I was recently asked to evaluate the new accelerator from Sitecore called Experience Accelerator. Rightpoint wanted to look internally and see what it is made of and how it could be leveraged on future projects. I also presented this content at the Dallas, and Atlanta Sitecore User Groups to get feedback from the community. I’ll also be presenting this content at the recently launched Detroit Sitecore User Group . This is my point of view after playing around with it over the past month.
Sitecore just launched Sitecore 8.2. With the launch of 8.2, they also introduced SXA. SXA is an accelerator to help teams build websites on Sitecore faster as well as giving more out of the box components for content authors to use. This accelerator is an additional module that can be purchased from Sitecore. It is compatible with version 8.1 and 8.2. It brings a baseline of functionality like other CMS (Content Management Systems) vendors, but does it in an Enterprise scalable way.
What is it technically?
Following the module pattern of Sitecore, SXA is a packaged module. Once you have an instance of Sitecore you download the module and install it as a package from the Control Panel. The module requires Sitecore PowerShell extensions. This allows SXA to script out items and scaffolding to support SXA. SXA leverages the architecture practices from Helix. Helix is the guidance from Sitecore on design principals and conventions for Sitecore development. It is a modular design with layers such as Project, Feature, and Foundation. SXA installs the templates, layouts, renderings, settings, and UI elements into Sitecore using the Helix patterns.
What features does it provide?
SXA provides the following features (some documented here):
- Templates and information architecture to start building a website.
- Wizard to create and organize Tenants and websites.
- Toolbox of reusable renderings or components that are found on common sites.
- Language Selector
- Cookie Notifications
- Search Controls
- Login Controls
- Social Integration
- Dynamic responsive grid layout designer
- Pluggable Themes
- Page and Partial Page Designs to standardize and leveraged common content
- Creative Exchange
- Asset Optimizer
If you want to test it out for yourself, check out my recent blog post on Installing SXA.
Why you should care and where I see it as a fit
I believe SXA is a big milestone for Sitecore. It could be a huge value add to the team building your website. It could turn your process for building a site into a configuration activity rather than writing a lot of code and components that are common across websites. It could even be a stepping stone into an all cloud hosted Sitecore offering. I think that is in the future, but that seems to be the pattern of software vendors.
New frameworks like this usually take some vetting and a few iterations to stabilize. It takes time for the documentation to develop and for partners to build websites and blog about workarounds or features that unlock the full potential. If you like the bleeding edge I believe you could take advantage of SXA quickly. Here are a few projects that might be a good fit:
- New implementations that match the feature set of SXA
- Smaller sites looking to take advantage of the marketing/experience features of Sitecore
- Teams lacking time and resources to undertake large development efforts
- Teams that want to work in parallel with content entry and can bring in visual design and branding later in the development chain
At the end of the day, I am impressed with SXA. Assuming the licensing cost works for your needs this is a solution that can take you much farther out of the box. I would anticipate more features added over time and if you are already using SXA they would be available as soon as you upgrade. I expect Sitecore to have an upgrade path for SXA. You can also extend SXA with your own components and add to the information architecture and templates to fit your needs.
If you have a Sitecore project coming up and want to explore SXA as a possibility let us know through our contact page.