Sitecore best practice #3: Give celebrity properties their spotlight

02 June 2011
Adam Najmanowicz
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Sitecore Best Practice #3 focuses on how properties should be ordered in the CMS in Content Editor view - emphasizing the most relevant properties for the item template to feature at the very top of the list and by default, expand respective sections.

So let's say that despite your best efforts to enable your author to directly  edit pages, he/she still prefers Content Editor. We still want them to enjoy the best possible experience using the content management system we've built for them. Personally, my biggest pain point when using the Content Editor is the plethora of properties that in conjunction with my tendency to enable all the nobs and switches results in a pretty unbearable mess. Good thing about Sitecore though is that it does not have to be like that. You have almost full control over what's being shown to the user, where and when.

What are the most likely areas the author will want to modify? They will generally want to be able to access and see the title, they will probably be interested in the image on the page and definitely, want to be able to edit the body of the article:

Page Heat Map

Thus for the page the expected properties would be organized as follows:

Content Editor Properties Order

 How we help you achieve all of the above... is the substance of the best practice for sitecore #3:

 What is it about?

Every item/page has a number of crucial properties (like article title & body). Those properties should be in a prominent spot when a page is opened in the Content Editor.

Why should I do it?

When an author opens a page for editing in the Content Editor and the best practice is not followed, they can have major problems trying to find what they want to edit and potentially giving up if the relevant section is not immediately visible or even worse - collapsed. The editing mode in this scenario looks chaotic and the author is likely to avoid using the Content Editor altogether as they find it difficult to navigate.

Basically, what this means is:

  • The crucial properties are to be gathered in the topmost possible section
  • The crucial section is expanded when the item is selected
  • The largest possible number of sections containing metadata and other CMS administrivia sections should be collapsed by default not to clutter the view

Demo scenario

We have an article page. The template of the article inherits from the content page which inherits from the base template. We want the editors to see the most often used properties on the very top of the properties list, while the properties which are not used frequently should be on the bottom of the list and the sections containing the properties should be collapsed by default. See the screenshot showing wrong and desired properties order:

 Correct Approach

Wrong Approach

How do I implement it in my project?


How do I order sections?

Each section has a property called order which is responsible for the order of the properties in edit mode. The property is used globally so the values of the property should be thought deeply in whole application scope. Here is the short guide how to set the property values:

  1. Select the chosen property in content editor
  2. Select View tab in ribbon and select Standard Fields checkbox
  3. Scroll to Appearance section
  4. Set the value of Sortorder property. Sometimes the ordering doesn't work with positive values of the property. Negative values are recommended.

Here is the screenshot showing how to set the Sortorder property for the sections:

Section Ordering

How do I order properties within section?

If you want to reorder the properties within the section, expand the section in content editor and simply drag-and-drop properties while holding Alt (see screenshot).

Properties Ordering

How do I collapse non-essential sections and expand essential sections automatically?

Navigate content explorer to the chosen section and select (deselect) *Collapsed by Default' checkbox (see screenshot). Remember that user preferences are stored in cookies, so if user expanded the collapsed section once, the default setting will be ignored.

Section Collapsing

Important
Section names should be unique. Do not create Information section in many templates. Try to use names that will describe responsibilities of section properties more precisely.

Do not create properties with the same name. Having two properties with the same name can be misleading and make development much harder.

Big thanks to Marek Musielak for his research and help on the Sitecore Best Practice #3.