SUGCON 2017 – Highlights
The Sitecore User Group organized their annual SUGCON conference in Amsterdam on the 18th and 19th of May. This year, the Dutch and Nordic user groups joined forces and brought a lot of speakers together from around the world. During the two-day event there where a lot of sessions about all kinds of Sitecore related topics.
Together with other Mirabeau Sitecore professionals I’ve attended the event. During the conference there were some main topics that stand out for me. I expect a strong focus on Architecture, Cloud and Headless in the upcoming release of Sitecore.
Join the Helix club
Sitecore advices all developers to start using the Helix architecture. At the end of last year Sitecore introduced this architecture based upon industry accepted best practices such as the single responsibility pattern. Helix is introduced to give developers guidelines to make sure that their project is more organized. During the conference it was clear that more and more developers are following these guidelines and the number of tooling for setting up a Helix solution is growing. An interesting tool to look for is the Yeoman Helix generator, created by Pentia.
Sitecore is also applying the Helix principles to their own products, such as the Sitecore Experience Accelerator and Sitecore Commerce Storefront. At Mirabeau we believe in the Helix principles. That’s why we are making sure that all our new projects are Helix compliant.
The Cloud native CMS
At the event Sitecore and Microsoft introduced a cloud feature for the Azure marketplace, a server template with more advanced options such as version, Azure region, App insights and credentials. However, in my opinion it is still better to use the Azure ARM templates for more advanced set-ups.
Unfortunately Azure Cosmos DB is not supported yet. This is currently the last piece of the puzzle that will make Sitecore run completely on top off Azure PaaS. Microsoft and Sitecore are working very close together on Azure support so I guess we don’t have to wait long before Cosmos DB will be supported.
Sitecore SXA Json support
After installing the latest version of Sitecore Experience Accelerator, you will find a new option when creating a Tenant which is called JSON. After enabling this feature, you can create pages that can be used to respond to a request that specifically asks for Json formatted content. Now the Experience editor has support for structuring your Json response. All the powerful Sitecore features such as personalized content and AB-testing are supported in this new your Json layer. Additionally the existing Field types are also made more Json-friendly now, for example an image is not only rendered as an HTML image tag anymore, but can also be returned as a Json object, and it is possible to strip HTML tags from a richtext field.
The results of this POC looked very promising and Sitecore did manage to create a complete Single Page Application without writing a single line of C# code. And after completing this, they decided to go even further and added support for the Experience editor, Personalization and AB-testing. They also made it possible to run the application completely separate from Sitecore in a setup using NodeJS and Express.
Although this feature is currently in beta phase, I think this feature can be very interesting for customers that have complex websites, such as booking tools that want to leverage all the features that Sitecore has to offer.
Headless or not?
The announcement of these new concepts are making me wonder, is this Sitecore’s way of offering a headless implementation? Well, in a way it is, because they do make it possible to detach the head (the user interface) of your application from the body (the CMS). But then, if you look at a true headless CMS such as contentful, there is a big difference. To make use of features such as AB-testing and personalization, you would still need to create a page and configure it via the Experience editor or one of the other user interfaces of Sitecore. It is not possible to call these features via an API. I think this is a first step towards a headless CMS and I hope to see more of this in the upcoming releases.
The conference showed that the Sitecore community is very active and well aware of new relevant technologies such as cloud, headless and cognitive services. It was inspiring to see and talk with so many people that are working with Sitecore and to see how passionate they are about the work they do.
And since the conference was hosted next to our Amsterdam HQ office, Mirabeau hosted the afterparty. We had a great evening.