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Top new WCM features in SharePoint 2013 and Office 365

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If you’re looking into building an Intranet then you definitely looked at SharePoint as a platform. With SharePoint 2013 or Office 365, the features available for Web Content Management have greatly improved and make it worth the upgrade. Whether you are looking to build an Intranet, Extranet or Internet facing site, SharePoint 2013 has new features to help.

Cross-Site Publishing is why I migrate to SharePoint 2013

I am very passionate about the changes brought to the Search in this version of SharePoint as one of my biggest pain points in previous SharePoint projects were the architectural limitations. You know what I mean, the constant questioning on whether or not I should create a Site or a Site Collection and the impacts were. By now you probably encountered some of those designs constraints after realizing that library could not be shown in that other Site Collection you had under a different view. I previously introduced SharePoint 2013 Cross-Site Publishing in a more detailed article, but essentially it’s the ability to surface content from anywhere using the Search engine. Often misunderstood, Cross-Site Publishing in SharePoint 2013 isn’t an actual feature but rather a concept. It’s you adding a Search based Web Part on a page telling it to display something that isn’t in the same location. After upgrading to SharePoint 2013, you will quickly notice the boundaries that were once there between Site Collections aren’t as significant as they were.

Product Catalog isn’t always just for products

It has been my mission for a while now to raise awareness for this amazing feature that is completely ignored because of its name. And I agree, if I see something called Product Catalog I tend to assume it’s only to showcase products. As I explained in my SharePoint 2013 Product Catalog Training video, it is a lot more than that. The Product Catalog is really about letting the Search Engine that you want a specific list to be marked in the index and quickly integrated to a Publishing Site. It then becomes a catalog of content, a list. It’s an advanced form of Cross-Site Publishing in a sense as it integrates easily with the Managed Metadata Navigation and builds Friendly URLs. Unfortunately it isn’t currently available on Office 365 if that’s where you are headed.

Managed Metadata Navigation with Friendly URLs

If you’ve built an Intranet or even a public website with SharePoint in the past, no doubt you looked at the URLs being generated and sighed. The unfriendly structure including the site, document library and page with extension in the URL does help the visitor share or guess the URL. Most importantly, it gives away your SharePoint Information Architecture to whoever is viewing your pages. If you migrate to SharePoint 2013, you will benefit from Managed Metadata Navigation with Friendly URLs as well. What is that? Well in SharePoint 2010, they introduced the Term Store or Managed Metadata Service that allows you to centralize Terms you can use as a sort of choice column if you will in Lists and Libraries. There is a lot more to it than that, but I will assume you are familiar with it. After upgrading to SharePoint 2013, you will see your Navigation settings for your Global and Current Navigation can use one of those Term Sets as well instead of it being manually entered. If you do choose to use this type of Navigation, you can then benefit from the new Friendly URL property found in the Term’s settings. The new URL will be the site with name of the term currently used without any other complicated suffixes. I covered how to do this in detail in Navigation using SharePoint 2013 Managed Metadata.

Image Renditions for your SharePoint Intranets

A very cool new addition for those looking at WCM features in SharePoint is the Image Renditions. Though it can only be used if Blobcache is activated for your Web Application, it allows you to render the image in different formats based on the device for example. In the age of Responsive and Adaptive design, most importantly BYOD, we need to serve the content properly to whoever is visiting. With Image Renditions, you get to decide how to crop your image and resize it yourself so it doesn’t get stretched or resized improperly. You can then tell SharePoint which rendition of your image to use for what device or screen size depending on how you are building it.

Upgrading SharePoint also means being SEO ready today

Search Engine Optimization or SEO can’t be ignored when building a public facing site. If you are upgrading to SharePoint 2013, you will be happy to know that some SEO optimizations have been made. Whether it’s with the robots text file or through the Site Map SharePoint 2013 is closer than its predecessors to help your site get found by a Search Engine. Microsoft has detailed out some of the SEO features, I encourage you to check out if interested. Is it perfect? No there is definitely room for improvement and you will have to do a lot yourself through the HTML in your Master Page and Page Layouts

Combined with the new SharePoint Search, WCM is a great reason to upgrade

There are two reasons to migrate to SharePoint 2013, Search and WCM. These bring so many added values to the platform we did not have before that building an Intranet can actually be fun again. Of course, there are other things that impact WCM like the new branding features in SharePoint, but the core mentioned above already makes it worthwhile. Combining Search and the Web Content Management features we talked about, I was able to build a Search-Driven Intranet using just under 5 pages. If you are interested to learn more, I grouped 30 SharePoint blog posts by category, hope it helps.

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