A Comprehensive Guide to Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sitecore CMS
Forrester, a well-known market research company, acknowledged Sitecore as a “Strong Performer” in its The Forrester Wave™: Content Marketing Platforms for B2C Marketers, Q2 2019) report. In the 2019 ‘Gartner Magic Quadrant’, a well-researched market report published by the global IT consulting firm Gartner, Sitecore had held the position of ‘Web Content Management leader’ for 10 solid years.
So it’s not surprising that many organizations with high-traffic websites in a number of industries rely on Sitecore CMS to deliver memorable brand experiences across multiple customer touchpoints with content.
But what is Sitecore? And why is it considered one of the best enterprise-grade CMS available today? If you have these questions, then this comprehensive guide is for you. Here, we will address every question you have about Sitecore CMS-
- What is Sitecore?
- How can organizations benefit from Sitecore CMS?
- What are the elements of the Sitecore CMS architecture?
- What is the difference between Sitecore Experience Manager (XM) CMS and Sitecore Digital Experience Platform (DXP)?
Sitecore CMS – What is Sitecore?
Sitecore is an enterprise-level .NET-based Content Management System (CMS). Officially, the Sitecore CMS (or Web CMS) is known as Sitecore Experience Manager (XM).
With Sitecore Experience Manager™ (XM) CMS, brands can:
- Write scalable, optimized content once, preview it in the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor and then distribute it to every relevant marketing channel
- Tailor content with customizable rules
- Simplify multi-site integrations and management, even for non-Sitecore websites and data
- Create websites in multiple languages
- Create mobile-ready content and websites
Launched in 2001, Sitecore takes advantage of the flexibility, scalability and security offered by the .NET framework. The Sitecore XM CMS incorporates a fully-customizable, role-based system and a powerful desktop interface similar in look, feel and functionality to a Windows desktop. This makes it easy for new Sitecore users to learn the system and effectively leverage it for their brand’s marketing goals.
But there’s a lot more to Sitecore than its multi-functional, powerful CMS. Sitecore also offers an integrated Digital Experience Platform (DXP) that helps organizations create seamless, personalized ‘digital experiences’ for their audience over multiple channels and devices. So with Sitecore, you can not only ‘manage’ your brand’s digital content; you can also test, optimize and personalize it. Furthermore, by combining contextual intelligence with omni-channel automation, Sitecore DXP enables you to automate the content creation and publishing process, thus empowering you to deliver the right message to the right person, at the right time. Finally, by collecting and analyzing all your customers’ interaction data, both online and offline, Sitecore enables brands like yours to further improve their content marketing strategy.
So the million dollar question is: Is Sitecore a Content Management System (CMS) or a Digital Experience Platform (DXP)?
We will answer this question in a later section. But first…
What are the Benefits of Sitecore over other CMS?
Sitecore Experience Manager (XM) CMS includes a comprehensive suite of features to help brands take full control over their content capabilities – from editorial, workflow and reporting, to organization, security and even user administration. With these tools, Sitecore provides a powerful foundation for brands’ digital identity, strategy and engagement.
Here are some of the benefits that differentiate Sitecore from other CMS:
Scalable content creation with omni-channel delivery
With Sitecore XM CMS, you no longer need to re-create content for each website, platform or channel for your brand. The platform offers full flexibility to create extractable, decoupled content only once, and then display it across all devices including mobile, and multiple channels including IoT, VR and AR. Sitecore’s API supports dynamic content delivery so you can make this content as personalized as you need to.
Other advanced features like robust testing scenarios, analytics and behavioral tracking retain online and offline customer data across all devices. This provides a 360° view of customer interactions so you can further personalize your communications and engage with your customers when they want, where they want.
Intuitive tools for faster content creation and deployment
Sitecore XM makes it easy to quickly create and deploy web content across multiple channels. Editing this content is also easy with:
- Drag-and-drop functionality with Sitecore® Experience Accelerator (SXA): Perfect for non-technical content authors
- 100+ pre-built and fully customizable components, templates and layouts for a full range of devices including mobile
- WYSIWYG editor for custom development with text, graphics and more
- Reusable media library with images, documents, videos and audio files
- Content preview feature for easy viewing and simulation by persona, situation or device
- Sitecore Publishing Service to quickly publish high-volume content
Multi-lingual, multisite content creation
With Sitecore XM CMS, you can create multiple sites across different languages. Moreover, Sitecore XM offers smooth integrations with localization/translations services, as well as hundreds of different systems, extensions, plug-ins and modules. This makes it easy for brands to easily manage their multilingual content while staying compliant with evolving data regulations.
Furthermore, Sitecore XM enables you to focus on your customers by:
- Creating ‘global’ content and easily sharing it between local websites in their language
- Managing all your multilingual content on websites, intranets, portals and landing pages from one centralized, easy-to-use platform
- Publishing freely and safely with customizable workflows, versioning and approvals, plus the assurance that legal has already reviewed your localized material
Sitecore Architecture: Critical Elements
The architecture of Sitecore XM CMS consists of these main elements:
- Programming framework
- Item folders
- Sitecore API
- Application layers
Sitecore programming framework
To generate the final HTML pages, Sitecore uses either ASP.NET Web Forms or ASP.NET MVC. This gives developers the flexibility to use any programming language supported by the .NET Framework. C# is one of the most popular with VB.NET, but other .NET framework languages like F# can also be used.
