Sitecore has two ways for content creators and editors to manage and edit the content of their website: the Content Editor (CE) and the Experience Editor (EE). The similarity in their names might lead you to believe that these are two sides of the same coin but...
1. The Content Editor and the Experience Editor fulfill different functions
The Experience Editor is a WYSIWYG specifically designed to let contributors edit things that are VISIBLE on the page – images, text, logos, links, and component-specific personalization. When you access the Experience Editor, through the Launchpad, Sitecore takes you to a client facing view of your website. This is incredibly helpful for changing text and images, witnessing the edits in real time, and allows you to navigate through the site the same way a visitor would.
Pro Tip: The Experience Editor is the best place to personalize individual components, which is 100% something everyone should be doing. Personalization can be set through the content editor, but it’s far removed from the changes. Experience Editor allows you to see those personalized experiences for yourself.
Technically speaking, the Content Editor was designed for those with higher levels of Sitecore experience and more familiarity with the platform. It’s home to the Content Tree where all the pages, media, and data of the website live. If you’re working in a multi-site instance, all the websites in said instance will be displayed in the Content Tree, and the content for each site will live below the home node of each website. Everything you do in the Experience Editor is reflected in the Content Editor. Which is actually great news because…
2. Changes made in one reflect in the other
Whether working in Content Editor or Experience Editor, you are manipulating the same item and therefore same presentation data. The changes you make on in the Experience Editor will be reflected in the Content Editor and vice versa. Generally speaking, changes DO NOT have to be made in both places. But, as always, there’s a bit of a trick to it.
Think of it like this: Last Save Wins. If, for example, you have two tabs open on the same item and make a change in CE and then change or save in EE, your CE changes will be overwritten. So, if you’ve saved your changes in the Experience Editor, hit Refresh in the Content Editor instead of Save – refreshing the CE will give Sitecore time to pull in the info from the EE.
Pro tip: If something isn’t displaying correctly in the Experience Editor, or if you can’t get a change to save? Try doing the same thing in the Content Editor. I’ve rarely run across a problem in the Experience Editor that can’t be fixed by closing the EE, opening the CE, and making the changes there. This isn’t a foolproof fix (initial personalization of individual components is MUCH faster and more intuitive in the EE, for example) but it’s a good place to start troubleshooting.
3. Learn to use both
Real talk - you should be using these two tools together.
The Experience Editor is a great tool for Sitecore marketers because we can preview and edit content on the page, it’s more familiar since it’s an in-line, on-page editor, and it provides quick access to essential tools. It’s tempting when you’re just starting out to only use the Experience Editor, especially since it gets more intuitive and useful with each new version of Sitecore. But as I said above, there’s so much more you can DO in the Content Editor that it’s worth taking the time to learn to use both.
Pro tip: the Content Editor can be overwhelming at first, so I strongly recommend prioritizing. Learn what matters most right now and ignore the rest (example: don't look at the advanced tab until you must. Trust me.)
4. Be brave
There’s a lot of value in finding the tool that works for you, but there’s even more in finding the tool that is right for the job. Depending on how you like to edit, you’ll develop a preference for either the Content Editor or the Experience Editor, and that’s fine! There’s nothing inherently wrong with using your preferred tool most of the time. But don’t be afraid to try a different view. Being willing to experiment is one of the best ways to learn.
Pro tip: There’s every chance that the tool you’re avoiding contains functionalities that will help you work smarter.