debts and move to Helix

At a recent Sitecore UK User Group Wesley Lomax and I presented on how to resolve technical debts in Sitecore implementations. With the release of the Helix principles last year a lot of preexisting Sitecore implementations are now facing the challenge of moving to these principles but are hindered by a load of technical debt.

For enterprise level implementations, it’s going to feel like an insurmountable challenge –  refactoring and correcting a colossal codebase and it’s Information Architecture (IA). It’s all probably been in development for years by multiple developers with multiple design patterns. On top of that add technical and business constraints, maintaining Business-as-usual, and still delivering projects? Fixing and updating legacy implementation soon seems like an impossible task.

I recently moved from agency to client-side this year and I have tackled this exact problem so I wanted to share some of my experiences to help others out.

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Sitecore – Data at the root level is invalid. Line 1, position 1.

I’ve encountered this error message on various Sitecore implementations predominantly while publishing. It’s painful as its fatal to publishing process and Content Editors get uppity when they see the stack trace in the Publishing window.

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Gated Content Sitecore Module

Quite a few of the clients I have worked with lately have asked about implementing Gated Content. Not Gated Pages – preventing access to pages requiring an account and roles but gated areas on an actual page. Essentially requiring a site visitor to give up some information about themselves before gaining access to some content.

This actually a good thing in Sitecore because we can request the visitor’s email address so that we can identify them in xDB. Meaning more and more of our Site visitors will be uniquely identified, tracked and ultimately targeted with personalised experiences.

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Display the Context of a Sitecore Goal in the Experience Profile

For a while now I’ve been writing about collecting and displaying data unique to a client in Sitecore’s Experience Profile. What went hand in hand with that is the use of Sitecore Goals and Outcomes – giving a business value, sometimes monetary, to actions performed on the site. The Experience Profile currently shows the goals for each Contact.

However, beyond the goal being registered we don’t know the context in which the goal was met. Wouldn’t it be great if we knew WHAT was added to the basket when the ‘Add to Basket’ goal was registered?

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Extending Sitecore’s Experience Profile – The Pipelines

Part 1 – ExperienceProfileContactViews Pipeline

I’ve been writing this series on Sitecore xDB, Contacts and the Experience Profile for a while now. I’ve been covering how to identify Contacts for Sitecore’s Experience Database (xDB) and how to extend xDB so it can hold custom data.

This time I’m going to explain how to surface that useful BIG DATA you extended xDB to hold so that it is accessible to Content Editors. This is a large topic so I’ll be splitting it between two posts, this first part will focus on the ExperienceProfileContactViewsPipeline which retrieves the data in a format that the Experience Profile can use.

It’s worth noting that I figured most of this out by just jumping into it, decompiling code and a reasonable amount trial and error. Just take that into consideration 🙂

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How to Identify and Merge Contacts in Sitecore xDB

In my previous post I explained how to extend Sitecore’s Experience Database so that you can store custom data against each Contact (visitor) of your site. I also recently posted about updating an xDB Contact with basic information. This post will explain how to uniquely identify Contacts from one another and how to merge Contacts, and their data, once you have determined that they are the same User. Continue reading