As glamorous as being a Sitecore Content Entry Specialist is, whenever I go to find resources for people like me it’s all Marcia Marcia Marcia - everything is either written for a developer or a strategist. There is another user that is too often overlooked:
The Sitecore Content Editor
Sitecore is a powerful CMS that manages web content and automates marketing efforts across multiple channels. It’s simple-to-use development tools and native CMS user interface are top notch when it comes to process automation.
So, to ensure the authoring experience receives the attention it truly deserves I bring you 8 tips to creating content in Sitecore.
These are certainly not all the tips and tricks a content editor will need for working in Sitecore, but they are ones I wish I had known or thought about when I sat down in front of my Sitecore launchpad for the first time.
1. Have a plan
Remember in school when the teachers taught you how to create an outline and then all those little sub outlines? Here is where that skill comes in handy! Creating content in Sitecore is more than just plopping pages in the tree. You need to really sit down and think about how the content on the site will grow long term. Will putting a year in the page title cause a problem down the road? Will adding multiple sub-pages make the URL too long? Having to go back and restructure the site after pages have been launched causes nothing but redirects and headaches for the IT team and can wreak havoc on SEO. You need to plan for expandability.
2. In the words of Taylor Dayne, “Don’t Rush Me”
Under publishing settings there’s a little checkbox that will make your page unpublishable; this is super important when you are creating a page that is not ready for prime time. When I first started using Sitecore I would create a page and let it sit in draft thinking it and I were safe…. WRONG! If anyone goes in and publishes the whole site, you are toast! That secret page that you are still working on is now available for the world to see.
3. Workflow is your BFF
Sometimes you cannot make a page unpublishable, so you need to become really acquainted with workflow. Without workflow, when you hit the save button to save changes, your changes are also publishable immediately (omg), whether that is your intention or not. Make sure you use workflow to ensure that only the content you want everyone to see is getting published.
4. Have a naming convention
This really goes back to having a plan (tip 1). Once you start adding components, link lists, feature boxes, and images into Sitecore you will have to come up with a name structure that works and makes sense. Calling every feature box-“feature box 1”, “feature box 2” seems like a perfectly acceptable naming system but long term it will be impossible to find things and differentiate content. Use intuitive names. Avoid placeholder names in favor of more descriptive names. You really need to think about where the content will live, how other editors would think about content and what will make sense 1, 2, even 3 years from now.
5. Document the process
You may be the only one responsible for content now, but chances are at some point in time someone else will need to go into the site and make changes or add something. You need some pretty good documentation that outlines the thought process behind the tree, how images and content are named, etc. If a new user or a guest user doesn’t understand the layout and nomenclature for the content, there’s a pretty good chance (like 100%) that items will be randomly named.
6. Notepad, Notepad, Notepad
USE NOTEPAD!! I seriously cannot stress this enough. Time and time again I have seen content editors write content in a word doc or pull the content from excel and copy and paste directly into a text holder in Sitecore. DON’T DO THAT!! It will post all sorts of gobblygook (officially known as CSS and/or HTML code) into the text field and make your page look like a sweater being worn inside out. Whenever you copy content from another source like Microsoft Word, place it into notepad first to clear any styling and then paste it into the text editor in Sitecore. Trust me. I’ve made that mistake before (oh yes, I channeled Taylor Dayne again…).
7. Understand your content
You are the painter, and this is your masterpiece. Don’t get jammed in a content rush. Set aside time to think about content and plan it with your team and stakeholders. Build a content matrix to keep track of and understand the different types of content and set realistic delivery dates.
8. Find out what Sitecore tools are available to you
Developers don’t get to have all the fun! There are some tools and resources available that can help make a Sitecore Content Editors job easier. You can check out documentation on sitecore.com or learn about out Sitecore Avtor, a Sitecore CMS tool that has literally changed my whole life and given me hours of time back.