Saturday, November 18, 2017

Thank You Community Leaders 2017

In the season of Thanksgiving, it felt appropriate to share some appreciation for members of the community. This list is by no means a complete and thorough account of what I received but it's a good start.

Akshay Sura

Akshay is a friend to everyone. Some of my favorite shirts were gifts from him. He's the reason we have and the much needed "Unofficial Sitecore Training". It's no wonder he received the most community votes for the "Core Community Friend Award 2018". Thank you Akshay for all you do for me and the community. Without you there would be a huge hole in the TEAM. Reach him on Slack as @akshaysura.

Kamruz Jaman

Lieutenant Troll and one of the best Sitecore Technical Support members on Slack. Kidding aside, he has helped so much through his blog posts and insights while communicating on the Sitecore Slack Chat. The Core Community Award was a big hit with your help. Overall funny guy and easy to get along with. Thank you Kamruz for all you do for me and the community. Without you the bridge would be a lonely place. Reach him on Slack as @jammykam.

Kam Figy

Thank you for your strangely named open source products like Unicorn, Rainbow, Dianoga, and Pickled Feet Beaver. Unicorn has been a huge time and money saver. Thank you Kam for being the super smart guy we all need. Reach him on Slack as @kamsar.

Mark Cassidy

Thank you for possessing the grit needed to keep the Sitecore Stack Exchange alive. IIRC you stated this was the third try and so far it's a huge success. There is so much we've gained by having a Stack Exchange. Looking forward to our next root beer! Reach him on Slack as @cassidydotdk.

Adam Najmanowicz

Thank you for being foolish enough to let me help with SPE and leaving all the book documentation to me :) Your help with Zen Garden and now SXA has been fantastic.You nominating me for my first MVP award has made all the difference in my participation within the Sitecore community. Thank you Adam for telling me "no" when my ideas are crazy and "yes" when you're tired of arguing. Looking forward to our next root beer....well I'll drink the root beer since you think it tastes like toothpaste. Reach him on Slack as @adamnaj.

Honorable Mentions

Thank you Mike Reynolds for the copious amounts of blogging you did that help me get a jump start on Sitecore development. The Core Community Award was a big hit with your help as was the "Unofficial Sitecore Training". Also, thank you for nominating me for my first MVP award; look how much I've grown! Reach him on Slack as @sitecorejunkie.

Thank you Una Verhoeven for all your Sitecore community work and helping me with SXA. Your help made my first implementation that much better. Reach her on Slack as @una.verhoeven.

Final Thoughts
I encourage you to show your appreciation for those that have really helped you. Consider recommending those same people for Sitecore MVP. Also, try not to DM those people on Slack for support; stick to the group channels and only shift to the DM when they invite you to do so.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Improve the Experience for Designers in SXA with Styles

Recently I saw a nice article by Barend Emmerzaal proposing a way to improve the Experience Editor when using SXA. The article reminded me of an improvement the team and I made when rolling out a website on SXA. The problem I wanted to solve revolved around the search components and their default behavior.


Here's a brief overview of a few scenarios I may be able to address for you in this article:

  • The Search Results component displays results automatically. How do you hide the results when a user has not yet performed an explicit search, such as with an address using the Location Finder component (Location Aware) or free text with Search Box component (Query Aware)?
  • The Rich Text component can be used to display a message to the user until an explicit search is performed. How do you hide the message after a search is performed?
  • The component is hidden when the page loads for the user, but the Designer needs to see it in the Experience Editor. How do you signal to the user which components are Search [Query|Location] Aware?
The approach I've taken requires a few steps:

  1. Add SXA-supported styles to components that should be hidden/shown when certain conditions are met.
  2. Add JavaScript to toggle visibility for components that should be shown/hidden after specific conditions are met.
Note: Screenshots are taken from an instance of Sitecore running XA.Reference

Final Result

Let's have a look at the final results in the Experience Editor. If you are still interested afterwards, keep on reading.

