train on train tracks

Keep Your AEM Content on the Rails

Irina Stanila, August 3, 2021

According to Research and Markets, experts predict that the web content management market will grow from $4.91 billion in 2017 to $10.63 billion by 2022.

Content management is more than just a matter of filling website pages with text and images. Successful content management requires creating a proper strategy and clear decision-making from Day 1. After working with clients on their Adobe Experience Manager Sites and Assets implementations for the last few years, I have compiled a list of suggested best practices to follow to make sure that as a content owner, you get what you need from your content.

Start with a Model - Make content structure decisions early

One of  the most critical content decisions you’ll make is the definition of your site structure. This should occur before development.

Why is this important? This decision will impact how you use AEM going forward. You want your pages to be easily found in Author for content managers, as well as by your site visitors when they browse the site. 

Another reason is that the site structure defines your URL. For SEO rankings, the shorter the URL the better. Don't nest pages too deeply. You can leverage AEM's Sling Mapping to remove unhelpful parts of the URL such as /content/. 

Also consider what permissions you might need to grant for your authors and create the structure to fit these needs. Now is a good time to think about who will be able to create content, who will be able to publish content and what parts of the site you may want to restrict to a certain group of authors.

If you’re using multilingual sites, leveraging  Multi Site Manager (MSM) will help you make use of Blueprints and Live Copies saving time and keeping  content organised while the number of sites expands globally,

Lay the Tracks - Use Editable Templates

AEM’s introduction of Editable Templates with version 6.2 gave a lot of flexibility to authors by removing the need to use a developer to create and update templates. Using Editable Templates, the author can define the responsive grid structure, what components are allowed on a page type and what components are added by default when a page is created with a template. The author can also lock components to a template to ensure important areas of a page are not modified.

An added benefit is that updating the template will update all pages created with that template which is a huge timesaver. 

Keep in mind that with great responsibility comes great risk. You don't want your pages to suddenly have the footer missing for example - so choose the gatekeeper of templates wisely.

Safety First - Create Versions

Before you dive in and make major changes, you consider creating a new version of your content just in case you need to roll back. Using Versioning you can save versions while you author, then go back in time (only in AEM unfortunately) and compare versions or restore previous ones when needed. AEM nicely highlights the differences between two versions for you so you can see what changes and maybe where things went wrong.

Additionally, you can use the timewarp feature to simulate the published state of a page at specific times in the past allowing you to track the content published to your website at specific points in time. 

Both Versioning and Timewarp are useful for investigating issues or understanding what content is most effective.

Operate Efficiently - Reuse content 

Make your content multi-use, especially if shared with 3rd parties. 

Use Content Fragments to store the raw info as page-neutral asset and re-use it when authoring pages. Not only it is saving tons of time, but the content can also be reviewed and updated locally

Taking it a step further, Experience Fragments (XF) are content with a layout, another time-saver by re-using XF across different pages, also helps staying consistent and eliminate errors.

Make All Stops - Content governance

Any good project will have clearly documented team roles and responsibilities (like a RACI matrix) established from the beginning. Treating your AEM content planning the same is key. 

AEM provides robust user and access rights management capabilities, so you can take real-life content author and stakeholder roles and responsibilities and translate them into AEM permissions.

These permissions can be used to define Workflows for content creation, review, approval, publishing or other needs.

Typically, the bigger the group of content stakeholders, the more attention you want to give to establishing a good governance plan from the beginning which starts with a properly modelled content structure and a well-planned content flow strategy.

Check All Tickets - Don’t forget about other devices 

Your site visitors can access your site from anywhere. Desktop and mobile users expect to see content that is optimized for whatever device they use and for younger age groups mobile is the primary device. While the responsive design takes care of these variations, it is advisable to also author with this in mind. Will your content be clear on mobile? Does it have too many images or too many words? Does the user have to scroll too much to read or navigate? 

Tag Your Luggage - Classify the content 

Metadata is essentially the context of your data - it describes what it is and why it matters, and this applies to both assets and pages:

  1. Tag your content as much as possible, it allows you to distinguish categories, helps searches to find that specific or related content, and keeps it all well organised; 
  2. You can also make use of AEM's Smart Tagging feature which intelligently auto-tags assets based on relevance. It is advisable to combine smart tagging and manual tagging practices for the most accurate results.

Clear the Path - SEO Best Practices  

There are some generally accepted practices when it comes to URLs. First rule is to check if the URL by itself, without seeing the page, can clearly describe the context of that page.  There's few other guidelines to keep in mind 

  • Shorter is better in this case; otherwise you can use Vanity URLs to manually configure a short version of a URL
  • Use hyphens to separate words (-) and avoid using underscores 
  • Only use query parameters when really necessary 
  •  Avoid subdomains; instead use first level subpaths

Welcome All Passengers - Site Accessibility  

Make sure your website is easily accessible to your target audience and inclusive of those with disabilities. Much of this comes down to design and development, but some content practices should also be followed.

Official accessibility guidelines are here.  They boil down to: 

  • Can the user perceive the content on the page?
  • Can they navigate and interact with the content? 
  • Can they process and comprehend what is presented? 
  • Is the content robust - across a wide variety of browsers ?

Practical things to keep in mind are: 

  1. Provide clear and unique titles
  2. Use heading to determine content structure
  3. Describe link labels in a meaningful way
  4. Provide transcripts and captions for multimedia
  5. Add alt-text to describe images

Switch Tracks - Personalisation with Adobe Target  

While a few years ago personalisation was a fancy practice, these days it is the norm - customers expect now more than ever a personalised experience . 89% of digital businesses are investing in personalization, including Coca-Cola, Fabletics, Netflix, Sephora, USAA, and Wells Fargo. Read more here.

Make use of the seamless integration with Adobe Target to identify audiences and personalise the content and experience for your users

Would you like more expert advice and assistance with your AEM implementation? 3|SHARE is here to help.
Contact us!

Photo by Matthew Henry on StockSnap.

Topics: Web Content Management System, Professional IT Consulting Services, AEM, AEM Smart Tags

Irina Stanila

Irina Stanila is a Senior Project Manager at 3|SHARE with certification in AEM, Prince2 and SCRUM. When she's not imagining living life as one of the characters on FRIENDS, she loves travelling, hiking and diving. One highlight of working at 3|SHARE for her is her co-workers who she describes as honest, hard-working and interesting characters she learns loads from while having fun.