EPiServer 7 feature review
EPiServer 7 looks to be a big step forward for the company. It’s packed with new features including a new user interface for editors, and some modules that you would have paid for in the past. But will it be a big step for you? I am going to take a look at the things that I think will be the most useful for the people who use EPiServer day to day, and I’ll tell you why this will be the most significant upgrade we have seen since Cubeworks became an implementation partner 5 years ago.
You’ll notice this immediately – the default view with the page tree on the left and the top tabs are now hidden and instead you are given the full page view of the content you are editing. You can open the full editor controls, but you also have to option to click directly into the content on a page and edit. I think this is a more intuitive way of editing, and will help save time as you are not having to constantly move back and forth between edit and preview states.
The new built-in screen preview pane allows you to see how your content will look on different devices such as desktop monitors and mobile. This is another time saving and essential tool to keep editors in control of how their content is viewed. Finally, the Editor can preview the page as different visitors see it by specifying a visitor group. So if you are using EPiServer’s great personalisation features, you can get an instant feel for the full range of user experiences your site is serving up.
Consider this: Will you need training? A lot of our clients ask this question when upgrading, so consider the editors you have out there, and if this interface is going to confound them make sure you get that training in before the roll out. You might want to run your own test site and play with version 7 for a while, if your editors are already familiar with version 5 or 6.
Build your own templates (Composer module)
The ability to build your own templates now comes as part of the package. This used to be a separate licence for a module called Composer, but now it’s included. One of the most common wishes we hear from our clients is the ability to create new templates and landing pages without having to use their development budget, so now you can do just that. Note that there may be a small upgrade fee if you do not have Composer already enabled. As yet there is not an official answer on this from EPiServer, but we will update this post as soon as there is.
Consider this: Are you building your site for multiple platforms?. Get to know how the different platforms (e.g mobile, tablet) will end up displaying your pages, as each device brings its own set of challenges.
Search has been consolidated using the EPiServer Full-Text Search engine. Finally! Search on EPiServer has always been a bit behind the rest of the platform, in my opinion, and at Cubeworks we have often had to integrate the Lucene based Full-Text search for clients. It should now be easy to see the features that you would expect from a site search, such as categorisation for faceted search and searching within documents, as standard.
Consider this: Implementing a search solution is never as simple as it seems. Think about what you want from your search rather than just assuming that it will magically do the right thing – and allow time to get it right. My next blog post will talk about the different search solutions on the market, so stay tuned to the blog if site search is really important to you.
EPiServer Relate will be integrated, and you will be able to share content between the CMS and Relate. If you have a requirement for your users to login and have content that they can engage with – then this is going to be real bonus. There are some great features that allow you to quickly set up and develop a community that would take some serious development time to match. In fact, this could be the whole reason to upgrade to 7 if community engagement is a key remit of your site. I have been advised that there will still be a separate licence fee, so the main advantage is lower development costs and a more efficient use of content.
Consider this: Building an online community is no small feat, and if it’s not adopted then the results can be worse that no trying at all. Remember that technology is only part of the solution and you will need to carefully plan the content & engagement strategy to give yourself maximum chance of success. Ask yourself if EPiServer Relate might satisfy a need that existing communities like Facebook and Linkedin can’t.
Are you tempted?
I am looking forward to this release as I know there are some really tangible benefits that will make a big difference to our clients. I’d be really interested to hear from you, and how you think these features may improve your business.