A Guide to Developing a Website Using Sitecore CMS

Equipped with endless personalization capabilities, the Sitecore content management system (CMS) has become the choice of thousands of businesses for almost 20 years. Amidst the diversity of products for content management, Sitecore certainly stands out as it provides an integrated platform for more than just information administration. It provides experience management and handles content, commerce, data and delivery. At the same time, the platfrom enables self-service website development, alongside professional development.

Why Sitecore?

The product of Sitecore Corporation, the self-named CMS has evolved into a mature sustainable platform — the Sitecore Experience Cloud — since the company’s emergence in 2001. The modular structure of this native .NET-based platform allows using only necessary features that suit each specific project.

Today, the Sitecore Experience Manager is the company’s content management solution. The Manager is a full-fledged software package used widely for website development as it allows time-efficient creating, editing, controlling and masterminding of websites, with different levels of complexity. As opposed to some of its renowned counterparts, Sitecore’s Manager is more than just an intranet solution: it provides the functionality of both CMS and a website.

Sitecore has been among the leaders of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management for several years in a row. Gartner experts highly praise a “360-degree view of the customer” that this web CMS provides, an unlimited urge for innovations and out-of-the-ordinary marketing practices it focuses on.

The Sitecore Experience Manager has earned its leading position as it provides the customers with the functionality that the development of top-rank websites requires. It has a wide range of benefits that attract businesses from all over the world and help them develop comprehensive web-based solutions, such as:

  • Unmatched personalization capabilities
  • Almost unlimited customization capabilities to configure websites in accordance with every customer requirement
  • The administration of Sitecore-based websites that does not necessitate expertise in web technology and programming
  • The embedded analytics of customers’ patterns and targeting that enable dynamic content adjustment and personalization to customer behavior
  • Distributed support and easy access to the content that empowers handy content sharing
  • Assembled forms and usability reports that enable user-friendly performance assessment
  • Smooth integration with customer’s databases and websites from other vendors
  • Content repurposing for each specific device type
  • Smooth integration of third-party tools and plugins and Microsoft technologies
  • Efficient search engine optimization and integration with social media
  • Support of multiple languages
  • High scalability and user-friendly interface
  • High-level security and safety

However, as any other software, it does not go without certain shortcomings, and in Sitecore’s case, an essential one is its extremely high cost. The price of the solution depends on the company’s size and the scope of features that customers require in each specific case. Also, the product licensing is a “per user” one and vast reach businesses may find that unreasonable. However, the more a company leverages into its Sitecore-based CMS, the more advanced personalization it gets.

How to Develop a Sitecore-Based Website

In most cases, companies that need a full-fledged website turn to a service provider for a turn-key solution. However, in some instances they can take a completely different way: develop a website in-house without outsourcing.

Outsourced Services of Sitecore-Based Website Development

The easier and certainly a more traditional way is turning to companies that deliver professional Sitecore development services associated with the creation of Sitecore Web CMS based websites, such as SaM Solutions. Opting for professional Sitecore development provides you with the following advantages:

  • No need for Sitecore training that entails a steep learning curve
  • As it follows from the previous item, no need for training allows to save time and kick off the development immediately
  • The delivery of a secure quality solution that meets all the requirements (if the partner is reliable)

So, turning to a professional organization allows you to narrow down your efforts for the website development and focus on your priority business tasks. However, this method has one substantial shortcoming: the Sitecore cost. As it usually happens to long-term projects on software development, there is no fixed price that you can use as a baseline.

Sitecore-based websites indispensably require the purchase of a license, and its price is affected by the two factors:

  • The number of hosting servers
  • The number of ultimate users that can be logged into the system simultaneously

Usually, the website pricing also includes a variety of components that change from project to project and belong to both the Sitecore development and after-delivery use, such as:

  • The number of domains
  • Territory coverage
  • The number of languages
  • Integration with other platforms
  • Web traffic
  • The requirement for additional modules
  • Tailor-made functionality

For an exact calculation of the price, you can contact SaM Solutions’ subject-matter experts who will estimate the overall cost of the website development in your specific case.

Self-Service Sitecore-Based Website Development

If your company is on a budget, or you just cannot imagine spending a large sum on the website development and maintenance, you can opt for its self-service creation.

Although this method reduces your cost significantly (but bear in mind that training entails direct and indirect expenses), it has certain disadvantages, such as:

  • The training may drag on for an indefinite period of time and be effort- and resource-consuming
  • The process itself will stretch out for a good while (in our work, we apply team development for Sitecore projects as it improves the delivery time)
  • Non-professionals cannot guarantee the solution’s impeccable quality

If these shortcomings do not deter you, then proceed to the training. For this, you can apply our short Sitecore user guide below.

How to Develop a Sitecore-Based Website In-House

To develop a robust and healthy website using Sitecore, a non-pro developer must know how to build pages, understand the essence of data templates, renderings, layouts and other fundamental components. Also, you will need to have the knowledge of the basic things that concern the Sitecore architecture such as content management, publishing, delivery servers, editing and core, master and web databases.

Follow our self-study Sitecore tutorial to learn how to develop a simple website that will have just two types of pages: the home page and product ones.

