Tailoring Backend User Experience with Sitefinity

Gone are the days of developer designed user interfaces. Those designs that were done by the coder themselves who thought color was king and adding a drop shadow anywhere gave you three points of awesome. Not sure what I’m talking about? Take a look at the image below. 

Apple in 1997

Today, we have degrees in User Interface (UI) design and User Experience (UX), and a website’s success is judged by how its design influences and relates to the target audience. That being the case modern developers can be reluctant to start work without someone providing a design first.

For all this knowledge around making our websites great experiences for our users and for all the parties and accolades the marketing team swoon around town with, there can be a forgotten audience that hates the website and think its junk. The poor ‘content editor’ – stuck at their desk trying to get the latest content updated and displaying ‘as designed’.

Think of it like this: what if we judged cars only by what they looked like on the outside. Imagine your favorite car of all time. Then, imagine that driving that car required cramped conditions, no power steering, and putting up with oil smells from the engine. Not a piece of fabric or leather anywhere and the radio had one channel that was permanently on.

Managing content of a website may not be the focus of the marketing team but a good design will make all the difference. The ability to easily create pages as designed and add forms and images that keep to the style of the website is just as important. The ability to easily manage hundreds (or thousands) of data items in the backend that power the frontend is just as important.

All of these scenarios lead us into the topic of today’s discussion: Sitefinity. Sitefinity is a content management system or a digital experience platform and a lot of its power comes through its management of data in the backend. It provides a great experience out-of-the-box and has many extensible points to customize the experience for each client.

The first experience is about creating pages. What you want is the ability drag and drop layouts and different content types onto a page and know that the resulting display will be correct. It should abstract away any requirement to know HTML or CSS and JavaScript. It should just be like assembling Lego bricks.

Where this can go horribly wrong is when the developer doesn’t understand how the platform creates and renders its pages. And, to be fair this applies to any CMS platform. I’ve seen some terrible implementations where people think the problem is the platform, but in reality, the developers did not have the right experience.

The next major experience is managing data. When you need to update an address, you should update it in one place and it updates everywhere else on the site.

Sitefinity has a great real time data module builder. No DBA’s required. But, this can go wrong when it’s not well thought out and with foresight to the future. Gathering requirements now as well as looking into the future can make all the difference.

Managing that data both visually and inputting it is the next consideration. Sitefinity allows customization of the backend interface allowing views and actions to be crafted to suit the content editors and their work. Perhaps the out-of-the-box experience requires them to do multiple clicks and several screen refreshes. You can fix this by providing a new button in the data item list allowing them to get to what they want with one or two clicks.

Sitefinity is not designed to be a central monolith system taking care of everything. It provides and prompts a lot of features to enable integrations. Common scenarios are pushing information to services such as Salesforce or HubSpot, calling internal services or updating internal databases when certain events happen.

You can even have those same external systems contact Sitefinity via service hooks to have Sitefinity automatically update its data.

All these things are features that can make the content editors life easy – and the easier your content editor’s life is, the more ‘changes’ they can implement in a shorter amount of time. When you are creating your website, a lot of time is put into what the external customer sees and experiences. But, don’t ignore those experiences that your content editors will be dealing with. Ideally, you want the marketing team asking, “Can you create X?” and the content editors replying, “Yeah, I’ll have a draft ready for you around lunch time.”

For advice, implementation, and support regarding your Sitefinity experience, contact Americaneagle.com, your trusted Sitefinity partner, today. 


About Author

Darrin Robertson
Darrin Robertson is a Sitefinity awarded MVP and developer at Americaneagle.com. He started his career at a bank launching and managing their initial online banking services at a time when the cloud just meant rain was coming. After discovering Sitefinity and becoming a specialist, he eventually came to Americaneagle.com. Darrin lives in New Zealand with his one and only ‘teams’ joke of being ‘a man from the future.’


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