Example with hidden Search Results

The Search Results component is currently hidden in the left column. Here's how that looks in the Experience Editor. The component is part of a Partial Design, which explains why no other component is seen.

Style "Show If Query" indicated on Search Result component
Search Box visible on Page

The "Show If Query" indicates that a style is applied to show the Search Result component when a user-provided query exists.

Getting Started

Begin by adding the stylesheet and script linked below into your theme. To keep things simple I've added the items in the Basic(2) theme; you could however separate between Editing Theme and Basic(2).

Next I've added two styles to the component, the first to make it query-aware, and the second to show when a query has been entered.

Styles added using SXA selector

You can make these new styles available by navigating to the Presentation->Styles section under your sit and using the appropriate insert options.

Style value matches Stylesheet

So how does this all work together? Let me explain:

  1. The style "search-query-aware" tells the JavaScript that it should monitor components with the class whenever the query hash changes.
  2. The style "search-query-show" tells the JavaScript that the component should be hidden on page load but made visible when the query hash is not empty.
  3. The style "search-query-true" is added and "search-query-false" is removed when the query hash is not empty. Reverse this when "search-query-hide" is used.
Now let's have a look at this in action.

All the sample code can be found here:

Sunday, June 18, 2017

SPE Workflow Action using Slack Notifications

Have you ever wondered how to notify a user about workflow changes to an item in Sitecore, but not through email? In this post I'll show you in a few steps how to send notifications to a user or channel in Slack when transitioning an item's workflow state in Sitecore.


  1. Setup a Slack authentication token here. The documentation indicates there are some newer ways to acquire a token, but for now we'll go with the low effort approach.
  2. Setup the PSSlack module for PowerShell found here. Optionally, run Install-Module PSSlack from an elevated PowerShell console. Big thanks to @pscookiemonster for putting this together.
  3. Create a SPE workflow action like described here.
  4. Update the script to send messages to Slack.
  5. Celebrate!

Example Notification

Friday, April 21, 2017

Custom Rendering Variant Token Tool for SXA

Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SXA) provides a great way to alter how components render using a feature called Rendering Variant. The following post describes how I developed a new Rendering Variant tool that implements NVelocity templates. I found a way to extend a feature built into the great SXA.

For those that have not yet worked with NVelocity, it's essentially a mechanism for converting tokens into other text. This is often used in Sitecore standard values where you use $name to populate the title field.

UPDATE: SXA comes with some tools that you can take advantage of right now called $dateTool and $numberTool. Read more about them here and here.

Problem Statement

Marketing would like to have the page Url output in the website global search results.

As you can see above, the rendering shows a title, description, and url. Unfortunately  I was not able to figure out how to do this OOTB with SXA. Fortunately it took very little effort to write code for this.


There are a few steps you need to take in order for this to work.
  1. Have a need for it. Duh.
  2. Setup a Visual Studio project, something like Company.Foundation.Variants.
  3. Reference the SXA library Sitecore.XA.Foundation.Variants.Abstractions.dll, Sitecore.Kernel.dll, and Sitecore.NVelocity.dll.
  4. Add a new class to define the tool, such as Company.Foundation.Variants.NVelocityExtensions.LinkTool.
  5. Add a new class to register the tool, such as Company.Foundation.Variants.Pipelines.GetVelocityTemplateRenderers.AddTemplateRenderers.
  6. Patch the new pipeline in to getVelocityTemplateRenderers.
Here's a little snippet to get you started.


In the Rendering Variant configured for search results, add a VariantTemplate item. The template field should then contain something like the following:

<a href="$linkTool.GetItemLink($item)">$linkTool.GetItemLink($item,true)</a>

Here is the html set within the VariantTemplate.

That's pretty much all there is to setting it up. Hope you find this feature as helpful as I did!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Unicorn Serialization for SXA Projects

Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SXA) is organized in a way that aligns with Sitecore's Helix design principles and conventions. The following post describes how I structured a solution with Unicorn serialization to allow for low complexity management. You will also notice that in the CM the Marketers do not change Partial Designs/Page Designs/Rendering Variants.