Data Template Creation

Templates are created via the Template Manager that enables both the building of new templates and the editing of existing ones. To start the data template creation, log into the Sitecore Desktop under the admin’s credentials and open the Template Manager in the start menu.

For the creation of the home page and product page data templates, act as

  1. Select User Defined folder in the Content Tree of the Template Manager
  2. Select “New Template” in the Folder Editor
  3. Enter “Home Page” or “Product” in the Select Name field of the New Template Wizard’s dialog
  4. Set the Base Template by default and click “Next”
  5. Click “Next” in the Location dialog and close the wizard by clicking “Finish”
  6. Enter Data in “Add a New Section” field of the Template Builder
  7. In the first “Add a Field” line, enter the title and select the required text type
  8. In the second “Add a Field” line, enter the description and select the text type
  9. For a product page, enter the price and select the text type in the third “Add a Field” line
  10. Press “Save”

Template Standard Values Creation

Template Standard Values define default values and settings. To create them, use the checklist below:

  1. Select the Home Page data template in the User Defined folder of the Content Tree
  2. Select “Standard Values” in the Builder Options of the Template group
  3. Select “Standard Values” in the Content Tree
  4. Enter the name in the Title field of the Item Field editor
  5. In the Show Editor description field, select the required text type and enter the website or product description
  6. Click “Accept”
  7. For a product page, enter the price in the price field
  8. Save

Content Item Creation

To create a home page content item, follow the steps below:

  1. Select the Content Editor of the Sitecore Desktop Start Menu
  2. Select “Content Item”
  3. In the Insert group of the Home tab, select “Insert from Template”
  4. Select the Home Page template
  5. Enter “Home” as the item name and click “Insert”

To create a Product item, act as follows:

  1. Right click on the Home item in the Content Tree
  2. Select “Insert” and “Product”
  3. Enter the product name and press “OK”
  4. To add more items, repeat the steps above

Presentation Component Creation

Presentation components relate to what the website and its components look like. They may be external (definition items) and internal ones (files in the system). As an example, we will show you how to develop a controller rendering, which is one of the most commonly used rendering types, for an MVC-based solution.

  1. Select “Create a New Controller Rendering” in the “Renderings” folder of the Content Tree
  2. Insert “Controller Rendering” in “Renderings”
  3. Choose “Layout” folder in the Content Tree
  4. Click “MVC Layout,” enter the name and click “Next”
  5. Place it in the “Layouts” folder or under it, in a subfolder
  6. After Sitecore has generated a corresponding cshtml file, put it into the “Views” folder and click “Create” and then – “Finish”

Browser Layout Creation

Presentation components may be executed as definition items and system files, which is why in this tutorial we will learn how to develop a layout definition item and a web form file.

  1. Select “Create a New Layout” in the Getting Started Pane of the Developer Center’s Start Page
  2. Enter “Browser Layout” in the name dialog and click “Next”
  3. Choose “Layouts” in the location dialog and click “Next”
  4. Select the layout folder in the file location dialog, click “Create” and then – “Finish”

Content Binding to Presentation

Sitecore developers determine how layout depicts specific content. Below is the instruction for binding content to its presentation with layout detail configuration.

  1. Open the Template Manager in Sitecore Start Menu
  2. Select “Standard values” in the data template for the home page in the Content Tree
  3. Choose “Details” in the presentation tab of the layout group
  4. Select “Edit” in the layout details dialog of “Default”
  5. Select “Browser Layout” in the device editor dialog
  6. Pick “Controls” in the device editor dialog
  7. Click “Add” and choose “Generic display” to add the generic display sub-layout
  8. Enter the required content in the “Add to Placeholder” line
  9. Press “Select,” then “OK” in both in the device editor and layout detail dialogs

Website Publishing

  1. Select “Publish Site” in the Start Menu
  2. Choose “Incremental Publish” in the dialog and click “Publish”

Omni-Channel Marketing with Sitecore

It may seem that the creation of a website with Sitecore is simple if you carefully follow the instructions. However, the process describes only the very start of the development and provides you with a raw skeleton that needs considerable configuration and customization to attain the platform’s unparalleled personalization. It requires sound proficiency and only subject-matter service providers, such as SaM Solutions, can get the best use out of the functionality of this CMS.

SaM Solutions has a considerable number of Sitecore-related solutions under its belt. We provide the following Sitecore-related services:

  • Comprehensive consulting on how to add value to your business with Sitecore
  • Implementation of corporate websites and eCommerce solutions that are scalable, trouble-proof, modular and have unlimited functionality, including the following:
    • The development of websites with the following functionality: online ticket office, online booking system, online bank card-based payments
    • The creation of a home page for an automated solution for the travel industry
    • The development of an online catalog of styling and personal essentials
    • The building of an educational website for children
    • The creation of a website for an insurance company that provides both general information for average users and unique content and services for the company’s clients
    • The development of a website for a pension fund
  • Support of existing corporate websites and refactoring them
  • Integration of our customers’ corporate solutions with critical external systems
  • Upgrades of Sitecore versions to major releases

February 2020 Update

Recently, Sitecore has released a powerful Digital Experience Platfrom — Sitecore Experience Commerce that fuses together the capabilities of a CMS and an eCommerce solution. Also, a brand new Sitecore 10 version has also been released. To learn more about its capabilities and advantages, feel free to contact our experts.