Close on the heels of the launch of Sitecore 8.2, came the Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SXA). SXA has been conceived as an accelerator to help website building teams create sites on Sitecore faster. This is being enabled with unique box components that content authors are equipped with. The SXA is available as an additional module that has to be purchased from Sitecore and is compatible with versions 8.1 as well as 8.2. SXA also offers all the basic functionalities of CMS (Content Management Systems) vendors, the additional benefit being that it can be scaled up for an enterprise.
How Does SXA Enable Better Output for Website Designers
The idea with SXA was to quicken the pace at which websites were created on Sitecore and to provide the ability to re-use various elements such as layouts, components and templates across different sites. With SXA one is able to make a clear separation of structure from design. The advantage in this is that front-end designers as well as content creators, creative designers and developers, who work on similar lines, can do it simultaneously. An example of this would be a writer creating content at the wireframe stage while the front end developer is creating the theme. Developers, at the same time work on creating the data templates. An organization, therefore can deploy as well as maintain several sites in a short span of time and within reasonable budgets.
Some of SXA’s features include:
- A unique component library
- Drag and drop features of components and their properties
- HELIX Architecture
- Creative exchange functionality to work easily with UI teams
- Grids such as Bootstrap and Grid960, among others
Where SXA is particularly useful is when businesses want the ability to create multiple pages for micro-sites or for specific products, old and new, or to create campaigns. With the component library and the drag and drop features these pages can be created quickly. Another major benefit is the fact that it reduces the time-to-completion in a project cycle. This is because front and back-end development happens simultaneously as does, content updating. For businesses that are looking to include an e-commerce option on their site, SXA comes with easy-to-include components like virtual shopping carts and check out facilities.
Smart Options for Website Designers
Take a look at some of the features of SXA and what it can do for designers:
The Asset Optimizer: While the SXA comes with some base themes as components, you will want some custom themes that you will create, for your own site. The Asset Optimizer will help you reduce and bundle together your custom theme files, adding to the components and allowing for easy reference.
The Column Splitter: This allows you to divide a page into columns of varying widths and then drop your renderings into them. The optimal approach to using this would be to drop renderings into a full size container and then get down to the component level to change column settings. The other way is to use multiple column splitters and placeholders. This gives you flexibility but could add to the overheads of your site.
Creating Custom Components in SXA: There will be a time when you want to custom create your components. SXA gives you a set of base controllers and repositories with which to work and you will also be able to set up an experience editor that will display your uniquely created component.
Changing the way you work with Sitecore: An important aspect of working with SXA is that it will involve a learning curve in how you work with Sitecore. What once would have required coding, can now be achieved with Sitecore UI. The community will be a major resource in helping designers get this right – yes, you will need to spend some time learning the ropes.
Some other benefits of SXA for designers include:
- An in-built functionality supporting multi-tenant/multi-site approach.
- Two different themes for each site and additions can be done with CSS/JS and media.
- The option to restrict access to features or component-based on need.
- The option to choose between different grid systems
- Responsive web design.
On its own Sitecore will continue to update SXA and this is something the users can look forward to. At the same time, SXA can be expanded with your own custom designs and additions. Working with SXA will change the way you approach a project within Sitecore and this will make for interesting learning.
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