I'll try to explain as much as I can using pictures; everyone likes pictures.

Update 20180717 : Made some minor updates to the post to clarify some questions from the community. Also updated the gists to follow more recent changes made with Unicorn 4.0.3 such as extending configs.

Update 20180829 : Added details on excluding fields during the sync process; important if you want to have unique values per environment for the same item (see 01-Company.Serialization.All.config). Also provided more detail around the Site Grouping.

Update 20200511 : Added more .gitignore entries to better exclude (include) items that belong in source control.

Organizational Structure

The following names will be used to organize code and serialized content.
  • Feature
  • Foundation
  • Project
  • Website - The is not formally Helix. I added it because it makes sense when organizing the code and configurations.

Starting from the bottom I have a project using the naming convention [COMPANY].Website. This project contains code and configurations needed to bootstrap a website that would keep it in an operational state. Changes to Sitecore.config would appear as patch-configs in this project. This project can also include Sitecore Support config/dll references. 

Let's have a look at this node expanded.

The configuration Company.Serialization.config contains all of the root items necessary for Unicorn to work in the solution. I've sanitized the config example to use the generic name Company. If yaml files associated with this config have not yet been synced, the checkboxes on the Unicorn page will not appear.

Now let's have a quick look at some of the places where those items are in the Sitecore tree. The company name here is Concentra.

The configuration file is designed to create all of those root items. When a new developer joins, he/she will want to sync the Company.Website configuration first so all these root nodes appear.

The configuration Company.Project.DotCom.Serialization.Dev.config contains all of the descendant items that are project specific, such as site templates. This config contains the settings necessary for TransparentSync.

When you create a new tenant and site with the SXA wizard (powered by Sitecore PowerShell Extensions!) you will want to use the structure Tenant Folder > Tenant > Site (i.e. Concentra > DotCom > usa). I like this pattern because you future-proof the structure to support multiple companies.
You will want to use this configuration on your developer machine. Everything is tracked and transparently synced.

The configuration Company.Project.DotCom.Serialization.Cm.config contains the same as before, but disables TransparentSync and uses exclusions. You will want to use this configuration on Content Management environments, the primary reason is because the Home and Data trees should not be overwritten; Marketers will want to punch you if you do.

Git Ignore
You may find that some of this content you do not want to keep tracking in source control. Use ignore entries like the following to keep it from showing up in a commit.

/app/src/**/Serialization/**/Concentra.Project.Intranet/Content/Intranet/corp/Settings/**/User Defined/*

Host Headers

Don't forget to update the host headers under Tenant Folder > Tenant > Site > Settings > Site Grouping > company.

In earlier versions the name of the Site Grouping item was used to distinguish the different sites; this could be seen in the log file when the caching is setup. You can now define the site name in a specific field. Host names can be grouped together, delimited by the "|" pipe character. You may see warnings in the SXA Site Manager report about conflicting host names, which for now I've ignored because things still work.

You'll also want to consider the impact of grouping them together, because the Flags section will have settings enabled that you may want disabled for the CD. This would include the "Allow Debug" and "Enable Debugger" flags.

Here are the default flags:

Putting it all together

So let's recap what we have.
  • Visual studio projects for Website, Project, Foundation, and Feature.
  • Unicorn serialization configurations that capture root nodes for the company (Website) and then other configurations for the tenant and site (Project). Foundation and Feature work the same way but have no information about the tenant/site.
  • Unicorn serialization configurations take into account what developers want to capture and own versus what should be deployed to other environments.
  • Unicorn files and configurations are removed before each deployment to ensure renamed or unused files are removed.
  • A base unicorn configuration is used to make yaml files appear in the Source Control folder on dev and in the Data folder on higher environments.
Here's a short video to add more detail.Thanks for watching!