Sharepoint 2010 : Putting Your Site on the Web - Key Terms and Architecture , Richer User Experience

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1. Content Deployment: Key Terms and Architecture

Unlike intranets where changes are made real-time on production content, Internet sites typically require a protective layer around the content. By that, we mean that content is created or edited in one location and then “pushed” to the production system via a deployment process. This protects the integrity and quality of the data and gives testers an environment where they can validate changes.

With SharePoint 2010, there are four key terms to understand with content deployment:

  • Source Site Collection. Location from which content is being deployed.

  • Destination Site Collection. Location to which content is being deployed; typically a destination Site Collection has increased security and is more tightly controlled and managed.

  • Content Deployment Path. A source Site Collection from which content deployment can originate and a destination Site Collection to which content is deployed.

  • Content Deployment Job. Copies specified content on a specified schedule by using a specific path. There are three types of jobs: full, incremental, and quick.

With that, the big decision in content deployment is server architecture. This is the process of defining how content will move from your authoring environment to production. There are three configurations to consider.

  • Single publishing farm. In this configuration, both the authoring and production Site Collections are in the same farm but in different Site Collections (actually different Web applications). This is not typically used for Internet sites.

  • Authoring and production farms. This involves an authoring farm inside your firewall and an external farm where your production content exists. This is the preferred, simplest choice for Internet sites.

  • Authoring, staging, and production farm. This involves three farms and is used when more advanced approval processes are in place. In this scenario, content can be validated and approved in an environment that closely matches production but still held separate until final approval occurs.

SharePoint 2010 supports all three scenarios. There is a fourth, live updates on the production site, but this is not typically used in Internet-facing sites. The important thing to note is that there is much more coordination and configuration required when building in a publishing mechanism for site content updates. You will need to decide when automation should be used and when human approval is required.

2. What Has Improved in SharePoint 2010 Web Content Management?

For those familiar with WCM in MOSS 2007, you’ll be excited to learn that a number of things have improved with SharePoint 2010. Let’s take a look at some of these:

  • Fewer clicks. One of the challenges with MOSS 2007 was the use of application pages for managing edits and alterations on Web pages. Users would often get confused by having to execute multiple clicks to make page changes. More importantly, those changes were sometimes made on a different page than the one needing edits. SharePoint 2010 makes it easier to manage Web content by requiring fewer clicks to execute changes and having those changes occur inline on the designated page.

  • Standards and accessibility. SharePoint 2010 is now XHTML-compliant and WCAG 2.0 AA-level compliant. What does that mean? SharePoint 2010 now offers a better and richer interface for all users, including those with disabilities or impairments.

  • Better workflow. With the introduction of workflow capabilities offered in Visio 2010, SharePoint Designer 2010, and Visual Studio 2010, users now have more native options for creating and deploying both simple and sophisticated workflows. This makes it easier to manage approval of new content as well as make associated changes to list data.

  • Multilingual support. SharePoint 2010 users can now switch languages real-time in the interface; this includes navigation items and menus. While this does not offer true translation capabilities (that is, your data from SharePoint lists will not be translated by SharePoint) it does offer a richer means of creating a single Web site to serve a variety of global users with the goal primarily focused on assisting content contributors who are managing content in various languages.

  • Web analytics. Reporting and analytics are greatly improved. In true Internet fashion, you can analyze visitor data to look for trends, as well as better analytics on user search queries.

  • Search. The introduction of FAST search in SharePoint offers a significant improvement in how search can be leveraged to better discover Web site content. It is also important to note that the native SharePoint 2010 search has improved with better relevancy calculations and metadata refinement options.

  • Digital asset management. SharePoint 2010 now has the ability to include and even edit streaming videos and thumbnails. This offers a richer interface for content presentation and another element for what can be shown on your Web site.

3. Richer User Experience

One of the themes you will hear a lot about with SharePoint 2010 is the notion of a richer user experience. Let’s take a minute to explain what that means. Fundamentally, when we talk about ease of use with SharePoint it is centered on allowing users to gain the most functionality with the least amount of intrusion (defined as required training or tools). SharePoint 2010 handles this by offering improvements in two key areas. The first, as discussed earlier, is the ability to make many, if not all, page edits right on the page (fewer clicks). This allows users to easily see the impact of the changes without having to go to a different page or tool to do it. More importantly, for those users of SharePoint who don’t necessarily use Internet Explorer, this experience also holds for Safari or FireFox. That’s a big deal! Figure 1 shows a standard SharePoint Web page in Edit mode. Users with the appropriate permissions can get to this mode in one click and begin to make changes immediately.

Figure 1. Users can make changes to SharePoint Web pages quickly and easily, right in the interface and using a variety of Web browsers

Another important improvement in the user experience is the ability to better manage rich content. The Content Editor Web Part (CEWP) is still a very powerful native Web Part based solely on its simplicity. Just type in the box and format the content accordingly. No Web development or HTML skills required! However, in some ways, the CEWP is not needed with WCM. With SharePoint 2010, you can now add content practically anywhere. You are now entering data in field controls, versus the CEWP textbox, and have more freedom to decide where and how HTML is presented.

Also SharePoint 2010 offers the ribbon as a formatting tool so users familiar with Word 2007 (or 2010) will see an instant parallel in creating and managing content in a rich text box. Figure 2 shows an example of a Content Editor Web Part.

Figure 2. Users can make text changes on a page by using field controls

What does this have to do with WCM? Simple. It allows more freedom for managing the content on the Web site; it allows more users to be empowered to make changes and to easily deploy those changes right to the Web. This offers the potential to change the way companies manage their Internet-facing content. Whereas the role of a webmaster for an intranet site was altered with the enablement of the employee community, there is a potential with SharePoint 2010 to change the way Internet-facing content is managed and, more importantly, by whom.

  •  Sharepoint 2010 : Putting Your Site on the Web - Web Content Management (part 2) - Web Publishing 101
  •  Sharepoint 2010 : Putting Your Site on the Web - Web Content Management (part 1)
  •  Sharepoint 2010 : Using an External Data Column, Building a Composite Application
  •  ASP.NET 4 in VB 2010 : Page Tracing (part 3) - Application-Level Tracing
  •  ASP.NET 4 in VB 2010 : Page Tracing (part 2) - Writing Trace Information
  •  ASP.NET 4 in VB 2010 : Page Tracing (part 1) - Enabling Tracing, Tracing Information
  •  ASP.NET 4 in VB 2010 : Logging Exceptions (part 4) - Retrieving Log Information
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