With all the changes in the latest version of Sitecore, I have compiled a list of features that you will notice right away to prepare you for your Sitecore upgrade.
My first impression about the differences of Sitecore 8 starts with the login screen. Since I started working with Sitecore, it has always look somewhat similar, with very small changes you would not notice. Now it has a red background, with a large login form and looks completely different. Also, you no longer have to choose what application you would like launch. I’ve seen many people login with pre-Sitecore 8 sites and have to log back out just because they chose the wrong application. Now you can login, and see the Launch Pad.
This brings me to my next noticeable difference in Sitecore 8. This is one of the largest changes Sitecore 8 offers. Yes, you still have your desktop application, Content Editor, etc., but now you can access everything from the Launch Pad. I really like how accessible all the applications are to the user. I feel like the design and user experience will be very easy to understand and adapt to new users and current users because almost everything you need is right in front of you on one page. You can also customize and configure your launch pad to display the most important analytic graphs, so when you login, you have graphs right in front of you for analyzing.
A few more key points I want to point out before moving on to the biggest difference about Sitecore 8 are some other UI/design changes. Throughout pre-Sitecore 8 sites, there is a gray theme that was adapted throughout Sitecore. Now the theme has more red and black. In desktop mode there is still the Sitecore button but it now there is just the Sitecore logo, the search bar is larger on the bottom right, the ‘switch database’ button is larger as well as icons updated throughout all of Sitecore. You probably won’t get the full effect of the changes made, but let me tell you, what Sitecore has done with this new interface is clean and provided a great experience.
Another small change I really like is in desktop mode; when viewing and item you can now click one time on the row of a title for a template and it expands/collapses. Before Sitecore 8 you either had to double click the row or click the small expand/collapse button. Little changes like this really make Sitecore 8 feel awesome and enjoyable to use.
Another difference and possibly the largest would be Experience Analytics (formerly known as Digital Marketing System). A major advantage analytics has is that the data storage is massive. Sitecore achieved this by using MongoDB. This was introduced in Sitecore 7.5 and can scale up petabytes of data according to Sitecore’s draft documentation.
Another advantage is the type of data you can gather from a user. The type of data is real time data. Yes, it still tracks historical data which is great. The Experience analytics still includes the reports we are used to using in DMS but, it does a lot more and real time data is what marketers want. This allows your marketers to make quick decisions and actions to help or nurture the user’s experience.
By tracking real time data and being able to view it you are able to create goals and actions based off of that user or customer. You can view the customers profile to see real time data collected from that customer. This is called the Single Customer View which includes page views, visit time, value, pages visited, search terms, and if they reach any goals you have created for them.
My favorite addition is the reporting in the Content Editor. When I first saw this I was taken back and surprised about this feature in a good way. Out of the box these reports allow the Content editor to see how a customer got to a page, a goal reached on a page, keywords leading to a page, and traffic sources coming to a page. These reports can be very useful for a content editor and allow them to leverage this data to make the page more engaging. The good thing about these reports is that they are very easy to use and will take almost no time to realize the benefits and power this brings to Content Editors.
Another enhancement introduced with the Experience platform is multivariate A/B testing. This allows you to test personalized content you create for specific customers against your base content. This will allow them to see the impact a content change has made whether it be good or bad. For example, you want to highlight a product you have for a specific customer because you can see with the analytics tracked on this customer they have spent time on the product page and show interest in this product. You can implement this change and test the page or component you are trying to show.
As you can see, the update to Sitecore 8 will introduce a lot of new features that will help make you more productive and help you deliver more value to your customers. If you have any questions about Sitecore 8 or would like to discuss the upgrade path best suited for you, please contact us.