Currently on its 9th (9.1) major version, Sitecore runs on:
- .NET Framework 4.7.1 Developer Pack
- ASP.NET MVC 5.2 or later
- ASP.NET Core 2.0
- .NET Core Windows Server Hosting 2.0.0
- OData 7.2.0
Sitecore provides a rich, extensive developer framework with 1,300 classes, 5,000 methods, three databases and a web application. The three databases are:
- Core database: Used by Sitecore to manage memberships, handle system settings and hold all application configurations
- Master database: To store every new piece of content that is created, edited or deleted, including content in ‘preview’ mode
- Web database: Live content for the web application is located here
In a production environment, only the first and third databases are hosted in the SQL server instance, which makes the application more secure.
Sitecore item folders
The content contained in a Sitecore web application is stored in the ‘content tree’ which contains all the content and media library items required by content editors, as well as all the layouts, system and templates folders required by developers and system administrators.
With the powerful Sitecore API, developers can easily query Sitecore items using many different technologies, from standard .NET web forms to XSLT and MVC.
Sitecore Application Layers
Sitecore XM CMS has two ‘application layers’:
- Content layer to manage content, with functions like editing, managing and storing
- Delivery layer to assemble this content into a layout and deliver it
An Application Programming Interface (API) enables the delivery layer to request content from the content layer. A third layer, the presentation layer takes what the delivery layer produces and renders it on a screen.
Unlike many other CMS where all three layers are just one layer, in Sitecore XM CMS, these three layers are ‘decoupled’ from each other. As a result, ‘back-end’ functions like content creation, management and storage are separated (i.e. decoupled) from front-end content functions like presentation and delivery. This is why Sitecore XM CMS is also known as a ‘headless’ CMS.
This presents a number of advantages:
- Content can be stored in smaller chunks called ‘items’ or ‘objects’ which makes reusing content across multiple pages, applications and devices easier
- Developers can quickly code and design front-end experiences without being bound by restrictive back-end technologies
- Creators can preview and publish content easily without developer support
- CMS gathers useful analytics from users’ web engagement from anywhere
The biggest advantage of Sitecore XM ‘hybrid headless’ CMS is that it combines the flexibility and extensibility of a headless CMS, with the personalization and content analytics capabilities of a traditional coupled CMS. This means that you can easily create and publish personalized, responsive and interactive content, and deliver it on all kinds of interfaces, including Smartphones, wearables, AI-enabled voice assistants and even virtual reality headsets. Ultimately, this not only gives you complete control over your future-proof content, but also decreases your time to market and enables you to create, brand-consistent, cohesive and responsive user experiences.
What is the Difference between Sitecore XM CMS and Sitecore DXP?
Sitecore Digital Experience Platform (DXP): The next-gen Sitecore for next-gen websites
In general, Sitecore XM CMS gives brands the power to create, publish and manage content for their external, customer-facing websites and applications. It provides the workflow, reporting, organizing and user administration tools required for effective and seamless digital content management.
Sitecore Digital Experience Platform (DXP) – known as Sitecore® Experience Platform™ (XP) – goes beyond content creation and delivery. It combines CMS capabilities with marketing automation, customer data and analytics capabilities to:
- Streamline customer engagement experiences across multiple touchpoints
- Deliver rich, actionable insights with machine learning about these experiences
- Provide a 360° view of customers across channels at an ultra-personalized level
All these capabilities enable you to nurture your customers throughout their journey with personalized content in real-time and across any channel.
Some of the powerful functionalities included in Sitecore DXP are:
- Experience Manager (XM) CMS for scalable, multilingual, multisite content creation and delivery
- Integration with Sitecore Experience Commerce™ and Sitecore Content Hub™ for control over the entire marketing lifecycle
- Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SxA) with reusable templates and built-in best practices to accelerate page builds, edit content quickly, and control layout and functionality
- Sitecore® Experience Database™ (xDB) for storing real-time customer data from all campaigns, sources and third-party systems
- Sitecore xConnect™, a framework of APIs and services leveraged by xDB, to support integration and data interchange with CRM systems like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics 365
- Sitecore® Experience Profile™ to better understand customers and your relationships with them
- Sitecore Cortex™ machine learning to provide personalization suggestions, add semantic tags to content to improve search visibility, and to generate real-time actionable insights
- User rights and workflow to control all content with extensive user rights and multi-step workflow management
With its easy integrations, future-oriented extensibility and an ever-expanding expansive partner ecosystem, Sitecore XP provides a powerful digital marketing platform where you can easily manage all your content, products and assets from one place. With its full suite of tools that power the delivery of personalized customer experiences – across channels, geographies and languages – it enables you to build brand equity and boost customer confidence, no matter where they are.
Sitecore implementation @ WayPath
We hope that this guide has answered all your questions about Sitecore CMS, including the classic, “Sitecore CMS – What is Sitecore?”!
If you’re looking for a world-class CMS with robust workflow capabilities that enables you to:
- Nurture customer relationships with personalized content and tailored, real-time recommendations
- Engage with your audience in multiple languages, and across different devices and channels
- Leverage reusable layouts, modules and content that speeds up your content delivery
- Utilize commerce capabilities in order to connect the experiences throughout your customers’ shopping journey and maximize their lifetime value
- Integrate with APIs and third-party systems like CRM, eCommerce, marketing automation, A/B testing, and more
- Effortlessly maintain corporate brand standards across all your sites and applications;
Sitecore Experience Manager CMS is a great choice!
But to get the maximum value out of your Sitecore CMS, you need a partner you can trust. WayPath is a Sitecore Silver Partner with a highly-skilled and experienced team of developers, architects, project managers and MVPs. We have successfully implemented, integrated and customized Sitecore XM CMS and Sitecore DXP for organizations of every size and in every industry. We have the technical expertise and the business acumen needed to understand our clients’ business goals, and to support them every stage of their Sitecore project, from discovery to delivery.
Call or email us today to discuss your Sitecore needs with our solutions experts. Own the Sitecore experience and make it your own. Contact WayPath today.